Ultimate guide to how jackpots work

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For many new casino players, the word ‘jackpot’ signifies the best part of online casino play – the dream of winning a huge, life-changing amount of money in a single spin. While that is possible and has indeed happened several hundred times over the past few years, there is more to jackpot games than meets the eye.

For one thing, there are several types of jackpots. In this guide, we will be looking at all the different terms you might encounter when reading about jackpot games and how each type works.

We will also be discussing what a good jackpot strategy entails and what process you can expect to go through if you are lucky enough to win a jackpot. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents:

What are jackpot slots?

‘Jackpot’ technically means a big pile of money won through a game. However, the term is also used to refer to jackpot games i.e. slot games that offer the chance to win said pile of money.

For the purpose of clarity, we will be using the term ‘jackpot’ to refer only to the cash prize money and the term ‘jackpot slots’ to refer to the kind of slot games that offer a jackpot prize.

The most popular jackpot slots online

It’s always difficult to identify the best jackpot slot, simply because this is a very subjective matter. A jackpot slot one player can’t get enough of may be boring to another player. It’s like trying to identify the best colour or the best type of pizza – everyone’s got an opinion!

That said, it’s good to know a little bit about the different sorts of jackpot slots out there to help you decide which game to choose and to help make sense of all the information available out there. If you want to find examples of some the best jackpot slots, read our tips.

What are jackpot slots?

Different types of jackpot slots

There are four types of jackpot slots you are likely to encounter as you play at online casinos and these are: local, network, fixed and progressive. Each type will help determine the size and frequency of the jackpot payout as well as which players contribute to the prize pot.

Local jackpots

This jackpot is comprised of bets made by players at a specific casino. Think of this like a village raffle where only locals are allowed to purchase tickets – the winner will, logically, be a local.

The same goes for local jackpots. The same local jackpot game can be available at several casinos but the prize pot at each casino is formed of bets made by that casino’s players. As a result, local jackpots are usually smaller than network jackpots.

Two examples of local jackpots are NetEnt’s Tiki Wonders and Gold Rush. These are local progressive jackpots, which means they can reach healthy jackpot payouts in their own right.

Network or pooled jackpots

This type of jackpot is made up of bets made by players across all casinos that host the game in question. A popular network jackpot is NetEnt’s Hall of Gods. Players at Casumo, for example, will be hoping to win a prize on Hall of Gods that includes bets made by players at Mr Green, SlotsMillion and so on.

The network jackpot is like a national lottery. Players from all over the country contribute to the prize pot and in the end, the jackpot can be won by someone in Bristol or in Birmingham or Bath.

Network jackpots, also known as pooled jackpots, are generally the largest kind of jackpot, simply because so many players’ bets go towards the prize pool. Games of all sorts can have a network jackpot, including slots, table games and scratchcards.

Fixed jackpots

This is the only type of jackpot that does not fluctuate. Games with a fixed jackpot give the player the chance to take home a fixed sum during gameplay. This feature is built into the game itself and does not depend on bets made by other players, local or otherwise. This sort of game is sometimes referred to as a cash pot jackpot, which has a nice ring to it.

Some jackpot slots offer both fixed jackpot prizes and progressive ones, with the latter usually being significantly higher than the former. Jammin’ Jars and Ivan and the Immortal King are both slot games that feature fixed jackpots.

Progressive jackpots

A progressive jackpot simply means one that grows each time a player, either at the same casino or across the network, makes a bet.

So every time you spin Mega Fortune or Hall of Gods for £1, a proportion of that bet is added to the jackpot. As this particular jackpot slot is very popular, we can expect thousands of players to be betting on it every day, which means that the jackpot can reach several million pounds.

Progressive jackpots can grow to such an extortionate amount because they are hard to hit. You won’t see a single jackpot get hit more often than once every few months. This rarity gives the jackpot room to grow to massive amounts.

Wins on any slot game, jackpot or otherwise, are determined by a Random Number Generator, which ensures that the game is completely fair and cannot be manipulated. That means that a jackpot can drop at any time, though experienced players can work out, very broadly, how often a jackpot will pay out.

Slots with multiple jackpots

Some slot games feature more than one jackpot. Indeed, the most popular jackpot slot, Mega Moolah, features four jackpots. These multiple jackpots are usually triggered through bonuses, with a bonus wheel or series of wheels being a popular choice among game developers.

In other cases, jackpots can be triggered completely at random during routine gameplay so there’s really no template for a jackpot slot presents this opportunity to its players. Before you start playing a new progressive slot game, it is always best to look at the pay table to understand how the game works, its paylines as well as the jackpots. By doing this, you are better prepared for going after the main prize.

You can also play the jackpot slots for free so you know the game before you decide to deposit.

Jackpot slot features

Jackpot slot games are, for the most part, quite similar to other slot games aside from their massive win potential. Most have similar reel structures and bonus features, with the only thing setting them apart, is the potential for a jackpot win.

Bonus features vary wildly across this games category and development studios are constantly coming up with creative ways to introduce new and exciting game features. That said, there are a few mainstays, namely Wilds symbol and the free spins feature. Other bonus games include pick-and-click, gamble features, re-spins and a multitude of others.

How to enter the jackpot bonus game?

How to enter the jackpot bonus game?

For the most part, the opportunity to hit a jackpot win becomes available during a bonus game or feature. In some cases, the jackpot can only be triggered during a free spins round.

We also see plenty of jackpot slot games with bonus wheel features. These mimic those fairground ‘wheel of fortune’ type games, with the chance to win a jackpot prize. These are particularly common in games that offer more than one jackpot and sometimes one wheel will unlock further wheels, with better prizes on offer.

How to win the jackpot

If we knew the answer to this, we wouldn’t really be sharing it now, would we? While there is no way to guarantee a jackpot win, there are some factors that can help give players a broad indication of what a jackpot slot is capable of paying out and how frequently.

Chances of winning a jackpot

The odds of winning a jackpot can be roughly calculated with a little maths, though we mustn’t forget that timing also plays a role.

Players can calculate the mathematical odds of winning a jackpot (without factoring in its average payout rate) by working out the number of possible winning combinations and then dividing this number by the total number of combinations.

RTP and volatility of jackpot games

A game’s Return to Player value is always an important piece of info for players to have, whether the game offers a jackpot or not. Similarly, volatility is good to know as well.

Jackpot slots will usually (again, no hard and fast rules here!) have a lower RTP than most slot games and that’s because jackpot slots do not pay out as often, therefore players stand to recoup less of the amount they wager.

In terms of volatility, this can vary somewhat, particularly because some games offer multiple jackpots, some of which may be fixed and so on. In general, jackpots tend to have higher volatility than other games because they can go for a long time without paying out, before then dropping a massive sum all at once.

Can you improve the odds?

Yes and no. You cannot change the game’s built-in mechanics, the ones that determine its drop rate or the size of the payouts. But you can employ strategies that keep these factors in mind and maximise on your gameplay.

Jackpot slot strategies

Some might argue that with jackpot slots, like any other slot games, having a strategy is pointless because the games are not based on skill, just luck. To some extent, that is true. The Random Number Generator ensures that every single spin has the same chance of being a winner, no matter how the previous spin turned out.

However, there are some things you can do to minimise losses (and thus prolong your gameplay) by making some practical decisions.

1. Stick to a budget

It can be easy to get drawn into spending more than intended when chasing a big jackpot. “Just one more spin…” can quickly turn into blowing way too much cash without seeing any return.

2. Set yourself a loss limit

This can be on a per session basis or per week, for example. Once you hit that limit, close your laptop or switch off your tablet – your play is done for now. You may not have won a significant amount but you have ensured that you have enough cash in the bank to have another go later.

3. Learn about the games

All kinds of jackpots (except fixed jackpots) vary in the amount they build up to before they pay out. This means that there’s no telling when a jackpot will drop. However, there are patterns to watch out for – a jackpot that routinely pays out in the millions is not likely to drop when the prize pool has only just begun to be replenished.

A number of useful sites collate jackpot data, keeping track of the size of the prize pool and when it last dropped. These are by no means a foolproof way to ‘predict’ when a jackpot will pay out but this information can help you make smart choices about when to play which jackpot game.

4. Keep an eye on bonuses and promotions

Plenty of online casinos are constantly coming up with new bonuses and promotions.

Casinos are also promoting progressive jackpots and offer free spins and other bonuses as an incentive to get you to play. Keep an eye on these offers so you can get a little something extra when you’re playing at a casino.

5. It’s not just slots…

Most of the biggest jackpot games happen to be slot games. However, if you’re hunting for a big payout, it’s worth looking at other types of games, if you are interested in playing them.

Table games like blackjack, roulette and poker, as well as bingo and scratchcards can have jackpots up for grabs and with slightly less interest from punters, you have better odds of being the lucky player at the table.

6. Bigger bets doesn’t mean better chances

Some players are under the false impression that to win a jackpot, they need to bet at the highest possible value on every spin. First of all, this is untrue. A jackpot can drop at any size wager. And second, this is the quickest way to completely decimate your bankroll.

The possibility of a big win should not cloud your judgement. Taking big risks with large wagers is a surefire way of cutting your gameplay short with big losses. Spin with the aim of small, regular wins rather than the big prize and you are more likely to keep spinning for longer.

Jackpot trackers

The internet is a great resource for those who want to keep tabs on jackpot payouts. There is a ton of data out there and some intrepid gamblers have taken it upon themselves to sort through all that and present their findings online.

Jackpot trackers are sites that monitor current jackpot sizes as well as keeping tabs on the wins that have already dropped, allowing them to highlight patterns in the game’s drop rate. Some go further, using graphs and other visualisation designs to create exceptionally detailed analyses of jackpot wins and when they are likely to happen.

These jackpot trackers are a useful tool but in the end, they remain only tools. There is no way to predict a jackpot drop with any certainty but these sites do offer helpful information. And they are also a fascinating read for casino nerds like us.

What happens when you win a jackpot?

What happens when you win a jackpot?

The stars have aligned, Lady Luck is smiling on your and the RNG has seen fit to pay out on this spin – you’ve won a jackpot prize!

After taking a personal moment – maybe call your spouse, make a cup of tea and/or dance around the room – the next question is usually “what happens now?”

Verifying the win

To start off with, most casinos will take some time to verify the win. This means checking their records to ensure that the win was legitimate (i.e. no fraud or abuse was involved, no terms and conditions were violated etc).

Once this is done, the casino will usually congratulate the player and might even request an interview, which will then be published on the casino’s site.

Payout

The next and most important step – the payout – depends on the casino’s rules.

Some casinos will happily pay out a jackpot all in one go while others will pay out in line with their monthly withdrawal limits, set out in their T&Cs. This means that a multi-million pound jackpot will be paid out over several months at a casino that limits monthly withdrawals to £10,000.

Casino managers will be more than happy to talk winners through the process and what they can expect and when.

Summary

Jackpot slots are a huge draw for players and it’s not hard to understand why. The possibility of winning a massive amount of cash will appeal to anyone. However, it is important for players to understand how jackpot slots work before they get started so they can enjoy their gameplay to the fullest.