Symbols on slot machines – and why should you know them?

Slot machines are an integral part of every casino. Although the gameplay may seem simple at first glance, the reality is that playing slots can be quite complex. Various factors affect the game, one of them being the symbols that appear on the screen after each spin. Each symbol has its own meaning, which determines not only whether you land a win or some bonus function.

The evolution of symbols since the dawn of slot machines

Slot machines have been with us since the 19th century, but their appearance has changed significantly since then. Various basic symbols are used that can create winning combinations when three identical symbols line up in the right direction.

The first Liberty Bell machines featured card symbols that included hearts, spades, diamonds, and eventually bells. When a win was reeled in, the player received tokens that could be exchanged for various rewards.

In the 20th century, a big change took over - the classic card symbols were replaced by fruit. Specifically, it was an initiative of the American company Bell-Fruit Gum Company, which created gum machines of various fruit flavors, namely cherry, lemon, orange and plum. Depending on which fruit the player managed to land, he subsequently received a chewing gum of the same flavor.

Cherries, unlike other symbols, had a special meaning. The player only had to reel in one cherry symbol, and he was automatically awarded a win. The cherry symbol itself became so popular that it has remained associated with slot machines to this day. Over time, however, other special symbols began to be added, which bring extra benefits and bonuses to the game.

Modern digital versions of slot machines have symbols with different themes and meanings. Wonder what they are? We will look at all of them in detail below.

Basic symbol types

You can still find classic fruit icons in most slot machines today. Also very common is the number 7, which is generally considered a lucky number - that's why it found its way into the world of slot machines in the early stages of their development.

Instead of fruits, you can also come across symbols from card games such as hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds. A common symbol is also the BAR, which was originally the logo of the already mentioned Bell-Fruit Gum Company. Currently, BAR is associated with higher winnings, in value corresponding to the number of displayed symbols.

Special symbols in slot machines

In addition to the basic symbols, sooner or later you will also encounter special symbols. Basically, they are divided into wild and scatter symbols, which are then further divided into subtypes according to their function.

Wild symbol

The wild symbol in slots represents the same as the joker in cards. Its job is therefore to help players create winning combinations by replacing the necessary symbol - but it must not replace the scatter or bonus symbol. Its presence significantly increases your chance of winning. You can meet several species:

  • Sticky wild – the symbol stays in place during multiple spins, making it easier to achieve a winning combination;
  • Expanding wild – expands and covers the entire reel, the probability of creating a suitable combination is much higher;
  • Exploding wild – changes the surrounding symbols to wild symbols, which makes it easier to achieve the desired combination;
  • Walking wild – they move sequentially along the reels, usually from left to right. Scrolling occurs over the course of multiple spins, and once the symbol reaches the end of the reel, it is out of play.

Available wild symbols and their functions may vary from slot to slot, but in most cases, they will at least partially resemble the symbols mentioned above. In addition, the ways in which wild symbols can be obtained can also be different - some require at least one win.

Scatter symbol

In order to win, it is not important that this symbol be lined up in a row, it can appear anywhere on the board. As with other symbols, you need to land three scatter symbols. You can win money, but also free spins, which tend to be more frequent. Starting a bonus game can also be a reward.

Bonus symbols and their functions

In addition to special symbols, you will also encounter bonus symbols during the game. These can be marked with the full name "Bonus" or just "B". The number of symbols needed to get a bonus is different for each slot machine. Your reward can be money, but also a bonus game, which most often includes:

  • Free spins – they are activated automatically after obtaining a certain number of symbols. Immediately afterwards, you can start free spins, and can happen several times in a row. You can also win a re-spin, which spins the reels with some of the symbols staying put;
  • Pick and click – with this bonus game, you choose from different objects on the screen, each object reveals a hidden prize, such as cash prizes or additional free spins;
  • Wheel of fortune - works like any other wheel of fortune. Spin it to discover whether you won. The prize can again be money or free spins;
  • Cascading reels – after creating a combination, the given symbols disappear and are replaced by new symbols. So, you can easily reach another win without having to spin;
  • Expanding wilds – through the bonus game, you can land an expanding wilds, with which you can very easily create a winning combination.

Winning combinations on slot machines

To get a win on a slot machine, it is necessary to achieve a certain combination - usually to line up three of the same symbols in a row. However, if wild symbols appear on the scene, you secure a guaranteed win, even if you only have two or even one symbol. In some slot games, you can reach the jackpot with a certain number of wild symbols.

In addition, it is important to understand the difference between two important terms, paylines and win possibilities. They both indicate how you can win on the given machine.

Winning lines

Most slot machines have winning lines, also known as paylines. These are the lines passing through the reels, on which you must form a series of identical symbols to win. The number of winning lines can vary for individual machines, and players usually choose which ones to bet on. These do not have to run straight but can also zigzag or form a specific shape.

Chances of winning

More modern slots offer different winning options – also referred to as “ways” – instead of traditional lines. According to them, a winning combination can form anywhere on the reels if the symbols are placed on adjacent reels starting with the first one from the left.

This leads to hundreds of winning possibilities. Their number depends on the number of reels and set rows in the game. In general, you can come across the following slot machines:

  • 5×3 slots – offers up to 243 winning combinations;
  • 5×4 slots – offers up to 1,024 winning combinations;
  • 6×4 slots – offers up to 4,096 winning combinations.

How symbols affect RTP and volatility

The presence of special symbols can offer you several advantages, but also cause an increase in the slot’s volatility, or a decrease in the RTP. However, the difference is usually not that important.

In most cases, it is impossible to estimate exactly how many bonus symbols will appear during the game and how many of them you will use. Therefore, one only works with the average, which can vary between 90% and 95%. Considering that the minimum RTP is 75%, this is not a significant reduction to worry about.

When using wild symbols, especially expect a reduction in volatility, which will lead to a higher frequency of wins, but they will be lower. On the contrary, with scatter symbols there will usually be an increase in volatility, and thus a decrease in your chance of winning - the same applies to bonus games.

Playing slots is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. The plethora of combinations can really make one’s head spin. Now you know the basic characteristics of game symbol and what you can expect. Keep in mind that playing on slots requires practice and often a bit of luck.