Slot Reels Explained in Detail

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  • Written by Anette
  • Posted on August 25, 2023
Home News & Articles Slot Reels Explained in Detail

Slot reels are inherent and obligatory parts of every slot game, so we often take them for granted. However, your fortune rests upon their position, and it is fair to know more about how they function. They come in all counts and shapes, with modern slots counting 3 – 10 reels. You need a lot of information to understand the concept of reels and how they work.

Reels are one of the most important mechanical aspects of online slots. After all, spinning the reels is the point of playing such games. In previous decades, mechanical wheels have been used, stopping at certain positions to define the prize amount. However, physical reels created a limited number of combinations, preventing providers from offering high prizes.

Such a constraining mechanism could not create immersive experiences, so players largely ignored slots before the 1970s. The card games held most of the gambling traffic, while the rest of the games took only a particle. However, technology was about to alter, bringing groundbreaking changes.

Once microprocessors and RNG algorithms entered the scene, over a million potential reel combinations were possible. The modern slot machine mechanisms enabled providers to offer higher prizes and progressive jackpots. Read the article to find out numerous vital details about slot reels.

Types of Reels

You will find many reel types when you visit a physical or an online casino. The following sections will break them down and tell you more about their gameplay mechanism.

3-Reel Slots

If you talk about three-reel slots, players mostly think about vintage slots from a more carefree period. Most three-reel slots contain only a single payline to mimic the simple machines of yesteryear. Still, the use of PRNG algorithms allows them to offer significantly better payouts.

Moreover, highly volatile three-reel slots with medium RTP include blank spaces in the middle of a symbol. They have no value but are usually included when a slot has higher potential. Some providers find a way to deliver hefty wins despite their simplicity, like IGT’s Double Diamond.

The slot uses three reels and a single payline, with a Double Diamond symbol as a Multiplier and a Wild. Matching two symbols with a Double Diamond will double the win while matching two such icons with any symbol quadruples the win. Finally, the biggest payout enters the fray when you match three Double Diamond icons.

5-Reel Slots

Most providers use 5×3 slots, and 5-reel games are the most commonly used in the industry. They are the norm everybody uses, but many developers try to elevate the experience. Studios like Betsoft use video clips or 3D animations to create more immersive games and draw players in from frame one.

Still, the most appealing elements of modern five-reel slots are bonus features that provide many thrilling sessions. The Free Spins round is a universally beloved feature that can include various perks to improve the game. Multipliers and Wild symbols are among them, enhancing the gameplay. Interactive bonus models are also available.

Starburst, made by NetEnt, is an immensely popular 5-reel slot with a Both Ways payline structure. The essential element of this slot is a Supernova Starburst Wild that occupies the entire reel, while each appearance of a Starburst Wild triggers a respin. So many years after the initial release, Starburst still attracts new fans.

Starburst by NetEnt
NetEnt’s famous Staburst consists of five reels

6, 7 and 10-Reel Slots

Games with 6 or 7 reels break the convention with the number, which can influence grid structure. Many of them follow the usual pattern with 6×3 or 7×3 playing areas, but a good chunk chooses something different. You can have two additional reels with 5-reel features, including Stacked Wild Symbols or respins.

Creating unique grid structures gives you better chances of landing 3 Scatters to trigger free spins. Multipliers are also more likely to land with unusual playing area shapes. The more paylines or ways to win, the more lucrative games can be. Conventional Megaways slots usually have 6 reels, and Cluster Pays games tend to have 6 or 7, bringing hefty wins.

Slots with 10 reels are a rarity, but they offer a large number of winning combos and paylines. Due to too much information, people who only want to relax play 10-reelers instinctively, waiting for the machine’s feedback. The games are fun, but it is hard to create a strategy for them and remember every symbol.

Cascading Reels

Cascading or Tumbling Reels include a mechanism that makes winning symbols disappear and make way for a new batch. The process continues as long as winning combos exist on the grid. They speed things up, creating a thrilling atmosphere, which usually suits more volatile titles.

A famous example is Gonzo’s Quest, which uses a 5×3 grid and 20 fixed paylines. Each win brings a multiplier of 2x, 3x and 5x for every consecutive payout. When you activate the Free Falls round, you receive 20 free spins with tripled multipliers of 3x, 6x, 9x and 15x. Cascading reels promise numerous exciting sessions.


Reels are an essential part of every slot, yet their number has no influence on payouts. Operators cannot manipulate and control the reels on an individual spin basis, for every machine uses a PRNG system. The slot’s RTP and variance can influence the number of winning spins.

The number of reels is up to you to decide and should be based on your preferences. If you like simplicity or want to experience slots as they used to be, go for 3-reel slots. Conversely, if you are into more modern slots with bonus rounds and features, check out 5-reel machines. Everybody can find something to love in today’s market. Stay with OnlineGambling24 to read more about everything various slots can offer.

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