Slot Reels

Understand what types of slot reels exist, how do they work, and what are the best types of reels you should spend your money on.

Slot reels come in all shapes and counts such as the classic mechanical wheels in a vintage slot and virtual wheels on an online casino. Some slots offer 3 wheels (three-wheeler) whilst others may reach up to 10 reels.

With your fortune resting upon the position of these reels, you are likely thinking about how these work in modern slot games and if unusual reels offer a better payout. This article takes a close look at reels on the slot to illuminate the mystery behind their function.

Slot Reels Explained

In and before the ’70s, early slot machines used mechanical wheels, which stop at certain positions to determine the prize amount according to the winning combination.

Because of the limited combinations possible with physical reels, slot providers cannot offer high returns or jackpot prizes to the players. It was also hard to create immersive slot games with such a constraining mechanism. This is why slots were mostly ignored in casinos before the ’70s while the card games had a majority of a gambling floor’s traffic.

With the introduction of RNG algorithms and microprocessors, computerized reels achieve more than a million reel combinations on the slot matrix. Software providers can add higher payout prizes as well as progressive jackpots thanks to the modern slot machine mechanism. The more the number of reels in a slot game, the more the number of paylines.

Slot Reels Explained
What Are Slot Reels

Types of Slot Reels

 You will find a rich variety of slot reels when you visit any physical or online casinos. Let us break down these reels to know more about their gameplay mechanic.

3-Reel Slots

When talking about 3-reels, players usually think about vintage slots that have the same number of mechanical reels. As the name suggests, these slots consist of only three reels. The majority of modern 3-slots tend to have one payline to mimic the simplicity of classic slots, but their use of PRNG algorithms allows the game to provide better payouts than mechanical slots.

One notable feature among highly volatile 3-reel slots with medium RTP is the inclusion of blank spaces found in the middle of each symbol within a reel. While these blank spaces have no value, they are usually included in slots with high payout potentials.

One notable example of a 3-reel slot is Double Diamond from IGT that uses a 3×1 grid with one payline. Double Diamond symbols are the highlight of these slots that act as a wild symbol and bet multiplier. Matching two symbols with one Double Diamond symbol will double the payout.  Getting two Double Diamond symbols to match any symbol with quadruple the amount. You win the highest possible payout of the game when you match three Double Diamond symbols.

5-Reel Slots

Chances are very high that the first slot you see when entering a physical casino or visiting an online gambling site is the 5-reels kind. Slots with a 5×3 reel grid are the most common reels used by a majority of software providers.

While 5-reels slot machine reels are the norm among casinos, software providers find ways to elevate the experience with their games. You have the likes of Betsoft who specializes in slots with 3D animations or video clips.

You also have 5-reel slots with interesting bonus features that lead to incredible payouts. A common feature of these slots is a free-spins mode that includes various mechanics such as bet multipliers. 5-reel slots also have interactive bonus modes

Starburst from NetEnt is a solid example of 5-reel slots with its Both Ways payline structure where you can create a match from the left to right side and right to left side of the reels. What makes this slot stand out is the Supernova Starburst Wild that occupies the entire reel it enters. You also get a free re-spin each time a Starburst Wild symbol appears.

7-Reels Slots

Slots that have 6 or 7 reels are breaking the norm with their additional reels. A good chunk of these types of reels follows the same grid structure as 5-reel slots by having 6×3 and 7×3 reel structures.

Having one or more additional reels makes these slots appealing for those looking to create the longest possible matches. Combining a 6th or 7th reel to 5-reel slot features such as wild symbol stacks or re-spins can make any slot experience an exciting one.

You can also find 6 and 7-reels that go beyond common slots by creating unique grid structures with the additional reels. You have a better possibility of having three or more of the scatter symbol appear in this game to trigger the free spins mode because of the reel structure. Also, you get a random multiplier that ranges from 10x to 50x your bet.

Zeus III is a good example of this with a 6x2x3x4x5x6x7 grid structure with 192 fixed paylines. Several features within the game take advantage of the massive reels and paylines such as stacked symbols and the Stacked Zeus Wild symbol.

10-Reel Slots

Slots with 10 reels offer an immersive experience with a massive number of paylines and winning combinations. Reading a ten-reeler’s paytable is often like reading a very long book – there is too much information! People tend to play 10-reel slots instinctively and just wait for the slot screen’s feedback on their winning.

Indeed, it is very difficult to pay attention to every symbol on a 10 by 5 slot matrix. So ten-reelers are fun but hard to strategize for.

Cascade Reels

We break free from traditional slots and enter a different world with tumbling or cascading reels in slots. Every symbol matched within the reels is removed from the board to make way for new ones to drop. Patrons often play these slots for fun just to experience the avalanche reels.  

One of the popular examples of cascade reels is Gonzo’s Quest that has 5×3 reels and 20 paylines. Every time you create a match, you earn a multiplier of x2, x3, and x5 for each consecutive match. When you trigger the Free Falls mode that gives you 20 free games, the multiplier triples to x3, x6, x9, and X15.

types of slot reels
The different types of slot reels.

Slot Reel Myths

There have been a couple of slot machine myths regarding how reels function over the years:

  1. One of the most common misconceptions is the idea of a virtual reel that spins behind the reels and determines the results. This belief comes from the thought that stopping the reels at the right time allows a player to control the results. Unfortunately, this is not how reels within slots work.
  2. Casino operators cannot control and manipulate the reels of a slot machine on a spin-by-spin basis.

Every modern slot uses a PRNG system to create the results of your spin. It is not possible to spin the reels and have the target symbols appear on the board.

Slot Reels: FAQ

We collected common questions regard reels on a slot machine as well as other mechanics. Here is some bite-sized information to help you understand the workings of physical and online slot machine reels.

Do three-reel slots win more than the others do?

Every slot, regardless of the number of their reels or paylines, offers different payout probabilities. One factor to look for is the slot’s variance, which determines how many of your spins become wins. If you want to win most of your bet, low variance slots often let you create matches with your spins.

What direction do the reels spin in slot machines?

While the reels look like it is spinning downwards, you are looking at an animation of the reels moving. Processors are working in the background to crunch the numbers and determine which symbols are going to appear on the board.

Which name is given to the blank spots on a slot machine’s reels?

In various 3-reel slots, the area where there are no symbols or the spot in-between two symbols within the reels are called “blanks”. Lining this up in a payline does not contribute to any payout.

Can players stop the reels when there are high-paying symbols on the screen?

Players cannot manually stop the reels to line up the symbols they want on the board. However, you can skip the spinning animation by clicking on the spin button to get the results immediately.

Which reels should you play?

Always use your preference when picking a slot to play with. If you are looking to increase your bankroll, go for slots with better RTP and variance rates. Otherwise, play with slots that use references from shows, movies, or music bands you are interested in.

Reels on slots create a specific slot experience such as playing with a vintage slot machine or one that plays like a match-3 puzzle game. On the other hand, common 3-reel, 5-reel, 7-reel, and 10-reel slots use interesting bonus features and themes to give players an exciting time.