Guide to Understanding Different Slot Machine Types

Online slots are a crucial part to any online casino's game library. Many online casinos boast about their large selection of slots, some as high as 500. Each one of these slots are unique, offering players immersive themes, beautifully designed graphics, bonus features and smooth gameplay. But not every slot is made the same nor do they offer a player the same in terms of gameplay. Today, we're going to take an in-depth look at the different slot machine types so that players have a better understanding of what they're playing - and potential payouts - the next time they sit down for a session. So what are we waiting for, let's dive right in!

3-reel slots

Also referred to as 'classic slots', 3-reel slots are designed to resemble the classic 'one armed bandits' that first made slot machines popular. They most often feature symbols such as cherries, lemons, oranges, bars, lucky sevens, bells and sometimes wilds.

Where the difference from the 3-reel slots of the past and the 3-reel slots of online casinos are is in the number of paylines they offer. In the past, 3-reel slots only offered one payline - a horizontal line that right through the middle of each reel.

But the beauty of online gambling is that it gave a facelift to these slots by adding more paylines. Now, players can play a classic 3-reel slot with 3, 5, 9 or even up to 20 paylines. This gives players more chances at winning and has given a boost in popularity to classic slots.

If you're a new gambler then these 3-reel slots are perfect for you. They offer a limited number of betting options and the gameplay is pretty straightforward. So if you're looking to start your online slot journey, a good place to do that would be on some classic 3-reel slots.

5-reel slots

The most popular and widely played slot type on online casinos is the 5-reel slot. These slots offer players greater odds at winning because they use multiple paylines. We're talking anywhere from as low as 9 and as high as the hundreds! And unlike the classic slots, paylines for 5-reel slots run horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zigzag and in a V shape. These means that players can hit more than one winning combination on any one spin - which means bigger payouts.

What really makes 5-reel slots stand out is their design. This is where game developers really shine, giving players the opportunity to play slots with a wide variety of themes. Adventure, Holiday, Horror, Crime, Pop Culture, Animal… the list goes on and on. Each slot has a collection of symbols that fits into its theme, giving players a fun and exciting gaming experience.

5-reel slots also introduced the free spin or bonus feature to players. This is usually triggered by hitting 3 or more SCATTER symbols or BONUS symbols - each 5-reel slot will have its own version of these. If a player spins into one of these, they'll be awarded a number of free spins or able to play a special bonus game. This is just another reason why 5-reel slots are the most popular slots being played today.

Progressive slots

Progressive slots are a bit of a hot button issue amongst gamblers. Some players love playing them while others say they aren't worth the time and money. So what are progressive slots? Well, typically they're 5-reel slots that offer everything the standard 5-reel slot does. What makes progressive slots different is that they offer jackpots that grow incrementally. A small portion of a player's bet goes towards the overall pot - which is how they get so high. They'll trigger randomly for one player and when they do, they offer life changing money.

In addition to these grand jackpots, progressive slots also offer smaller ones - usually named mini, minor and major. They trigger more frequently than the grand jackpot, but come in smaller amounts.

Players should realize that the odds of hitting these jackpots is extremely low. But because that option is always there, progressive slots typically don't payout wins as frequently in the base game as non-progressive slots do. This is so they can balance out the potential of someone hitting the jackpot.

So you can see why some players stay away from progressive slots. Yes, there is a massive jackpot there that will trigger randomly, but the odds of hitting it are very slim. Because of that, players could easily run through their balance spinning and waiting for it to hit.

Megaways slots

Megaways are another hugely popular slot type - and a favorite of this author. They offer a far greater number of ways to win than their counterparts do - we're talking into the thousands!

They'll usually have 6-reels but there are some 7-reel megaways slots out there. Winning on a megaways slot is different because players don't need to hit the same symbol on a payline like in other slots. In megaways slots, wins are awarded when the same symbol appears ANYWHERE along consecutive reels - usually the first three reels but some megaways pay out on ANY three consecutive reels.

The number of winning ways will also change on each spin - sometimes being higher and sometimes being lower - so players will always have the chance to win huge.

Cascading slots

Cascading slots are another slot unique to the online casino world. They're usually 5 to 7 reels - sometimes higher but not often. Wins happen when players land a collection of the same symbols - usually 5 - in a cluster or over each reel. Those symbols will then disappear and new symbols will drop down. That will continue to happen until no more symbols match. So, one spin could go on for numerous spins if a player continues to cascade into clusters of symbols - so you can see the potential for some big wins!


Online casinos offer players a plethora of slots to choose from. No matter if you prefer a classic game or the chance to hit a progressive jackpot, players won't have any trouble finding the type of slot for them!