Among numerous ways to choose your next favourite game, some players take the approach of sorting the slots per the number of reels. If you're one of them, then this page is made for you!
In simplest terms, slot machine reels are the vertical columns that spin whenever you play a round. These horizontal sections are where all of the symbols in online slots are found. Each time you pull the lever on a slot machine or click the spin button, these sections begin to rotate, revealing a new combination upon completing the spin.
From slot reels, to paylines and pay tables, to random number generator, we cover it all in our definitive guide to how slot machines work, so while you’re at it, give this guide a try and see if you’re familiar with slot-related terminology and the science behind slot games.
Types of Slot Reels
When we talk about slot reel types, we are actually talking about the number of reels in a game. Although it might seem that the variety of different types of slot reels is there just for aesthetics, the number of reels is, in fact, the essential factor shaping the gameplay and the whole experience of playing online slots.
Here's a selection of the most popular types of slot reels you will find online:
Classic fruit machines are probably what comes to the minds of most of us when talking about slot games. 3-reel slots represent the original "one-armed bandits" and the type you will find at any land-based casino.
Considered outdated by many, what these machines lack in the variety of symbols and combinations, they make up for higher payouts on the limited number of paylines.
As their name suggests, 5-reel slots add another two columns to the standard 3-reel slots. With a greater number of reels, the number of paylines increases, too, giving you a better chance of winning. In theory, at least.
Due to their versatility, 5-reel slots are the most common slots you can find when playing online slots, boasting sharper graphics, a greater variety of themes, more intricate soundtracks, and multiple bonus options.
We’ve barely scratched the surface here talking about 3- and 5-reel slots; however, we have compiled a thorough guide to differences between 3-reel slots vs. 5-reel slots so make sure to check it out!
7-reel slots are the result of providers experimenting with new opportunities offered by technology, but in all honesty, they didn't really bring anything new to the table. By the time these games hit the market, punters were already interested in new and innovative features rather than simply having more reels to spin.
Providers took a step further with 10-reel slots, making players feel like they are spinning two separate sets of reels, as these slots are most commonly 5-reel slots with another set of five reels attached to the side of the screen.
Each time you hit the spin button, the game will spin the first, then the second set of reels, offering you more winning potential than, say, 5-reel slots. You might be fooled thinking that with a greater number of reels comes higher variance, but in reality, this isn't the case, and most of these slots are medium volatility games.
Cascading or collapsing slots is a term used to describe a bonus feature that appears every time a winning combination lands. There are numerous variations of cascading reels, but they all have one thing in common: each time a winning combination is hit, the symbols that were part of the winning combination are replaced with new ones, letting you land a new winning combo on the same spin.
Nowadays, there are dozens of cascading slot games in virtually as many shapes and sizes, but they all originate from NetEnt's iconic 2010 release Gonzo's Quest.
Learn more about this mechanic in our guide to five most exciting cascading slots.
How to Choose the Best Slot Machine Reels for You?
Numerous factors affect your gaming experience and, in the end, your winning chances: from the variance rate to RTP rates to hit frequency. All of these factors play a role in the game's outcome, and even though they are all essential to consider, picking a slot game boils down to your preference.
Say you like a game's graphics and theme, but prefer a higher RTP, then you will most likely ditch that game as you're not happy with the returns. The same goes for any other aspect, and at the end of the day, you get to pick your priorities.
Slot Reels Technical Terms
We can't choose a slot you will make your bets on, but what we can do is point you to the crucial aspects of slot games and walk you through essential technical terms that will help you get a grasp of video slots and what you can expect from them.
Return-to-Player, or RTP, stands for a theoretical ratio of the amount a slot pays back to players over an unspecified number of spins, most commonly expressed as a percentage. Another way to look at it is how much you can expect to lose on a particular game.
For instance, a slot with an RTP of 96% will pay back €96 for every €100 that players feed into it. Although it offers some guidance as to what you can expect, you should keep in mind that RTP is calculated over thousands, even tens of thousands of spins, so even if you spin a slot a hundred times, you won't reach the stated RTP.
Ever wondered which slots reign over others when it comes to return-to-player percentage? If so, then you’ll find our blog post about the highest RTP slots helpful as it features a comprehensive list of slot games with the highest RTPs around.
Hit frequency stands for a percentage of spins that will result in some kind of a payout; in other words, the odds that a slot will pay back on any given spin. Say a game has a million outcomes and a fifth of them pay back something, then you have a game with a 20% hit frequency.
As a rule of thumb, games with higher hit frequency feature lower jackpots, but they offer more opportunities to take something home.
Variance Rate (aka Volatility)
Variance rate, also known as volatility, measures how often a slot is likely to hit a winning combo and, consequently, describes its average payout size. The slot volatility is the risk factor associated with a slot game. It shows you how often and how much you can expect to win in the short term.
To keep things in balance, providers set high volatility to games with less frequent winning combinations but more considerable prize money; likewise, slots that pay out smaller wins more often are considered low volatility games.
Find Your Favourite Online Slots
We've shown you the most common slot reel types and a little bit of science behind online slots, taking you through the essential technical terms to help you make an informed decision when choosing a slot game.
Take your time to browse through our extensive catalogue of online slots and read a review for each of them to find accurate and unbiased information about slot games. Once you have all of the information and the parameters you deem important aligned, proceed to take the game for a test ride in demo mode or jump on it for real!
While you’re at it, why not expand your knowledge about slots further by reading our guide to the best time to play slots and pick up some expert tricks in our review of popular slot machine tips and strategies.