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In New Zealand gaming slang, pokies are manual or electronic gambling machines commonly found in casinos and arcades. While the term is a shortened form of video poker or poker machine, the name is actually more commonly applied to slot machines – old-style fruit machines, one-armed bandits and modern video slot games. Other terms for pokies include gamblers and fruities.

Why aren’t pokies called slots?

There isn’t a clear answer, but it’s guessed to come from the word ‘pok’ seen in ‘poker machine’ and has since changed over time into the slang ‘pokie’.

Advertising in New Zealand refers to these machines as pokies, and if you track the history of pokies back to the earliest days of their existence – in around the 1900s – you can see that one of the first games was a poker machine, referred to as video poker in other parts of the world.

As the casino and gambling industry grew in New Zealand, slot machines start to become more popular and were placed next to them. Therefore, people may have just started collectively referring to all the gaming machines as ‘pokies’. You can see this term in New Zealand online casino sites as well as physical brick and mortar casinos. All online slots and video poker games are called pokies.

History of Pokies

New South Wales in Australia was the first state to legalise the pokies style of gambling in 1956, when all registered clubs were granted the legal status to offer this game to New Zealand punters as well.

In 1999, it was reported that Australia had nearly 180,000 poker machines, and over half were located in New South Wales. In other words, Australia held 2.6% of all the gambling machines in the world, with almost five times as many as in the US.

In Queensland, pokies in pubs and clubs have to give customers a return rate of 85% minimum, while those in casinos have to provide a return rate of 90%. This is also the case in many other states in Australia. For example, pokies in Victoria have to provide a return rate of at least 85%.

In 2007, machines which would automatically play with the button held were banned, as were those with support for $100 notes. The exception to this rule is seen in Crown Casino, where pokies players with a VIP loyalty card can insert $100 notes and use the autoplay feature, which allows the machine to play the game on repeat until either the credit runs out or the player puts a stop to it.

Western Australia has the most restrictive rules when it comes to gambling and pokies, as the machines can only be used in Burswood Casino – and nowhere else. This policy was reaffirmed by the 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling, and has remained that way ever since.

Types of Pokies

3 Reel Pokies – When pokies machines first started being developed, they had three reels. It’s common for people to refer to classic pokies as 3 reel pokies. It’s a good option for those who want a quick and easy game without bonuses and extra features to contend with.Those who like traditional pokies will also prefer this option. Essentially, reels are the vertical sections which roll over whenever the lever is pulled (or you press ‘spin’ in an online casino).One example of a three reel pokie game is Sizzling Hot which was created by software provider Novomatic. The disadvantage of three reel pokies is the fact that the payout will usually be lower than five or seven reel pokies, and it can easily get boring for those who tire of the repetitive action. However, the game is quick and easy, so it has a loyal fan base for that reason.

5 Reel Pokies – Five reel games are the most popular when it comes to online pokies, and players will often find these carry the most varied and exciting themes, bonuses and mini-games. This therefore makes five reel pokies a good option for those who want to have a wide selection of themes to get stuck into, or dedicate themselves to one kind of game and increase their payout with bonus rounds and other special features. Although the number of paylines varies according to the game you play, on average there will be 20 paylines as a standard setup.

6 Reel Pokies – Now that pretty much any variety of online pokies can be created, software developers have decided to go one step further and add an additional reel to the popular 5 reel pokies. It will be hard to find a six reel slot in a brick and mortar casino, but you will certainly find a good selection in the online world. For example, Microgaming released the game Germinator, and WMS Gaming put out a machine called Red Flag Sheet. There are more opportunities to win a payout with an extra reel, but as with all online pokies games, the winner is completely down to luck and chance.

7 Reel Pokies – Players who want to try something new or play at a different speed can try the seven reel online pokies layout. It is a relatively new trend, but there are many people who believe in the power of the number seven – so they will be drawn to this number of reels. Real Time Gaming and WGS Technologies offer a number of 7 reel pokies games, but those who love this game will need to wait for more developers to catch onto the trend. So that there isn’t too much complexity in the game, the average seven reel slot will have a matching seven paylines. Although they won’t always have videos and animations, players can enjoy extras such as multipliers, free spins and bonus symbols.

  • Classic Pokies – Also known as three reel pokies, these games recreate the feeling of being in an authentic Vegas casino. They are designed to be the digital version of the original pokies, which have a small number of reels and one payline. Developers spice things up by adding additional features such as bonus games, multiplier symbols and scatter symbols.
  • For those wanting a simple betting option, classic pokies are the way to go. Players just have to bet either one coin or the maximum per spin, then wait to see the result. There will usually be a paytable next to the reels, available to refer to throughout the game, and all you have to do to win the prize is see if your payline matches the pictures on the table.
  • Video Pokies – There are thousands of video game pokies available, and it can be hard to decide which one to play. This is because software providers go all out with their provision of exciting designs and varied game play. It’s possible for video pokies to have over 100 paylines, loads of mini games and lots of bonus symbols.
  • This can keep an online pokies player entertained for hours. The graphics are usually high quality, and achieving a winning spin will often result in unique animations being displayed on screen. TV programmes, comics, films and cartoon characters often feature in video pokies, as big pokie makers like Bally and Netent will be able to license the brands for use in their libraries.

What’s the difference between physical and virtual reels?

Back when the first pokies came out, they had physical reels that would spin around before locking in place on a certain sequence of symbols, which would then determine the payout. The benefit of virtual reels is that the number of virtual positions on offer is endless, which can be much more enticing for players looking to kill some time in an online casino. An increased number of symbol sequence options, along with the power of gaming software providers, has enabled online casinos to bring virtual pokies in many more varied forms than their physical predecessors.

Those playing virtual pokies will often have a higher chance of winning lots of small amounts, instead of a few big wins, due to the increased number of possible reel sequences.

Due to the variety of options available with virtual pokies, gamers should be aware of the extra buttons available with online games – such as the credit size, which will change how much credit you are betting each time. You can also change the amounts of credit per line, or set a max bet going, which bets the maximum amount of credits and begins the spin. This interactivity allows pokies players a more immersive experience, letting them generate a win that they can subsequently gamble by pressing the Gamble button.

Finally, and perhaps most noticeably, whereas physical pokies will have a level the player needs to pull to set the reels in motion, virtual pokies simply require the punter to press the ‘spin’ button.

Best Online Pokies Games

  • Age of the Gods Pokies – This game takes its inspiration from Ancient Greek mythology, featuring many gods from the legends such as Poseidon, lord of the sea, Athena, goddess of peace, and Hercules. The premise is that the titans have fallen and it’s now the age of the gods. If you press Bet Max, this enables you to activate all the paylines with the bet per line you’ve currently got selected, and the reels will start to spin. Clicking on Spin enables the wheels to do just that.
  • Thunderstruck Pokies – Like Age of the Gods, Thunderstruck is an online pokies game focused on a god. However, in this instance, the god in question is Thor, the Nordic god who rules over storms, thunder and lightning. This game has 5 reels and 9 paylines, with many storm-themed symbols that match the legend of Thor.
  • Gonzo’s Quest Pokies – This game was developed by NetEnt and can be played with both real and virtual money. This game is good for those who like high quality graphics, as the theme involves lots of green, a fountain pouring out of a stone carving and an Inca temple in the background. Each symbol features an intricate carving of a human or animal face, and each one is a different colour to represent its value.
  • Cleopatra Pokies – IGT is the software provider behind Cleopatra, a well-known pokies game with huge payouts and a unique historical atmosphere. It comes with five reels and has 20 pay lines. Each coin dropped into the pokies activates a certain pay line. The minimum bet is one penny, and the maximum is NZ$10 per line. Usually, people bet between NZ$0.10 and NZ$5. The maximum payout is 10,000 credits.. The sphinx is the scatter symbol, and if you get three or more of these on the reels, the bonus free spin round is activated, whereby a player is entitled to 15 free spins.
  • Starburst Pokies – This online pokies game is massively popular because it is so easy to play. You can consistently expect 10 fixed lines, 5 reels and 3 rows from the setup. Players can adjust the coin value by clicking the button on the right of the spin button, and to change the bet level, simply click the green arrow buttons either left or right located next to the Level display.
  • Wheel of Fortune Pokies – This game has a unique design that differs from other online fruit pokies, as when you load it on your screen, you’ll see the bottom half is set up like a traditional arcade pokies game, with big reels and a payable featuring classic symbols such as cherries, lemons and bells. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys classic pokies, and there are two separate games – bottom and top – and the same three reels are used in both.

Progressive Jackpot Pokies

Mega MoolahThis online pokie game has 5 reels and 25 pay lines, offering players a whole host of ways to win. There are 4 progressive jackpots available to win big on, as well as wilds, scatters, multipliers and free spins. As a low volatility game, this offering from Microgaming is one of the most popular progressive jackpot pokies to play. It has an African Safari theme, which features animals such as antelopes, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, monkeys, lions and elephants. These are spread throughout all of the available reels, with animations and sound effects enhancing the experience. You can bet between 1 and 5 coins per line, and the values can be adjusted to either $.01, $.02 or $.05. The wild symbol is a lion, and can be swapped in for any other symbol on the screen – except the scatter – to form winning patterns. What’s more, this symbol will double wins it helps to achieve. The scatter symbol is a fortune-telling monkey, and when three, four or five show up during gameplay, the Mega Moolah bonus feature is activated. This feature provides players with access to four progressive jackpots, and they can be won if bonuses are randomly triggered upon spinning the wheel. The Mega Moolah Pokies Jackpot wheel has 20 segments and operates a colour scheme to decide which jackpot a player will win.

How to win at pokies

We should make it clear that there is no defined strategy for winning at pokies – it’s designed to be a game of random chance, where you can never guarantee or increase your odds of landing a big win. Therefore, the number one rule is to never place all your hopes on investing in pokies to try and win bundles of cash.

There are a few things you can try so that you’re as well prepared for a game of pokies as possible:

  • Only play pokies for a set time period
  • Play for entertainment purposes, not to try and win big
  • Don’t chase your losses
  • Set a budget before playing
  • If you win, cash it out and walk away
  • Try virtual pokies, where the payout percentages are generally higher
  • Review the plethora of online casinos out there to ensure you make the right choice – for example, some casinos specialise in online pokies
  • Don’t play when you’ve had too much to drink as you are more likely to bet higher sums of money

The Gamble feature

A lot of pokies games will have a game on the side, where punters can have a go at winning twice as much. This game is unique in that the spins on the reels have no house advantage – the odds are natural. So for those who want a safer bet for winning than simply playing the pokies reels, this could be a more viable option. Games such as Red or Black or The Suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades) can result in wins higher than the top jackpot, which is a truly enticing prospect.

There are some other variations on the gamble feature in pokies:

  • Half Gamble – gamble just half of your pokies win; try out the double up without risking everything you’ve won
  • Times Win – spin a reel to win X2, X3, X5, X10, X100, where the winning odds for each are identical to the multiplier
  • Cardie – dates back to when pokies were styled on the principles of poker games. Deal one card with one face up, and pick one of the other cards. If the card is higher than the face up card, you win

Frequently asked questions

Those wanting to get involved in the world of pokies should try it out in a casino, as opposed to a pub or a club. This is because bigger prizes are available, and you have the option of claiming special promotions or bonuses. Additionally, many casinos will have a VIP or loyalty program available, making the pokies experience more varied, memorable and lucrative.

The gamble feature on pokies machines can be tempting to many, so it’s worth weighing up your options. Can you afford to lose what you’ve won if the gamble doesn’t go well? Will you want to keep trying to gamble your wins, and will this result in money problems for you? However, the chances of winning an even bigger payout will often mean that it’s worth a go. This is what the allure of pokies is all about!

Some say that a newer machine or game, whether it is online or physical pokies, will offer a better payout to punters in the first few days of use. However, there is no evidence to support this and it could just be a myth to encourage gameplay at certain times.

One way players are enticed into playing pokies for prolonged periods of time is by believing that the game has ‘hot and cold’ cycles, or up and down patterns, where certain spins will be more or less lucrative depending on how long or often you’ve been doing this. However, due to the completely random nature of pokies, there is no evidence to back this up, and players should instead play pokies believing that every spin is as valid and random as the last.

The answer to this question depends on your budget. For example, going into a casino, whether it’s physical or virtual, with NZ$100, will mean that dollar pokies could work well, unless you intend to spend days there. Alternatively, if you want to start low and have NZ$10, then give the 1 cent pokies a try and see how you go.

This isn’t generally possible, as the RTP is fixed at the point from when the pokies machine is manufactured. Gaming room operators would not be able to fix this unless they were to order a new chip for the machine.

However, in some states, such as Queensland, the RTPs are set remotely at the monitoring system. So if the operator wanted to change the RTP of a pokies game in this instance, they could do it at any time, with the approval of the regulator.

Generally speaking, pokies in New Zealand need to have a payout percentage – also known as Return to Player, or RTP – of 87% or higher, with most games providing a RTP of about 90%.

  • RTP Pokies aren’t calculated based on individual spins, but instead on how the symbols are positioned on the reels
  • RTP refers to the money which is being gambled – not the amount that’s been put into the machine
  • The RTP will never be reflected in an individual gaming session

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