Ultimate Slot Machine Guide: A closer look inside slots reels and paylines.
Most of the slots tutorials you find today are centered around strategies, features and other in-game mechanics. Today, we’ll be getting back to basics. Before you understand the more intricate workings of a slot machine, it’s important to know what reels and paylines are, and how they work for (or against) you.
Slot Machine Guide: What are Reels?
Reels, reels, reels – everyone is talking about reels. This 5-reel machine has free spin multipliers. This 3-reel classic offers a ten-grand jackpot. What are these mysterious reels of which they speak?
The reels are the foundation of any slot machine. They are the column-like segments on which all game symbols are displayed, spinning from top to bottom with each play. They are called “reels” for the same reason we call a fishing reel a reel. The are circular, and they spin to perform a function.
Thus a 3-reel machine will have three reels full of symbols, and a 5-reel machine 5 reels of symbols.
These slots reels depict the symbols that all players hope will align in a beautiful cacophony of alike imagery, triggering a win from the machine. They work by spinning round and round, then coming to a random stop.
Being graphically designed on video screens these days, they aren’t actually round anymore, and are powered by a random number generator (RNG), which ensures that each reel will stop in an entirely random, unpredictable position. For this reason, it really is true that casinos cannot predict when a jackpot will pay out, or have any effect on the size or timing of wins.
How do Paylines Tie In?
The symbols on the reels don’t always have to appear in a straight line, left to right, to incur a win. In the earliest machines built over a century ago, perhaps, but not today. Now we have paylines running in multifarious angles to help create winning combinations all over the screen.
Paylines come in a wide range of numbers these days. A classic 3 reel machine will generally have 1, 3, or 5 paylines, as depicted in the image to your right. A 5-reel game, however, can have many, often boasting 9, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, even 100 paylines. The image below shows the common array of paylines in a 30-line game.
To win, the goal is to line up similar symbols – with or without wilds – along any active payline. Thus those zig-zagging positions can be just as lucrative as a straight line across. The more lines there are, the more likely a game is to strike a multitude of winning combinations on a single spin, derived from just a few alike symbols.
Some slot manufacturers took the concept even further, creating what they call ‘Ways to Win‘ slot machines. On a 5×3 reel grid, they create 248 ways to win, covering all possible payline combinations from the leftmost reel.
Next came ‘All Ways‘ slots. In these versions, the reels can develop a winning combination in every possible direction. It could line up from left to right or right to left – sometimes even top to bottom and vice verse.
You can learn more about those games in our previous slot machine guide on All Ways Slots Pays.