How Do The Pokies Work In New Zealand?

How Do The Pokies Work

If you’re new to playing pokies, don’t worry! Let’s break it down and understand how they work.

Pokies are simple to play. You put money into the machine, press a button, or pull a lever. Then, the reels start spinning.

Each reel has different symbols. When the reels stop spinning, you win if you get matching symbols in a line!

Some pokies have special symbols that give you bonuses or free spins if you get them in certain combinations.

It’s mostly luck, but you can do a few things to improve your chances. For example, some pokies have higher payouts or better odds than others, so looking for those is good.

Now that you know the basics, you can have fun playing pokies and maybe even win some prizes!

How Do Pokies Machines Work?

How do pokies machines work
How do pokies machines work

Playing the pokies is essentially like playing a computer game but you are playing with real money. Simply decide how many lines you want to play, how much you want to bet on each line and then hope for the best.

1. The Paytable

The play table
The play table

The play table on the machine tells you which combination of symbols pays and how much. Understanding this is important so you know what you aim for and whether a game is right for you. It is also important to realize that the bigger the win, the harder it is to get.

When you understand the stakes, it is a matter of pushing the button that will spin the reel. When the reels are spinning, the computer is actually deciding what symbols to display. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a mechanism that physically spins inside the pokie.

2. Random Number Generator (RNG)

Random number generator (RNG) - how to pokies work
Random number generator (RNG)

The reels on the machine are positioned in columns, one after the other, as if on a sheet of paper. Each pokie has a different number of symbols placed in different positions on the reels. This is how pokies work.

The RNG system selects the symbols, which are then displayed on the screen. Think of it like randomly selecting a numbered ball out of a bucket. If there are 32 symbols, then there are 32 balls, similar to the lotto. The computer selects a numbered ball and then shows the corresponding symbol on the reel. It does this for each real on the screen.

When the reels have been selected, the computer works out if you have won anything according to the symbols selected and their order. If you win, the computer will pay you, but if you lose, the ‘balls’ will return to the ‘buckets’, and the computer will wait for the button to be pushed again.

3. Return To Player (RTP)

Return to Player (RTP) -how do pokies work
Return to Player (RTP)

The return to the player is the percentage of the money the pokie earns that will return to players. This is typically a minimum of 87 per cent. This means that if you could play every possible combination on the machine, you would get 87% of your money back.

This, of course, also means that 13 per cent will go to the house. The pokies aren’t rigged, and the house doesn’t cheat, but there is an inbuilt advantage for the operator as there are more losing combinations than winning.

4. What Are Your Chances Of Winning?

What are your chances of winning?

Every time you play the pokies, you have a one in 10 chance of winning, while your chances at the highest prize are around one in 10,000,000. The issue is that most wins will not be big payouts.

However, Different games provide different chances because each has a different play table and game features. Every time these change, the RTP and your chances of winning change. It is worth testing several pokies to find which one works best for you. This is how do pokies work.

Game designers can use mathematical formulas to increase or decrease a game’s payout percentage by adding or removing symbols from particular reels. This means that a game can look the same as another but have a different payout percentage.

5. Do Pokie Machines Remember?

Do pokie machines remember
Do pokie machines remember

Contrary to what most players think, the pokie machines do not memorize any past number and most certainly do not replay a certain hand in purpose. This is how do pokies work.

The backlash of this widespread misconception is that most gamblers believe a winning combination is just about to come, and they continue to play through their losses, awaiting the big break, which may never come. And all of this, as at some point during the game, they got rewarded with a satisfying number of spins, which in their heads indicates an upcoming big win.

But the fact is, each event is different from one another and is never affected by the rate at which free spins or other wins are awarded. It never tracks when it was last awarded a free spin. The machine also doesn’t keep a record of how long somebody played it or the length of time when the last free spins/wins were awarded.

6. Game Features

Game features
Game features

Many different game features, such as free games, double-ups, scatters, and substitutes, are added to pokie machines to enhance the game. Remember, however, that while these seem like ‘free’ opportunities, they are balanced against the amount of money you will likely lose. This is how pokies work.

Jackpots are another feature of many pokie machines. Jackpots allow you to win a prize or a large amount of money that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to win. The prizes include cars, motorbikes, houses and stacks of cash. When trying to win the jackpot, play as low a denomination as possible as low a bet. On a jackpot machine, your chances of winning if you bet one credit per spin are as they are if you bet 100 credits per spin.

Jackpots in casinos
Progressive pokies jackpots


Online and mobile pokies work much in the same way as casino-based machines. They operate on the same system in which the symbols are selected by a random number generator. The return-to-player rate should also be the same, meaning your chances of winning won’t change. This is how do pokies work!

The only difference is that the RNG is in an online casino rather than on a machine before you.

Many find the ability to play online and mobile pokies anywhere at any time positive. The graphics are generally really good, and the playing experience is enjoyable.

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About the author

Michaela Scott

Michaela Scott

Michaela Scott stands as one of the leading voices in New Zealand's online gaming scene.

With a tenure spanning nearly a decade at PokiesMobile NZ, Michaela's contributions range from meticulously crafted game reviews to in-depth industry analysis.

Hailing from Christchurch, she brings a mix of local insights and global perspectives to her writings.

Her dedication to staying ahead of industry trends and her unparalleled expertise make her pieces both educational and enjoyable.