Ultimate Guide to How Jackpots Work

Ultimate guide to how jackpots work

For many players, the word ‘jackpot’ conjures up the fantasy aspect of an online casino experience – the dream of winning a truly massive, life-changing amount of money in a single spin. And while that’s very possible (in fact, it’s happened several hundred times over the last decade or so), there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to jackpots.

For starters, there’s more than one type of jackpot game. Not only will we be covering all the different variations in this guide, as well as how each one works, but we’ll also be giving you some top tips and strategies for landing for the big one. We’ll also give you the lowdown on what will happen if you do find yourself lucky enough to win the jackpot.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents:

What are jackpot slots?

‘Jackpot’ technically means a large amount of prize money won through playing a game. However, the term is also used within the industry to refer to jackpot games, such as a slot that offers players the chance to win a huge pile of cold hard cash.

For clarity, we’ll only use the term ‘jackpot’ to refer to the prize money. We’ll use the phrase ‘jackpot slots’ from now on to refer to the kind of slot games that offer jackpots.

So, now we know what we’re talking about, let’s dig a little deeper and explore the various kinds of high-pay-out games, along with some strategies for (hopefully) taking the casino to the cleaners.

The most popular jackpot slots online

It’s always difficult to identify the best jackpot slot, simply because this is a very subjective matter. One player might not be able to get enough of something that maybe mind numbingly boring to another. It’s a little bit like trying to identify the greatest colour in the world or the most perfect pizza toppings – everyone’s got an opinion!

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

What are jackpot slots?

What are the different types of jackpot slots?

There are four main types of jackpot slots that you are more than likely to encounter as you play at online casinos. These are as follows: local, network, fixed and progressive.

Each type will help determine not only the size but also the frequency of the jackpot payout, as well as how a jackpot builds and which players contribute to the prize pot.

Local jackpots

Jackpots of this kind are comprised of the bets made by players at a specific casino. You can think of this variant like a raffle at a village fête where only locals who attend are allowed to purchase tickets – the winner, therefore, will also be local.

The same thing goes for local jackpots. So, while a certain game can be available at several different casinos, the prize pot at each one is formed exclusively from bets made by that casino’s players. As a result, local jackpots are usually much smaller than their network brethren.

Two excellent examples of local jackpots are NetEnt’s Tiki Wonders and Gold Rush. These are local progressive jackpots (don’t worry, we’ll explain what the progressive part of that means in a second). Essentially, then, both games can reach healthy jackpot payouts using this kind of method, so be sure to give them a spin to see how they work.

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. That means it’s a lot like The National Lottery, if we continue on from our village fête raffle analogy. So, players from all over the country contribute to the prize pot whenever they play the game. And when it comes to the money being released, the jackpot can be won by someone in Bristol, Birmingham or Bath, etc etc.

Network (or pooled, as they are sometimes known) jackpots are one of the largest, simply because so many players’ bets contribute towards the prize pool. Network games such as this also come in many forms, so you can find slots, table games, scratchcards and more.

A super popular network jackpot to try out is NetEnt’sHall of Gods, which regularly builds up to astonishing sums. Players at Casumo, for example, will be hoping to win a prize on Hall of Gods that includes bets made by players from Mr Green, SlotsMillion and so on.

Fixed jackpots

This is the only type of jackpot that does not fluctuate or grow. Slots with a fixed jackpot give you 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 is sometimes referred to as a cash pot jackpot, which has a nice ring to it.

Some jackpot slots offer both fixed cash prizes and progressive ones, with the latter usually reaching loftier heights than the former, but also being harder to win. Check out Jammin’ Jars and Ivan and the Immortal King for slot games that feature fixed jackpots.

Progressive jackpots

A progressive jackpot grows each time a player, either at the same casino or across the entire network of linked slots, makes a bet. They are also the headline stealers, as their totals can grow and grow over many weeks and months until they become astronomical.

So, every time you wager £1 on progressive jackpot games such as Mega Fortune or Hall of Gods, a small percentage of that bet is added to the prize pool. And, as this type of jackpot slot is usually very popular, you can reasonably expect thousands of players to be betting on it every single day. This means the jackpot can often reach several million pounds.

There is a downside, however. Progressive jackpots can only grow to such extortionate amounts because they are extremely hard to hit. You won’t see this type of jackpot won more often than once every few months on average. This rarity gives the jackpot room to grow to massive amounts, whilst also tempting more players when it seems likely to blow.

One last thing to note on this topic is that wins on any slot game, jackpot or otherwise, are determined by a Random Number Generator (RNG), which ensures that the game gives the same odds for each spin. This means that a jackpot can drop at any time, though more experienced players can usually 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 of all time (because of its famous wins over the years) is called Mega Moolah, which features not one but four jackpots. These multiple jackpots are usually triggered through bonus rounds that set off a chain reaction giving you more and more spins. A bonus wheel or series of wheels are two popular choices among game developers for such rounds.

In other cases, jackpots can be triggered completely at random during routine gameplay – i.e., no bonus round is needed. So, there’s really no template for how a jackpot slot presents this opportunity. Therefore, it’s always best to look at the pay table (often found within the slot with the ‘i’ symbol) to understand how the game works, its paylines and its jackpots. By doing this, you’re better prepared to nail the steps needed to hit the big one.

You can also play some jackpot slots for free, so you know the game inside out before you decide to make a deposit. Just don’t kick yourself if you win the grand prize without wagering real money.

Jackpot slot features

Jackpot slot games are, for the most part, quite similar to other slots, aside from their massive prize funds. For example, most of them have similar reel structures and bonus features, with the only thing setting them apart being the potential for a huge jackpot win.

Bonus features vary wildly and development studios are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to introduce exciting game features. That said, there are a few mainstays that seem almost ubiquitous. These include Wilds and free spins.

Other bonus rounds include games of chance (like heads or tails, higher or lower, etc etc), the chance to gamble your wins for bigger prizes, frozen symbols, re-spins and a multitude of others.

How to enter the jackpot bonus game?

How to enter the jackpot bonus game?

As we mentioned, the opportunity to hit a jackpot win usually becomes available during a bonus game or feature. Landing the right combination of symbols makes this happen automatically. In some cases, the jackpot can only be triggered during a free spins round.

You’ll also notice that plenty of jackpot slot games feature a bonus wheel or similar alternative. These mimic fairground ‘wheel of fortune’ games, albeit with a chance to win a jackpot prize. What’s more, they are particularly common in multi-jackpot games and sometimes one wheel will unlock another and another, with better prizes offered each time.

How can I win the jackpot?

If we knew the answer to this, we wouldn’t really be sharing it here, now would we? We’d be on an island with a private helicopter flying guests in and out.

But, while there’s no sure fire way to guarantee a jackpot win, there are some factors that can help give you a broad indication of what a jackpot slot is capable of paying out and how frequently it will happen.

What are the chances of winning a jackpot?

Slim to none, but there will always be a lucky winner from time to time, so don’t despair. If you want to work out the odds of winning a jackpot, we can do this with a simple bit of maths, though we mustn’t forget that timing also plays a role.

To calculate the mathematical odds of winning a jackpot (without factoring in its average payout rate), work out the number of winning combinations, then divide that number by the total number of combinations.

What are RTP and volatility?

The Return to Player (RTP) is an extremely important piece of information, regardless of whether a game offers a jackpot or not. The RTP is given as a percentage, usually in the 90s.

Let’s take an example. If a game’s RTP is stated as 95%, then for every £1 you wager, you can expect to receive 95p back in winnings on average. The other 5% is the casino’s take. That might not sound like a great deal, of course, But remember this is an average over millions of spins, so it doesn’t mean you can’t win, just that many will lose.

Similarly, volatility is good to know as well. This is measured as low, medium and high. A low volatility slot, such as Starburst, will payout fairly frequently but in small amounts, so you can expect a long gaming session with lots of little wins along the way. A high volatility slot, such as Book of Dead, is the opposite of this ethos. So, while winning rounds are much fewer and further between, they often payout much more whenever lady luck strikes.

Jackpot slots, therefore, will usually (again, there are no hard and fast rules here!) have a lower RTP than most other slot games. That’s because jackpot slots do not pay out anywhere near as often, therefore players stand to recoup less of the amount they wager. But there will be some lucky son of a gun who will take the grand prize eventually.

Volatility can vary somewhat in terms of jackpot slots. This is because of the different types of jackpots, whether multiple, progressive or fixed. In general, though, jackpot slots tend to have much higher volatility than other games because, by definition, they can go for a very long time without paying out. Before dropping a massive sum all at once, of course.

Can I improve the odds landing a jackpot?

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, for example. However, you can employ certain strategies that, while keeping these factors in mind, will maximise your experience.

The best jackpot slot strategies

Some might argue that with jackpot slots, like any other slot games, having a strategy is pointless. They know that the games are not based on skill, just pure, unadulterated luck.

To some extent, that is true. The Random Number Generator (RNG) ensures that every single spin has the same chance of being a winner on average, no matter how good or bad the previous spin turned out to be.

However, there are some things you can do to minimise your losses (and thus prolong your gametime) by making some practical decisions. Let’s dive into the details…

1. Stick to a budget

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

So, only play with what you can afford to lose and see your gaming time as what you would pay for any other kind of entertainment. A massive win is the cherry on the cake. Although, it would be the sweetest cake ever, of course.

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 – playtime is over 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.

This strategy also increases your enjoyment, as grinding out a win (of whatever size) isn’t all that fun after a few hours.

3. Learn about the games

All kinds of jackpots (except fixed ones) vary in how high they’ll go before paying out. This means that there’s no super precise way to tell when a jackpot will drop. However, there are certain 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, for example.

4. Keep an eye on bonuses and promotions

Plenty of online casinos are constantly coming up with new bonuses and promotions to retain their players. You can use these to your advantage.

Casinos will promote the highest progressive jackpots and offer you bonus spins and other rewards as an incentive to play for that life-altering win. So, it’s well worth keeping an eye on these offers, so that you can get a little extra boost that could make all the difference when you really need it.

5. It’s not just slots…

Most of the biggest jackpot games happen to be slots. However, if you’re hunting for a big payout, you should also consider alternatives.

Table games like blackjack, roulette and poker, as well as bingo and scratchcards, sometimes feature jackpots. And with slightly less interest from punters compared to slots, you’ll have slightly better odds of being in the right place at the right time – i.e., that lucky player at the table when the jackpot drops.

Using 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 of the facts and figures in order to publish the results online.

Trackers monitor current jackpot sizes in real time, as well as keeping tabs on the big wins that have already happened. This allows the geeks behind the sites to highlight patterns in the game’s drop rate. Some go even further, using graphs and other visualisations to create exceptionally detailed analyses of jackpot wins and when they’re likely to happen.

These jackpot trackers are a useful tool, but in the end, they remain only tools. There is no guaranteed way to predict a jackpot drop with any certainty, but access to useful information is never a bad thing. Also, they’re a fascinating read for casino nerds like us.

The biggest jackpot wins of all time

By far the biggest jackpot win at an online casino came when Microgaming’s Mega Moolah went berserk and spilled virtual coins all over the shop. All told, the progressive jackpot reached a whopping €18,915,872 – just over £17 million – when the lucky spin occurred.

That win was some 10% higher than the previous record holder: a €17,861,800 (around £16.5 million) jackpot was wrangled from NetEnt’s Mega Fortune progressive slot. That record stood for five years or so, having eclipsed a previous one on Mega Moolah.

What happens when you win a jackpot?

What happens when you win a jackpot?

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

So, after taking a personal moment – maybe call your spouse, make a cup of tea and/or scream and dance around the living room – the next question is usually ‘what happens now?’ Don’t worry, we’ve done our research and have got all the answers.

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 etc).

Once completed, the casino will congratulate the player and may request an interview, which will then be published on the casino’s site. After all, they want to get publicity to bring in new players so they can recover their losses.

Show me the money

The final and most important step – the payout – depends on the casino’s rules. Some (rarely) will happily pay out a jackpot all in one go, while others will pay out in line with their monthly withdrawal limits, as set out in their T&Cs.

This means that a multi-million-pound jackpot will be paid to you over several months (or sometimes years) at a casino that limits monthly withdrawals to, say, £10,000.

Casino managers will be more than happy to talk winners through the process and what they can expect and when. They are more than willing to negotiate with you regarding pay out times, especially if you agree to do a little bit of publicity for them.

Jackpot Slots 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 obviously appeals to near enough anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells.

However, it is important to understand how jackpot slots work before you get started, all so that you can enjoy your gametime to the fullest. We hope that our guide has given you all you need to know. Good luck!