Pokies haven’t been around in New Zealand as long as they have in Australia (although they are undoubtedly as popular here as they are across the Tasman), with the first land-based poker machine games being introduced into pubs and clubs in 1991. Bricks and mortar casinos got in on the act a little later when the first of five New Zealand casinos opened in 1994.

Since the first online casinos came into play, online pokies have always proved to be immensely popular with players in New Zealand and are the game most often played. The fact that you can learn how a game is played quickly and without needing to know any complicated rules or terminology helps explain their popularity, as does the fact that they can be played alone, without the need to organise a ‘school’, as with most card games.

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The great variety in game styles also draws a lot of people in, especially the younger generation who have been brought up playing computer and console games. Online pokies can now match these in terms of graphics and audio effects, as well as in the way they use elaborate themes and complex stories.

But for most players, it’s the chance of winning an enormous jackpot that’s the real attraction of online pokies. Progressive jackpots are regularly worth tens of millions of dollars, but even standalone games offer huge payouts as well.

Read our game reviews to find out more about the best New Zealand pokies, and check out our list of recommended sites below:

Our Fav Slot Games

Online casino software

Although there are a growing number of new software developers entering the online gaming market, casinos still tend to be dominated by the big three players – Microgaming, Playtech and NetEnt.

Microgaming Casinos

Established in 1994, Microgaming games are popular worldwide and its catalogue of more than 400 slot games are found in more online casinos than any other brand. Although it has popular pokies in all categories, it’s progressive jackpot games that Microgaming is best known for. The most successful of these is Mega Moolah, which continues to break records and to date has paid out more than NZD$800 million in prizemoney.

Playtech Casinos

With more than 500 games to its credit, Playtech was launched in 1999 and is regarded as an industry innovator, with its games in more than 130 online casinos worldwide. Especially popular are its slot games based on superheroes from Marvel Comics, such as X-Men, Wolverine and Iron Man, and pokies based on smash hit TV shows and movies, like Kong, Gladiator and The Sopranos.

NetEnt Casinos

For a long time, a more minor player, in recent years NetEnt’s place in the market has grown considerably. The Scandinavian developer now has more than 200 games in 100 different online casinos and is responsible for some stunning innovations in online slots technology and gameplay, notably in the way it has re-invented themed pokies with its music trilogy, Guns N’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix and Motorhead.

Categories of slots online

3 reel online pokies

3 reel pokies are based on the classic slot machines of westerns and Las Vegas, and although they’re not as popular as they once were, they still have a loyal following. With three rotating reels and either 1, 3 or 5 paylines, 3 reel pokies offer fast, straightforward gaming action with few special features or bonus rounds to distract from the gameplay, although they still provide plenty of good payout opportunities.

5 reel online pokies

The most dominant form of pokies online these days, this is also the category of game that offers the most variety in game style and themes. Games have 3 or 4 rows of symbols, and the number of paylines varies from 15 up to 100, with players choosing how many to have in play on each spin. There’s also choice when it comes to coin sizes and how many you play per line, and while some games offer traditional slot machines action, others have complex bonus rounds and special features that wouldn’t look out of place on an X-box.

243 and 1024 ways-to-win pokies

Another version of the 5 reel pokies NZ players enjoy so much are ways-to-win games. In these there are no conventional paylines, but instead three or more symbols on adjacent reels left to right in any combination count as a winning spin. There are both 3 row (243 ways-to-win) and 4 row (1024 ways) versions, with both requiring a set number of ‘lines’ (usually 30) to be in play every spin.

Video themed pokies

An ever-increasing number of slot games have adapted the characters, stories and visual imagery from other media to create themed pokies. Whether its cult video games, hit TV shows or movies, superheroes or legendary bands, think of a popular title and the odds are it will have been turned into an online poker machine game.

These games are so successful because they’re issued under licence from the creators, meaning the original soundtrack, characters, and imagery can all be incorporated into the game, and the best faithfully recreate the look and atmosphere of the original on which they’re based.

Progressive jackpot slots

Although you’ll find progressive jackpot networks in land-based casinos, these rarely come close to matching the jackpot prizes that can be won online. This is because the prize pool for which you’re playing isn’t limited to one particular game in one particular casino – instead, the same game will be networked with every other online version of the game all around the world, and as a percentage of every losing spin goes into the pool, this is why the jackpots become so huge so quickly, very often being worth tens of millions of dollars.

Most progressive jackpot pokies online will feature different levels of jackpot, each with a minimum prize value but no upper limit, and with some jackpots beginning at $1 million, it’s no surprise that they grow to such magnificent sums. All the major developers have their own jackpot networks, and you’ll find the biggest progressive jackpot games in our recommended online casinos.

Play free online pokies

If you’re new to online casinos, want to try a different game, or sample a new-release pokie, you can play most games for free at our recommended sites. When you find a game you’d like to try, if you click on it you will usually be given the option to play in demo mode or the online pokies real money version. If you opt for demo, you’ll be able to play the game in your browser in Instant Play even if you don’t have a player account at that casino, while still being able to access the game’s extras, including bonus rounds and special features (however, progressive jackpot games are an exception and generally can’t be tried for free).

There are other ways to enjoy free slots games as well. For instance, many of our sites now offer no deposit free spin welcome bonuses, where when you register for an account you get awarded a number of free spins on a particular game without the need to add any funds. You might also get free spins as an added extra to a Welcome Bonus, along with deposit matches, when you set up a new real money account.

How to play pokies online

While pokies are a game of chance, and there are no strategies that you can implement that will influence the outcome of any given spin, there are nevertheless approaches you can take to wagering and bankroll management to maximise your enjoyment of the game.

The first rule of playing online slots should always be to select a coin size that lets you bet the maximum number of coins on the maximum number of paylines on every spin. This is because this usually gives you greater access to the bonus features and biggest prizes, especially important in progressive jackpot games.

To work out the coin size you should be playing, decide first how much you want to wager on each spin. For example, if you want to wager $2 a spin on a 20 payline slot where you can play between 1-10 coins per line, then you should choose a coin size of 1 cent: 10 coins per line x 0.01 = 0.10; 20 paylines x 0.10 = $2.00.

If you’re in the situation where you have to choose between reducing the number of coins and paylines you play, or reducing your coin size, always choose the latter.

Odds in pokies

If you’ve ever played pokies in a traditional pub, club or casino, you’ll know that the RTP (return to player percentage) in online games is far higher. At a land-based venue, it’s not uncommon for the RTP to be as low as 70%; however, online it is almost always well in excess of 90%, with some games as high as 98%, which represents a significantly reduced House Edge.

Bottom line

Players in New Zealand love playing pokies online, which is why they continue to be the dominant game at all of our recommended casinos. The range and variety of games, the use of popular themes and the ease with which the game can be played all contribute to their popularity, as does the possibility of being able to win a potentially life-changing jackpot.

To find the best online pokies real money sites in New Zealand, visit our recommended casinos to try their games for yourself.