Online pokies are the most popular of all online casino games and that’s for a number of very good reasons. They’re easy to play, they come in a wide variety of themes and formats, and they don’t require any special knowledge or skill, making them just as suitable for beginners as they are for experienced players.
While players in most other countries usually refer to these games as slots, here in New Zealand we prefer to call them pokies. That’s because early gaming machines here were all about video poker, so “playing the pokies” made perfect sense. Slots games eventually became more popular than video poker games, but we continued to call them pokies, and we still do.
Play Pokies on These Top NZ Casinos
In this article, we’ll be giving you a crash course in online pokies that covers pretty much everything you need to know. We’ll cover the basics of what pokies are and how they work, and then we’ll explore the different types of pokies that you can currently play online. You’ll also learn how to pick the best pokies to play, the best places to play them and how to maximise your chances of winning. If all of that sounds good then settle in and you’ll be an expert in online pokies in no time.
Online pokies are a lot like the traditional pokie machines that have been popular in pubs, clubs and land-based casinos for well over a century. Those machines housed a number of vertical reels (typically three to five) and each reel contained a series of symbols. Originally the symbols were often fruits, such as cherries, oranges, lemons and plums, and so the games were also commonly referred to as fruit machines.
To play a pokie, you needed to insert a coin into a slot on the machine (which is where the slots term comes from) and pull a handle or press a button to set the reels in motion. The vertical reels would spin for a while before coming to rest, and if the symbols on the reels matched up on a pay line, you’d win a cash prize. That prize would be delivered directly into a coin tray somewhere below the reels, giving you plenty of change to play more games with.
Online pokies are designed to look and behave in a very similar way, but there are no mechanics involved. Instead, the game is driven by software. There is no need to put a coin into a slot (although some online pokies like to replicate that) so you simply click a button to set the reels in motion. If a winning combination of symbols lines up on a pay line, you win, and your winnings are added to your online casino account automatically.
Because online pokies are driven by software rather than mechanics, they can have many more features than their physical ancestors. For example, an online pokie can have as many reels and pay lines as the game creators choose to simulate. The symbols on those reels can be animated rather than static, and special bonus symbols can be used to trigger a host of special features, such as bonus games and free spins.
From a player’s perspective, another big advantage of online pokies is that they’re always available. You can play them at any time of the day or night, and you’ll never have to wait for your turn, even at the busiest of times. Simply visit your favourite online casino, log in and enjoy all the pokie action you want.
Even the quickest of glances at an online casino will make it obvious that there are hundreds of different themes that pokies can have. There are gem pokies, Wild West pokies, space pokies, candy pokies, branded pokies based on movies, rock stars and books, and a whole lot more. But as well as those thematic variations there are also different types of pokies. Three of the main types that you’re likely to come across are:
These are online pokies that are designed to be as similar as possible to their mechanical predecessors. Classic pokies tend to have a three- or five-reel format, a limited number of pay lines, realistic-looking reels and traditional symbols such as fruits, golden bells, red 7s and so on.
Video pokies are ones that put an emphasis on the visual style of the game. The reels can be less reminiscent of physical ones, and many video pokies use transparent reels so that you can enjoy a better view of the background graphics. It’s common for video pokies to feature video sequences and animation.
These are online pokies that give players the chance to win a particularly large top prize. For example, progressive jackpot pokies like Mega Moolah have jackpots that increase over time until someone eventually wins the whole lot. The jackpot is then reset and starts building up again in readiness for the next big winner.
Unless otherwise stated, most online pokies can be thought of as belonging to the Video Pokies category, but there’s a lot of crossover between types. Game developers are constantly working hard to push genre boundaries and come up with new pokie innovations, so don’t be surprised to find at least a few video pokies with classic symbols and big jackpots.
While mechanical pokies always required you to insert a coin, many online casinos will let you play free pokies as well as real money pokies.
Free pokies are played with “fun money” so they cost nothing to play and you can spin the reels for as long as you want. This means you can have a lot of fun without risking a cent, but the drawback is that can’t win any real cash, either.
Real money pokies are a different thing altogether because these require you to pay to spin the reels. The cost per spin will depend on the coin value you select when you play the game and the number of pay lines you have active. If you land a combination of matching symbols you will enjoy a real money return.
Of course, there is nothing to prevent you from playing both free pokies and online pokies for real money. Free pokies are great for discovering new games, and if you find a game that you really love you can switch to playing the real money equivalent whenever you want.
Playing pokies at online casinos means that you can enjoy thousands of great games from the comfort of your own home. But it is also possible to play pokies even when you’re out and about. All you have to do is use a casino that allows you to play on a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.
You can play at many casinos simply by using your mobile web browser. Other venues might require you to download a mobile app first. Either way, most popular online pokies run just as smoothly on mobile devices as they do on desktop or laptop computers, so you can spin the reels whenever and wherever you please.
There are tens of thousands of online pokies in the world, and some are better than others. Although different players obviously prefer different pokies, there are some games that have proved particularly popular in their own niches. Let’s take a look at a few of those niches and name names.
Pokies with three reels have a wonderfully nostalgic feel and a simple format, making them ideal for those who are new to online gaming. Some of the best slots in this category include:
- Charlie Chance in Hell to Pay from Play’n GO
- Lightning Joker from Yggdrasil Gaming
- Super Burning Wins: Respin from Playson
Five-reel pokies are the modern standard and these games make it possible to land longer and more valuable combinations of matching symbols. They are also likely to have special bonus games. A few examples of the best slots in this category are:
- Book of Dead from Play’n GO
- Starburst from NetEnt
- Immortal Romance from Microgaming
3D pokies offer all the gaming excitement of regular pokies but in three dimensions. Okay, so they’re not properly 3D, and you won’t need any special goggles to play them, but they’re designed to be more visually immersive than their 2D contemporaries. To see what we mean, take a look at the following:
- Gonzo’s Quest from NetEnt
- Age of the Gods: Prince of Olympus from Playtech
- Dead or Alive from NetEnt
As we said earlier, some pokies boast progressive jackpots that grow and grow until someone wins the whole lot. The jackpots offered by these games can be worth five, six or even seven figures, and three of the best titles are:
- Divine Fortune from NetEnt
- Mega Moolah from Microgaming
- Sisters of Oz WowPot from Triple Edge Studios
Online pokies are games of pure chance, with the outcome of every spin being determined by a Random Number Generator or RNG. Pokies involve no skill, and there is nothing that any player can do to influence the outcome of a spin or change the odds of landing a win.
Having said all of that, there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of winning in any particular gaming session. You still might not make an overall profit, but you could enjoy the excitement of seeing the symbols line up in your favour. Here are our suggestions:
- Play Multiple Spins
The more often you spin the reels, the more chance you will have of getting a winning spin. For that reason, it makes sense to play multiple spins for a lower cost per spin than to play just one or two spins for higher stakes. For example, if you have $10 that you want to spend, you might be better off playing 100 spins at 10c per spin than just 10 spins at $1 each.
- Participate in Pokie Tournaments
Many online casinos run pokie tournaments. These are competitions that award additional prizes to players who manage to accumulate the most points in a given period. If you intend to play the pokies anyway, getting involved in a tournament could help you win an extra prize by doing so.
- Play Drops & Wins
Some online pokies have jackpots that are forced to pay out every hour, day, week or month. A Daily Drop game, for example, will deliver its jackpot at least once per day. If you focus on playing pokies that haven’t yet delivered, you just might get lucky.
We said earlier that different players prefer different slots. Picking the best pokie is therefore quite a personal decision, and what is best for you might be completely different than what is best for someone else. Here are some of the things to consider when deciding which pokies you are likely to prefer.
All online pokies NZ players have to choose from will have a Return to Player or RTP figure in their descriptions. This is how much money is paid back to players over the long term, expressed as a percentage. If you want the best chance of getting a payout, focus on games with an RTP of 96% or higher. The higher the RTP, the better.
Online pokies can be described as having low, medium or high volatility. Low volatility slots will pay out more often than the others, but the size of the prizes awarded will usually be modest. High volatility games pay out less often but deliver bigger prizes when they do. Have a think about what you’d prefer and choose a game accordingly.
Do you want to play a straightforward game that has few or no bonus features, or would you like the chance the try and trigger bonus features all day long? You will need to play a few online pokies to know what you prefer, but when you do you can choose games that meet your bonus feature requirements.
Playing online pokies is really all about keeping yourself entertained, regardless of whether you win or lose. That being the case, it makes sense to play games that you like the look and sound of and to choose a theme that suits your interests. If you like pets, look for pet-themed pokies. If you’re fascinated by adventures in outer space, focus on space-themed pokies.
Don’t forget, you can always play free pokies to try out different games without risk, so have fun as you explore and you’ll soon have a list of favourites you can come back to again and again.
The companies that create online pokies are called developers or providers. Like companies in any other walk of life, some providers are better than others in different areas. Here are some of the best pokie providers for Kiwi players and a few of the games that they are most famous for.
- Play’n GO
Play’n GO was founded in 1997 and over the last few decades it has become one of the most popular developers around. Its games are widely available in New Zealand and some of its best-loved pokies are Book of Dead, Rise of Olympus, Reactoonz, and Fruit Bonanza.
- Pragmatic Play
Although Pragmatic Play wasn’t founded until 2015, it has wasted no time in making a massive impact on the online gaming industry. It has released several hundred games to date, and a few of the online pokies NZ players particularly enjoy are John Hunter and the Book of Tut, Gates of Olympus, Sweet Bonanza and The Dog House.
NetEnt was founded in 1996, just a year before Play’n GO, and today it’s one of the biggest online gaming companies in the world. Some of the NetEnt titles that Kiwi players now consider classics are Starburst, Twin $pin, Gonzo’s Quest and Divine Fortune.
Microgaming has been around since 1994 and has won more awards than we’ve played online pokies. This developer is most famous for its Mega Moolah series of progressive pokies, but other titles that stand out are Thunderstruck II, Tomb Raider, and Immortal Romance.
It isn’t easy to rate online pokies, but we here at TheCasinoGuide try to keep things as objective as possible by considering five key features:
- Security: How secure is the casino offering the game? We expect nothing less than the highest standards of safety and security for players at all times.
- Provably Fair: Almost all online pokies are independently audited to prove their fairness. If any pokie isn’t provably fair then we won’t recommend it.
- Available Bonuses: Does the online casino offering the pokie have any bonuses available? If so, it will get a higher rating than one that doesn’t.
- Entertainment Value: Is the game genuinely fun to play? We want online pokies to be just as entertaining as watching our favourite TV shows, if not even more so.
- Payment Options: Does the casino make it easy for players to make a deposit and start enjoying the pokie in question? If not, its rating will suffer.
We’ve almost reached the end of our crash course in online pokies, but before we leave you to explore this exciting world of gaming entertainment for yourself, there are a few tips we’d like to share to help you on your way.
First, make sure that you only sign up with a reputable online casino that is safe and legal. If you’re in any doubt, be sure to check out our online casino reviews before choosing one that’s right for you.
Next, remember to try games out for free whenever you can. Get into the habit of playing free pokies and you’ll be able to test-drive new games without risk.
Last, but not least, always take advantage of worthwhile welcome bonus offers, Some casinos will give you free spins just for signing up, and you can use those to play online pokies for real prizes without spending a penny.
Check Out Our NZ Pokie Reviews
By now you know quite a bit about online pokies, but if you’d still like some help choosing which games to play, be sure to check out our collection of NZ pokie reviews. Also take a look at the pokies highlighted below, which just happen to be some of our favourites.