The Fundamentals Of Slot Games


  1. Understanding Slot Reels
  2. Classic Slot Symbols Explained
  3. The Role Of Scatters In Slot Games
  4. The Role Of Wilds In Slot Games
  5. How Do Win Multipliers Work?
  6. All You Need To Know About Paylines

Although every online slot game is designed to look and play differently, the fundamentals behind each slot title are the same. Every slot comprises of several reels, paylines and symbols. The symbols are typically inspired by the theme of the slot, while the number of reels and paylines is often determined by the slot’s volatility, as set by the game’s developers.

If the concept of reels, paylines, multipliers and the like is new to you, read on as we demystify the main functions of online slot games that are needed to trigger bonus features and jackpots alike.

How Do Slots Work Infographic

Understanding Slot Reels

In layman’s terms, the reels of an online slot are the columns of a slot that spin. All slots incorporate spinning reels with each reel generating a randomised outcome of symbols on each column, determined by the slot’s random number generator (RNG).

On average, most online slot reels are built to contain ten base game and bonus symbols on each reel. A three-reel slot can generate up to 10,000 different symbol combinations. Through the years, as slots online have continued to grow in popularity, the number of reels has risen to the point that five reels is now the norm.

Three Common Reel Modifiers

Within many of the latest online slots available at LiveRoulette, you will discover one of the following three-reel modifiers that could occur at the end of any spin:

  • Cascading Reels
    Also described as “avalanche reels” by some slot creators, cascading reels give you a chance to land multiple winning paylines from a single spin. The symbols fall onto the reels from the top of the screen. Any symbols involved in a winning combination immediately disappear, leaving gaps to be filled by new symbols from above. It’s possible to land further winning combinations if the gaps are filled by more of the same symbols. The popular Rainbow Riches slot and Gonzo’s Quest slots are some of the most familiar examples of the cascading reels feature.
  • Colossal Reels
    The colossal reels feature originally caught on eye in land-based casinos but more recently it has been included in online slots too. Instead of one set of reels, a colossal reels slot will give you two sets to play with. The theory behind it is to give you more chances to win, with more active paylines capable of locking in winning symbol combinations – there’ll be more on paylines shortly.
  • Shifting Reels
    With slots that incorporate the shifting reels feature, whenever you land a winning combination, the shifting reels are activated. During this feature, either the first or last reel on-screen will disappear, while the rest will shuffle around on-screen. If the reels create more winning combinations in their new reel formation, the feature continues until no new winning paylines are formed.

Classic Slot Symbols Explained

Most online slots will have a paytable with all symbols to look out for on their reels. It will display the size of the payouts when you land these symbols in combinations of three or more on a payline.

Symbols have been present on slot machines since the very first was invented by Charles Fey in the late 19th century. Since then, slot symbols have evolved in their aesthetics, with most slots tending to have some symbols unique to their theme.

First and foremost, each slot has low-value symbols that pay out the smallest wins when they are involved along a winning payline. These are typically playing card-style symbols, which are often face cards (Jack, Queen, King and Ace) as well as nines and tens. Some slot games will also use playing card suits as their low-value slot symbols instead (clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds).

Other symbols found on the reels tend to be influenced by the general theme of your chosen slot. For instance, players of Cleopatra slots will discover ancient Egyptian-themed paraphernalia on the reels, including the scarab beetle and the Eye of Horus symbol, which is emblematic of regal power from the era.      

If you’re a fan of the classic fruit machine-style games, you’ll quickly discover that most of these old-school slot titles have the similar symbols on the reels. These pay homage to the original mechanical slot machines found in land-based casinos, with fruit symbols like cherries, lemons, oranges and watermelons adorning the reels, as well as lucky sevens, bells and BAR symbols.

The Role Of Scatters In Slot Games

Apart from the conventional slot symbols, most slot games with bonus features will have at least one scatter symbol. Scatters are one of the most prized symbols for slot players to look out for. Unlike the standard slot symbols, scatters operate differently.

Although it’s important to keep in mind that you obviously have a chance to win an impressive payout when symbols line up on a payline, there is also a lucrative selection of bonus features that scatter symbols are capable of activating. In some cases, slot developers will set it so that scatters can only appear on certain reels. When they do rear their head, they can then transport you to bonus screens for pick-me style features or free spins – the catch usually being that you need around three or more scatters to trigger these features.

When it comes to free spins, the number of scatters you land during the same spin can often determine the number of free spins you get. For example, you may be granted 10 free spins for landing three scatters, 20 free spins for landing four scatters and 50 free spins for landing five or more scatters anywhere on the reels.

It’s easy to determine whether your chosen slots utilise scatter symbols just by looking at the paytable. It will always display any available scatters, as well as wilds which are another fundamental component in slot gameplay.

The Role Of Wilds In Slot Games

Wild symbols are often the most valuable symbols. Wilds have existed since the original slot machines known as “one-armed bandits” that required a lever to operate. Think of a wild symbol like the joker in a deck of cards – it can substitute for any other symbol. 

Whenever wilds appear, they will replace any other standard slot symbol to hopefully create winning combinations. For instance, if you get two matching standard symbols on the same payline alongside a wild, it acts as a third matching symbol, resulting in a win. Wild symbols can typically only replace standard slot symbols and cannot substitute any scatter symbols that appear on the reels.

It isn’t possible to control how symbols appear on the reels, wild symbols included. Some slot games will only feature wilds on certain reels, such as the middle three reels on a five-reel slot. It’s worth checking out the paytable of your chosen slot before you start spinning to find out where the wilds can appear and their value.

Common Wild Features You Could Encounter

Within many of the slots available at LiveRoulette, you’ll often find one or more of the following wilds:

  • Sticky Wilds
    This feature sees wilds stuck or locked in place, triggering a re-spin of the reels. If more wilds appear during the re-spin, they too will be locked in place, triggering another successive re-spin or a winning combination. This feature continues until no new wilds appear and is designed to build high payout potential.
  • Expanding Wilds
    Some slot games include expanding wilds rather than wilds that appear individually on the reels. These wilds can expand up to two spaces on the same reel – and even have the potential to copy the symbol on the adjacent reel, creating Colossal Wilds.
  • Stacked Wilds
    The Stacked Wilds feature sees wilds land across multiple symbols on the reels, creating the potential for large instant wins.

How Do Win Multipliers Work?

As the name suggests, win multipliers can magnify winnings in many online slots. The most common multiplier you’ll find on the reels at LiveRoulette is a base game multiplier. These multipliers are displayed on the paytable of your chosen slot. The multiplier will grow the more matching base game symbols you land on the same payline.

There are also multipliers to be found in free spins rounds. Some slot games will give you the flexibility to choose how many free games you want, with varying sizes of multipliers attached to any wins generated during these spins. Typically, the fewer free spins you choose, the higher the multiplier.

It’s not uncommon for some wild symbols to have a dual purpose as a multiplier too. In this case, whenever a wild helps to form a winning payline it will also multiply the subsequent payout by a specific amount.

All You Need To Know About Paylines

When we say that you must land multiple matching symbols on the same payline, these lines are invisible winning lines that are only shown in the paytable section and not on screen during the game. Modern day online slots don’t just contain horizontal paylines either. Some will have trapezium-shaped paylines and some will be in a zig-zag formation.
The more active paylines you can play with per spin, the better the chance you have of landing a winning combination of slot symbols. A typical five-reel slot will have between 25 and 50 fixed paylines up for grabs. However, the addition of game engines like MegawaysTM has transformed the way that paylines activate on the reels.

How Do Slot Paylines Work Infographic

The MegawaysTM engine has enabled slot developers to get more creative with their gameplay. During random base game spins, it’s possible to trigger an expansion of active paylines as the number of symbol spaces changes/

It’s also worth noting that while most online slots award winnings on paylines from left to right, a growing number of slot titles are starting to award payouts on right to left symbol combinations too. These particular slot games are known as having ‘win both ways’, giving you two bites at the cherry during a spin.

Hopefully, this overview of the fundamentals of online slot gameplay has proved valuable, giving you an insight into the most common features you can find in slot titles within our portfolio of games.

If you feel more confident about the mechanics of video slots and are ready to play, you can create your very own LiveRoulette account today and become part of our growing community of slot players across the world.

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