How Do The Pokies Work In New Zealand?

How Do The Pokies Work

It may come like second nature to seasoned players, but for some playing the pokies can be somewhat of a mystery. Let’s find out how pokies work.

If this is you then consider this as your complete guide on the gambling process and how pokies work. This will help you understand the games and how to give yourself the best chance of winning. Here is how do pokies work.

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 is what will tell you which combination of symbols pays and how much. This is important to understand so you know what you are aiming for and whether a game is right for you. It is 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 which 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 physically spinning 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 that are placed in different positions on the reels. This is how do pokies work.

The RNG is the system that picks 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 all been selected, the computer works out if you have won anything according to the symbols selected and the order they are in. 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 earned by the pokie that will go back to players. This is typically a minimum of 87 percent. This means that if you could play every possible combination on the machine then you would get 87 percent of your money back.

This of course also means that 13 percent 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.

You would also like to read: A Guide On Online Casinos Provably Fair Play

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.

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

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

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 keeps track of when was the last time it awarded a free spin, the machine also doesn’t keep a record of how long somebody plays it or the length of time when the last free spins/wins were awarded.

6. Game Features

Game features
Game features

There are many different game features on a pokie machine that are added to enhance the game such as free games, double up, scatters, and substitutes. Remember however that while these seem like ‘free’ opportunities, they are balanced against the amount of money you are likely to lose. This is how do pokies work.

Jackpots are another feature of many pokie machines. Jackpots give you the chance 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 sitting in an online casino somewhere rather than in a machine in front of you.

What many find positive about online and mobile pokies is the opportunity to play anywhere you are at any time. The graphics are generally really good and the playing experience is enjoyable.


Where does the name “pokies” come from?

While there is no record of where the term originated like most slang it is likely coming from players shortening poker machines with phrases like “I’m down at the pub having a spin on the pokies”.

Can the pub change the payout percentage every day?

No. The payback for each machine is defined at a certain level when the EPROM is manufactured. This cannot be changed by casinos unless they order a new chip for the machine.

What is the average payout percentage on a poker machine?

In Australia/New Zealand the lowest payout percentage by law can be 87%. However, you will find that the average comes in at just over 90%. For short gameplay, it does not really make a big difference. This is how do pokies work.

Do the odds change based on how much I bet?

No. The chances of winning are always the same. They do not change if you bet one cent per spin or bet five dollars. In case of playing less than maximum lines, you will miss out on the wins on the lines you didn’t bet on.

Are there any secrets to winning?

No. There is nothing that you can do to increase your odds of winning when playing the pokies. While there are some people selling systems that are all scams and are a waste of your hard-earned money.

Is it better to play in pubs, clubs or casinos?

In general, the best bet is to play at a casino. This is because not only can you win bigger prizes but because casinos offer VIP programs where you can get additional things such as free rooms, food, etc.

This is how do pokies work. But today you can get all these benefits playing online or on your mobile device.

Where can I buy a pokie machine to play at home?

It is not legal in Australia or New Zealand to have a gaming machine without having a gaming machine license. For fun, it would be great to have your very own game but it is not an option at the moment.

See also: Ultimate Guide to Buying and Owning a Pokie Machine in New Zealand

Is there a better time of day to win?

No. Pokies do not change as per whether you play them in the morning, the afternoon, or the night. They just select five numbers every time you press spin and show you what lands on the reels.

Do the machines have hot and cold cycles?

Although at times it appears that they do, this is more of your mental game. Each spin has exactly the same chance of winning irrespective of when you press the button. There are no up or down cycles.

Why do I always seem to get just one symbol away from the big wins?

As there are lower-paying symbols on the reels and as these symbols are mostly above and below the better-paying symbols the machines are set up in such a way that this will happen occasionally.

What’s better to play, dollar machines or one-cent machines?

It depends on you and your budget. If you spend $5 then playing a dollar machine is probably not a great idea. In general, you will find that the higher denomination games have higher paybacks.

How can I find the games with the highest payout percentage?

There is no way to foretell looking at a game. You can give it a try by asking a casino or gaming room attendant but it is unlikely they will tell you. The fact is, finding the best games does not guarantee winning every time.

Why is there a $10,000 win limit in pubs?

The reason for this is to reduce the number of players who are chasing a big win. If the jackpots were $1,000,000 many more people would lose more than they can afford. It also protects gaming casinos from big losses.

How do the pub progressives work?

The system opts for a jackpot value and the first player who pushes the jackpot over this value wins the prize. This is why you will find that players betting big seem to win the jackpot most of the time.

Where can I play pokies for free?

You can play the free pokies on almost every popular online casino. The majority of the pokies reviewed here can be played free. The only exception to this is the progressive games which are real money only.

About the author

Hailing from New Zealand, Regan Schoultz is a dedicated journalist and writer with a talent for uncovering captivating stories. Her natural curiosity propels her to conduct thorough interviews and capture poignant photographs. Regan's expertise stretches across a myriad of subjects, encompassing everything from gaming and technology to politics, entertainment, and human narratives.

Regan Schoultz

Hailing from New Zealand, Regan Schoultz is a dedicated journalist and writer with a talent for uncovering captivating stories. Her natural curiosity propels her to conduct thorough interviews and capture poignant photographs. Regan's expertise stretches across a myriad of subjects, encompassing everything from gaming and technology to politics, entertainment, and human narratives.