Slot machines have never been more entertaining, thanks to today's technology, plus the ingenuity and competitiveness of the manufacturers.
The visuals and sounds, as well as the variety of games you can choose from on one machine are truly amazing. Each year, the manufacturers unveil their new product line. Some machines go on to be winners in casinos, while others have a short life-span.
Here's a look at some machines that are worth playing, both for their payouts and fun.
BINGO BONUS SLOTS: This is the first release in the Bandit Series' line of multimedia slots from Casino Data Systems. It has the picture, sound and animation quality of the most powerful home computer, featuring a 19-inch monitor.
The monitor is split into two areas, the top occupied by five video reels and the bottom by a giant video bingo card. The primary game is a five-line slot with bets of up to 25 coins (five per line). Extra symbols on the reels are 3-D, numbered bingo balls.
At the start of play, you choose a winning bingo configuration (five numbers in a straight or diagonal line). Harder configurations, like the four corners, or the whole card, pay higher bonuses. The "star" in the center is wild, just like in real bingo.
Every time a bingo ball lands on a lit pay-line, the 3-D image of the ball spins to reveal a number and leaps off the reel, flying to the corresponding number on the card to "daub" (mark) the number.
When you complete your configuration, the machine shouts out "Bingo!" and the screen transforms into bouncing bingo balls, until a random bonus amount appears, anywhere from a single coin to 4,000 coins.
CHICKEN: With this multi-line video game, Australian manufacturer Aristocrat gives you a good dose of Aussie humor. The primary game is improved by both sharp new graphics and a "hold and spin" feature.
When one or more "chicken" wild scatter symbols land, they stay in place for three free spins. All jackpots are accumulated from the free spins into a bonus. But the humor kicks in when you line up five chickens, either on a normal spin or as part of the three free spins. That triggers the second screen.
The second screen bonus game reveals a "chickens crossing the road" sequence. A cartoon scene shows chickens bunched up on one side of the road. The chickens, one at a time, attempt to cross the road without getting run over by a truck that speeds into view.
They assume various characters as they try -- one is on a skateboard, another is a "Super Chicken" character -- for a comical bonus sequence.
If they get hit by the truck, they pop up and spin around with stars in their eyes and plenty of cartoony shtick. A bonus coin amount is awarded for each chicken that crosses the road without getting flattened.
ELVIS: What could be more Las Vegas? International Gaming Technology, after getting the nod from the Elvis Presley estate to use the Presley image, did a great job in creating an entertaining slot game. Elvis incorporates both a unique bonus game and a mega-money progressive jackpot.
Lining up three Elvis wild symbols on the pay line nets the progressive prize, which starts at $100,000 on the quarter version of the slot.
EMPIRE DELUXE: A.C. Coin and Slot Co.'s Empire slot was a big hit when it appeared in 1998, so the company came back with a new, improved version.
It's themed to look like the Empire State Building in New York, with a mini-King Kong character climbing up the side.
The primary three-reel slot includes nine pay table combinations and Empire symbol that is wild anywhere within one space of the pay line. Three wild symbols in any position score a secondary jackpot of 1,000 coins; three on the pay line win the top 10,000-coin jackpot.
A miniature gorilla races a clock up the building, climbing so many floors each time a climb symbol lands on the reels -- to the backdrop of funny jungle music and conga drums.
If climb symbols land on the reels often enough to get the little monkey to the 70th floor before the one minute, 40-second timer expires, the player gets one of three bonus payments, equal to one of the three tiers of the "bonus zone." If you get the gorilla to the 70th floor, you win 25 coins; reaching the 90th floor gets you 40 coins; and if you get to the 100th floor, you win the top bonus of 100 coins.
The overall hit frequency is still 35.7 percent (a hit every three spins) -- or about twice that of most single-line, reel-spinning slots. And the sound effects are a hoot.
GREAT WHITES: This game from VLC is a nine-line video slot packed with special features.
The primary game has three different pay tables for poker symbols (10,J,Q,K,A). The symbols are either red or blue, and the pays are higher for lining up three or more in the same color.
There is a third pay table for forming straights and royal flushes with the poker symbols.
The "shark" symbol is wild for all except the scatter symbols, and has its own pay table as well -- 250 coins for three on a lit pay line; 1,000 coins for four and 10,000 coins for five.
Line pays are multiplied by the per-line bet (for a top potential jackpot of 50,000 coins) and scatter pays -- for the "fishing lure" symbol -- pay from one to 500 coins, times the total bet.
All the features of the primary game are augmented by a Mystery Bonus Feature that appears when a "shell" symbol lands anywhere on all five reels. You touch the screen to select one of several shells for a bonus of five to 25 coins, times the total bet.
All of the ways to win this game add up to one of the best hit frequencies available in any slot -- 55 percent, or a hit every other spin. If you find one of the higher-percentage versions (the game is available in payback up to 97 percent) this can be a lucrative proposition.
MONOPOLY: Once they got the rights to develop this game, Williams Gaming designed four different machines, covering several popular genres of slot machine.
Each version has its own bonus feature to augment the main board game. Reel-spinner Roll and Win has large dice in the top box which roll, multiplying the jackpot by the dice total.
Advance to Boardwalk, the other reel-spinning Monopoly game which displays animated reels in a bonus game incorporating the Chance and Community Chest features of the board game.
The two video versions of Monopoly are multi-line. Reel Estate includes scatter-pay symbols that trigger a bonus game with the object of lighting up all of the same colored properties on the Monopoly board for a bonus prize.
On Once Around, the bonus game sends you around the board in an attempt to accumulate houses and hotels for bonus awards.
All of the versions of Monopoly maintain player interest not only because of the familiar theme, but because they are loaded with features, multiple bonus events and bonuses that offer the player a vastly more entertaining play experience than simply watching reels spin.
ROLL THE DICE: With this slot from Bally Gaming, the primary game is the popular "Blazing 7s" with all if its normal benefits of frequent "7" combinations and good low-end hit frequency.
In the Nevada version of the game, there is a bonus pay table based on the sum of the dice, and that amount is multiplied by the "X" amount on the top box. The top bonus hits if the dice total three or 18 (three one-spots or three six-spots). That bonus is 400 coins or a maximum of 4,000 coins if you land the 10X.
In New Jersey, all mixed-dice results pay five coins, times the multiplier. The higher bonus awards kick in for three like results on the dice, or if the dice form a straight.
The upper-tier bonus awards come from matching fours, five or sixes on the dice: three fours, 100 coins; three fives, 200 coins; three sixes, 400 coins -- times 1X to 10X, for top bonuses of 100 to 4,000 coins.
SLOTOPOLY: This is one of a new batch of Megajackpots multi-site progressive slots from International Game Technology.
The base game is one of the five popular IGT slots -- Double Diamond, Wild Star Red, White and Blue, Five Times Play and Ten Times Play.
All of these primary games have their normal multiplying wild symbols, plus one extra multiplying wild symbol, the Slotopoly symbol, which behaves just like the regular multiplying symbol. Three Slotopoly symbols win the progressive, which starts at $100,000 in the quarter version.
The bonus game is triggered by a Play Slotopoly symbol on the third reel, which also pays 10 coins. The LCD screen displays an animated roll of the dice, and lights flash around 20 blocks on the game board until landing on one of 14 separate bonus games.
Events like Door Prize Bonus (you pick a door for your prize) and Bonus Wheel (an animated Wheel of Fortune-style wheel) are played out on the LCD screen. If you land on a street like Diamond Drive or Slotopoly Square, a set bonus amount is paid.
This slot offers a lot of fun, a lot of variety and a lot of low-to-moderate jackpots.
TRIPLE PLAY DRAW POKER: The original version of Triple Play Poker quickly became the hottest video poker game in Nevada after its introduction and the Joker Poker version of the game is quickly gaining popularity in Atlantic City.
The game is video poker, available in several different types of games (including a multi-game unit) with all the advantages of normal video poker -- times three.
By depositing at least three coins, three video poker hands appear on the screen -- one face-up, two face-down. You choose your hold cards from the face-up hand, but the hold cards appear in the top two hands as well.
The draw is then made from a separate 52-card deck (minus the five original cards) for each of the three hands. This has the effect of lightning-fast play, lightning-fast betting and lightning-fast winning -- or losing.
Playing three hands at once triples jackpots, but also triples losses. It is a highly volatile form of video poker, so be prepared.
The real rush in this game is when you're dealt a pat hand. Automatically, you have a triple jackpot. You even have the possibility of landing a royal flush on the deal -- a one-in-650,000 proposition -- and a 12,000 coin prize.
In Nevada, you can start out slow with nickels and still find the best pay tables (try The Reserve).