When one looks at a slot game, they often think about watching the reels spin and high paying combinations forming on the paylines. But does anyone actually sit back and think how the reels function in slots? Granted, this topic does not receive a lot of attention when compared to others like house edge, RTP, paylines, betting strategies, etc. For this reason, we have prepared an article explaining what a reel is and how it performs its function in the world of online slot games. Additionally, you will also find a FAQ section at the bottom, detailing some often asked questions regarding the subject.
To start with the basics, a reel in slot games are the vertical positions on the grid, which are spun after placing a wager and different symbols land on them every time. All slots games come with reels, which are arguably one of its most important aspects. After all, spinning the reels is the whole point of playing this type of game. When slots made their first appearance, they had three mechanical reels that would spin after the player pulled a lever. Being mechanical, these reels had fixed symbols and actually physically spun. Typically, each had 10 symbols on each reel and with three reels, this meant that there were 10,000 possible different combinations. Over time slots became slightly more complex and interesting, but still retained the mechanical aspect and decades would pass until the technology would improve to become what we now consider standard slots.
Nowadays, slot reels are still a vital component of the slots experience, but they are much different than what they used to be. For starters, video slots have no moving parts and the whole game is rendered by microprocessors. This allows for a lot of new possibilities and exponentially increases the potential of the genre.
Watch How Slot Reels Work
The new way of doing things meant that the reels do not have any pre-assigned symbols on them as in the early days. Whereas before you could have only two of a given symbol appear on a reel, now you can have the whole reel covered with that symbol if your luck is good enough. This is done by the RNG (Random Number Generation) software implemented in modern slot games. Basically, this is programmed in the core of the given title and it determines the outcome of a spin on a random basis. This has more or less revolutionized the gambling industry and it opened to gates for software providers to develop much more interesting games.
Slots Reels Additional TipsWith physical limitations no longer being a factor, game developers could now experiment with new and exciting features which the old games did not allow for. For example, the introduction of additional reels was thought to be unrealistic with mechanical games, due to the sheer complexity and the large number of probabilities. However, this is no problem for modern processors, which can calculate probabilities and odds in a fraction of a second. As a result, we saw the number of reels increase to five and this quickly became the standard for the industry. Nowadays, 5-reel slots are typical and make up the bulk of an online casino’s gaming library.
This has had significant consequences for the typical slots experience. To begin with, increasing the number of reels also increases the number of potential outcomes for each spin by a great margin. For instance, a 5-reel slot can have 15 or 20 positions on its reels, each of which has to be taken by a symbol. If there are 12 symbols in a video slot, this means that are there 248,832 possible outcomes per line, not accounting for the odds of each symbol appearing. Moreover, when you add more reels, you can also increase the number of paylines laid out on the reels. Old-school slots with 3 reels can only have up to 8 paylines, whereas 5-reel games can easily have 40, 50, 100 or even possibly more.
Misconceptions about Online Slots Reels
With the rise of online casinos and video slots increasing in popularity, certain misconceptions have emerged and been perpetuated on the part of ignorant players who do not understand how the games work. On such is the idea of a near-miss, where the game stops the reels in a way that a symbol is just one position away from forming a winning combination. This gives players the feeling that they were only a fraction away from a large win and that if only the reel had moved for a half second longer, then that would have come to pass. A similar fallacy is observed when players have the option to stop the reels manually and the same scenario happens.
The reason this way of thinking is wrong is due to the fact that there are no actual reels spinning. What you are shown on screen is nothing more than a visualization, a computer graphic. What you see on screen is only there for the purposes of immersion and it does not actually affect your chances of winning. If you have the option of stopping the reels manually, all you are doing is stopping the animation. In fact, the outcome of the spin is determined the moment you press the ‘SPIN’ button and everything else is just a show. The RNG systems take a fraction of a moment to generate a result and since it is random, everything is based on your luck.
Frequently Asked Questions about Slots Reels
The topic of reels is not the most discussed in the online gambling industry and not a lot of players seem to show interest in it. Still, we believe that the information we provided has been useful and it gives you some form of understanding of the online slots scene. That being said, there is always the possibility that you still have questions regarding the subject. For your convenience, we have prepared a list of the most commonly asked questions about slots reels along with their respective answers.
Does the number of slots reels matter?
The number of reels is quite important to the overall experience when playing slots. When it comes to the complexity of a game, 3-reel slots are much simpler and mostly come with the base gameplay without any special features. This can be both good or bad, depending on your perspective. If you are a new player who is still trying to wrap their brain around the genre, you might consider playing this type of game. However, if you want a more complex and intricate experience, then 5-reel titles are the way to go. This type of games come with many more features and also include a wider range of themes and aesthetics.
Another factor to consider is that you can form winning combinations easier in 3-reel slots than in their 5-reel counterparts since you only need to line up 3 of the same symbol on a payline. This is somewhat subjective though and you should work out your preferences. We recommend that you try out a few different games in free play mode before you commit real funds.
Should I play games with more or fewer reels?
That is completely up to you to decide. Some players prefer the more simple gameplay of 3-reel games or wish to experience the genre as it once was. Others like to play the newer 5-reel titles since they usually come with more features and bonus rounds, as well as a larger number of paylines. Of course, in today’s market, there is something for everybody and you can easily find a game that you love. If you are not sure where to start, check out our articles where we cover different games to get a better idea of what you can play.
Can I change the number of active reels?
This is not something that is feasible, as unlike the number of active paylines, the number of reels is fixed in all situations and removing some of them would break the gameplay. There are titles where certain reels only become unlocked in specific scenarios, however, not only is this a rare feature but these games never reduce the number of reels. To put it simply, the number of reels is a constant factor and one that you cannot adjust. Therefore, pick a game that suits your needs the best.
Are there other slots outside 3- and 5-reeled ones?
While the majority of slots come with 3 or 5 reels, there is no rule as to how many reels a game should have. There are plenty of titles that go against this standard and include more reels. For example, Playtech’s Epic Ape comes with 6 reels and 4 positions on each one. On the extreme end of things, Microgaming’s Playboy Gold and NetEnt’s Archangels: Salvation both come with 6 reels, but with 10 and 12 positions on each, respectively. Basically, software providers create games that players want to play and follow the wishes of the player base. There is a good number of unorthodox slots in the online gambling industry and you can find them if you are motivated enough.