New slots are being released almost on a weekly basis, with new features that are getting more sophisticated and improved (as we speak!), which empowers some of you, dear iGaming enthusiasts, to spice up your gameplay.
Although slots are getting more and more advanced, they are still pretty much based on the same types of slot machine symbols which all makes things a lot easier for all newbies out there, especially when it comes to understanding slots better.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that there are various types of slot machine icons and, in this blog, we’ll chat about different types of symbols that you’re most likely to encounter. After all, we’re all interested in what happens when certain reel symbols spin in, right? Now let’s find out more!
What Is the Oldest Slot Machine Symbol?
Learning about how slot machines work would be pointless without mentioning the oldest slot machine symbols.
These very often include card symbols in 3 suits - diamonds, spades and hearts - mainly from 10-card through the Ace: ten (10), Jack (J), Queen (Q), King (K), and Ace (A). Now, apart from these high-paying card symbols, you’ll very often encounter the lucky number seven on the reels, but we’ll talk about that a bit later.
Then, there’s a traditional lucky symbol - horseshoe which appears to be one of the oldest and somewhat admired superstition icons, especially when it comes to playing online slots.
And there’s Liberty Bell, of course. If you belong to the experienced players, you’ll know that the first ever slot’s name was Liberty Bell, so that’s probably the reason why it became one of the evergreen symbols frequently appearing in slot machines.
Fruit Machine Symbols, Bar Symbol, Number 7 and Bubble Gums
Knowing that there are millions of different slots out there, what strikes us the most is that they all feature more or less the same reel symbols appearing on all of them.
For example, you'll often find fruit machine symbols such as cherries, melons, oranges, lemons and grapes appearing on 3-reel slot machines, no matter what slot title you choose to play. Some sources say the Industry Novelty Company, run by O.D Jennings, was the first one to use fruit symbols.
After a long-term ban in the early 1900s, slot machine producers came back with brand new symbols in the form of colorful fruits and bubble gums. Fun fact: During the time when slot machines were forbidden by law in the US, in order to avoid these anti-gambling restrictions, some machines paid out chewing gum as a reward.
One of the leading slot manufacturers, Bell-Fruit Gum Company, even added its logo as the symbol appearing on the reels. As it sorta looked like a bar of gum, the logo slowly became the slot machine bar symbol - the one that we’re used to seeing today, who would have believed it derived from the company's logo?
Yet another popular symbol, the lucky number 7, found its place on the reels of slot machines. It’s no wonder it became a natural fit, as the number 7 is a synonym for pleasure and prosperity, all over the world. Not to mention, it has a very special connotation when it comes to online gambling, mostly when playing online slots.
So, that’s why it’s the playing card of choice on many machines.
How Many Symbols Are on a Slot Machine Reel?
Now you must be wondering how many symbols actually exist on a slot machine reel. With classic 3-reel slot machines, it's easy - usually that’s 20 symbols per reel, which means it’s a total of 60 symbols (20x20x20), meaning that’s more than 8000 combinations to score a jackpot.
Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to modern electronic games, however. The reel composition is no longer established by your exact odds of winning. Instead, it’s all up to a complex RNG hidden deep inside every machine.
Types of Slot Symbols
We’re all aware of the fact that there’s a deep ocean of slot symbols, but there are also different types of slot symbols, with 3 essentials – standard symbols, wilds, and scatters.
It’s important to know the difference between them, because landing certain combinations of these slot symbols (when combined with standard symbols) can cause activation of many different features that will increase your payout, every time it happens.
Now, what’s typical for standard symbols is that they don’t have any special function but to pay out a certain amount of money when they appear in a row, on an active payline.
In other words, if you manage to land at least three matching symbols on an active payline, you'll hit a winning combo and receive a corresponding prize. If you’ve been wondering which “special” symbols usually appear on an online slot machine (or a land-based one), stick with us as we’re about to reveal some more details.
Ok, wild symbols are among the most important ones, as they can act as a substitute for any other symbol in a slot. Just like the Joker card does. So, once you land them on the reels, they will act as a replacement for any other symbol, with the exception of the scatter and bonus symbols, as the wild card cannot act like their substitute.
However, there are special types of wild symbols which include Expanding Wilds, Sticky Wilds, Stacked Wilds, Walking Wilds, Shifting Wilds and Transferring Wilds.
Expanding Wilds stretch across the reel and help you score more winning combinations.
You’ll easily spot Expanding Wild symbols as they are the ones that can usually occur on any reel position and, once they do, they can expand upwards and downwards and occasionally from side to side, sometimes even diagonally. What they do is help you form more winning combinations, turning any adjacent reel positioned icon next to them into the Wild one.
When Sticky Wild symbols appear, they get stuck on the reels and usually give you another spin, while Stacked Wild symbols are stacked on top of each other.
As you’ve probably noticed, none of these wild symbols are completely the same, they all however have something in common – they occur randomly, replacing regular casino symbols to help you score better results.
In addition, there are Soaring Wild symbols, Random Wild symbols or Floating Wild symbols and they will mostly be randomly attached to one (or more) reels, depending on the games’ rules. Just be sure to read the paytable and you’ll figure out how they work.
One of our favourites - scatter symbols - are very unique for their primary function is to activate Free Spins or a Bonus Game feature, every time you land the needed number of scatters on an active payline. Usually, a certain number of scatters must occur on a single spin to unlock an interactive feature.
In some slots, these features will require landing at least 3 scatters, whilst others may only require 2. Either way, they will initiate Free Spin rounds (usually between 5 and 15) which can be highly profitable for you.
Here’s an example - if you land 3 scatters simultaneously - you’ll trigger 5 Free Spins. Landing 4 of them will initiate 10 Free Spin rounds, whereas landing 5 scatters will activate 15 Free Spins. As every slot game works differently though, you’ll find all the information about scatters (and other symbols) by clicking on a paytable.
How to win at scatter slots? – Land at least three of them simultaneously to activate Free Spins bonus round.
As for another benefit of the scatter symbol – they can also offer payouts on their own. Of course, not all scatter symbol slots offer that possibility, so again do be sure to check the paytable to prevent any kind of disappointment. Sometimes scatter symbols trigger free spins that come with a multiplier, but we'll get to that in a sec.
As their name suggests, bonus symbols are applied to activate various bonus games. In a way, they are like Scatter symbols, because you often need to land at least three of them on the reels simultaneously before they trigger the bonus round. This usually means you’ll have to land them on consecutive reels and, of course, they have to occur on an active payline only.
And last, but not least on our list are multiplier symbols. Now, multipliers do exactly what their name implies - they multiply your wins. They can land on the reel in the form of special symbols (with an extra icon indicating the value of their multiplier bonus), but what they usually do is increase the size of your payouts, usually up to 6x times.
However, the more valuable multipliers can also be wild cards, or appear as part of the Free Spin feature, triggered by the scatters.
Over to You
As always, we’d love to hear your opinion on the topic, so join us at our forum and let us know what you think. And don’t forget, our database of online slot machines is at your disposal - give your favourite releases a try, check out those symbols we talked about and let us know how it went.
If you’re a beginner, playing in free mode will come in handy. As for you, experienced players, we hope you had fun reading our blog. Until next time, play wisely and responsibly, and listen to our podcast episodes on Spotify.