Slot Reels

Slot reels form the foundation of any slot game you wish to play. Whether your interest lies in offline casinos or online on mobile devices or desktops, the experience of spinning the reels defines everything about slots. Here is a complete guide of what slot reels are and how they work!

Winning a payout on a slot will involve two basic things. The first will be to spin the slot machine reels and the second will be to land on the same-kind symbols on a pay line. The payout value will then depend on the symbols formed on the pay line. However, the first and most important step is to spin the slot machine reels. This is the foundation of any slot game and while most plaudits may go to the slot’s return to player (RTP) percentage, volatility, house edge, paylines, symbols, and everything hosted on the slot’s paytable, a little attention is given to the reels. How do they work?

Our guide seeks to explain every piece of information you need to know about the slot reels including their functionality on the slots we love and what’s more, we will dive into their invention history.

What Are the Slot Machine Reels?

Slot reels are at the heart of every slot game and as stated, they are arguably the most important elements in any slot game. They are simply the vertical grid lines that will be filled with symbols and whenever a wager is placed by a player, they will start spinning. The reels can then stop automatically on their own or can be manually stopped by pressing the stop button. If, after stopping one gets matching symbols on the reels, they will be lucky to activate a payout.

How many reels are there on the slots? During the early days, slot manufacturers provided classic slots that had 3 reels. This was the only slot one would play back then. But this would later change as time went by and in the late 90s, multi-reel slots were invented. These multi-reel slots would boast 5 reels, 7 reels, 9 reels, 10 reels, and more. The introduction of multi-reel slots meant that multiple lines were invented which signified that players would have more ways to win provided they landed on matching symbols.

How many symbols are there on a slot machine reel? On their inception, early slot machines had three reels that had fixed symbols. Whenever the lever was spun, players would have 10,000 potential winning combinations from 10 symbols that were hosted on each reel (10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000). However, innovations and technological advancements were the order of the day in the slot world as time went by. Today, although the mechanical aspect is still maintained on some of the slots, they have grown to be more complex and as it stands, the new generation of slots have no standard figure of the symbols on each slot. The number of symbols will largely depend on the slot one opts for.

Note: Every slot machine has reels backing our earlier statement that they are the most crucial elements. However, the latest developments in gambling have seen other slots launched that use different mechanisms such as cluster pays.

Brief History

While we have touched a bit of history defining the number of reels and symbol advancements over the years, it is important to understand the slot’s journey and the transition that has been there from the traditional machines to the computerized slots playable on desktops and mobile phones. The history of real money slot machines dates back to the 18th century and while some figures are associated with slots, it is Charles Fey’s slot machine invention dubbed ‘Liberty Bell’ that was famous and popular due to its simplicity in playing and automatic payouts.

For a start, the early slot machines had three reels and this was the case with Charles Fey’s product that had 3 reels and five symbols including horseshoes, hearts, spades, diamonds, and the Liberty Bell, where the name came from. The slots would operate manually by pulling a lever for the reels to start spinning. This would be the same case as the other slots that came after the Liberty Bell. Standardization would come later where the three-reel slot machines would all have ten (10) symbols on each reel and as stated earlier, these symbols presented 10,000 different potential winning combinations.

From 1996, a new era dawned and this time was the introduction of video slots that featured a second screen bonus round. A different screen would be displayed whenever a bonus round was activated.
The video slots involved more computer programming and would have a difference from the traditional slots. For starters, the slots boasted different layouts and interesting themes but the more significant aspect was the change of reels and symbols. Players would now have multi-reel slots with five (5) or more reels and the symbols were not standardized. They differed on each slot. With online casinos coming up, more and more online video slots were introduced by developers, and today, hundreds of software providers are in place.

A major highlight has been the multi-reel jackpot slots that are also available. The first online jackpot slot launched was Microgaming software’s Cash Splash that had high payouts to look forward to. Jackpot slots are preferred for their life-changing returns and although the odds of winning are low, the idea of winning payouts in million dollars is thrilling. More multi-reel jackpot slots have been hosted over the years with the popular of them all being Mega Moolah that currently hosts the largest payout.

Note: The online video slots dropped the use of levers and are now controlled by microprocessors. Random number generators (RNGs) were other introduced algorithms on the slots to ensure the randomness of every result from a spin. The use of RNG will help in determining the symbols that land on the reels and it is unsurprising that if luck finds you, the whole reel can be covered with the same symbols!