Slot Machine Symbols Explained

Slot Machines

Game icons whirling down the reels of a slot machine can be dizzying for a new casino player. There are wilds, scatters, bonus icons, progressive jackpots and more in this fast-paced game. Knowing what each symbol does and how they operate will help you hit the ground running. In this article, we explain how all the icons (standard and bonus) work and cover the various payline structures, so you know exactly what to look for when you play slots online for real money.

Slot Machine Symbols Explained

When you break it down, a slot machine revolves around its symbols. Slot machine symbols can be as simple as 9, 10, J, Q, K, A (inspired by playing cards), or as intricate as animated graphics that align with the game’s theme. The very first real money slots had the BAR symbols and fruit icons, including cherries, lemons and grapes.

Regardless of what kind of icons the game has, they’re always attached to the reels and spin from top to bottom, slowing down before coming to a complete stop at the end of the spin. The way the symbols land on the paylines dictates whether or not you win a payout. We’ll explain this further in the Understanding Paylines section below.

Standard Reel Symbols

A no-frills slot has just the standard reel symbols, with no bonus features included. These symbols complement the game’s theme and trigger standard wins when three or more matching symbols land side by side on one of the game’s paylines. For example, three lemon icons landing side by side on a payline would trigger a win on a classic slot machine.

The amount of coins paid depends on two things:

  • The type of icon
  • The number of icons

Not all icons are made equal; they range in value, which coincides with how much they pay. Looking back at our 9, 10, J, Q, K, A example, the A (Ace) would pay the most, and the 9 would pay the least. In the game Cirque du Slots, the “A” pays 3X the amount of the 9, 10 and J.

The second factor for payout size is the number of icons. There’s a bare minimum number of matches required to trigger a payout, but if you land more than the minimum, you get paid more. In the paytable, you’ll see the payouts for landing 3, 4, and 5 matches. Some games offer a payout for as little as two matches.

Scatter Symbols

A slot machine about to roll a 7

Standard symbols must land side by side on a payline in order to win, but scatters, on the other hand, can land anywhere on the reels and still trigger a payout (or bonus feature), which is why these symbols are considered a bonus. Typically, you need three or more scatters in order to benefit from them; although some games require just two.

As is the case with standard symbols, the more scatters you have, the better the reward. Some scatters trigger instant payouts, while others lead to bonus features such as free spins and mini games. Spotting a scatter on the reels is easy; they’re flashier and more animated than the standard icons.

Bonus Symbols

Bonus symbols are arguably the most enticing symbols on the reels of a slot game. These icons typically trigger an interactive bonus round that fits within the theme of the game. You could be spinning a wheel of fortune, or clicking icons to unveil their cash prizes—it all depends on the game.

Bonus rounds cost nothing to play and offer you a chance to collect a pre-determined range of coins. The further you progress in a bonus round, the more coins you collect.

Wild Symbols

In slots, a wild icon is similar to a wild card in a card game. It can transform into any other icon in order to complete a winning line, with the exception of scatters (unless stated otherwise). For example, if you landed two A’s and one wild on a payline, you’d get paid for landing three A’s. If there’s no opportunity to complete a winning line, the wild won’t transform.

While a wild is a bonus in and of itself, there are three deluxe wilds beyond the standard: the expanding, stacked and sticky wilds.

Expanding Wilds

An expanding wild has all the benefits of a standard wild, but it can also move up and down the reel it lands on. This flexibility creates more opportunities to trigger payouts than if it were limited to its landing spot. To see an expanding wild in action, try playing Golden Gorilla.

Stacked Wilds

Clusters of wilds, positioned one on top of the other, are called stacked wilds. When wilds are stacked together, there’s a higher chance of hitting multi-line wins in a single spin. For an example of stacked wilds, see Robin Hood. The wild icon becomes stacked during Free Spins Mode.

Sticky Wilds

Sticky wilds look like standard wilds at first, but once the payout is delivered, the reels are re-spun for free, while the wild sticks in place. As a result, every win is followed up with another chance to win—free of charge. Sticky wilds keep triggering re-spins over and over until you lose a round, creating an excellent opportunity to build your bankroll. It’s pretty rare to find a wild that’s both sticky and expanding, but there is one available in our Five Reel slots section in the game Star Jewels.

Man playing a slot machine

Details About Multipliers

While all payouts are multiplied by the number of coins wagered, some winnings undergo an extra boost through multiplier magic. A multiplier works by taking your payout and multiplying it by the number displayed on the screen. For example:

  • 2X multiplier doubles your payout
  • 3X multiplier triples your payout
  • 4X multiplier quadruples your payout

These payout bonuses accompany wilds and free spins; we’ll explain how they boost each feature individually.

Multiplier: Wilds

Many games attach a multiplier to wild icons, so when a wild substitutes for an icon in order to create a win, the payout is boosted by the multiplier. In the game Strike Gold, the wild comes with two multipliers: a 2X one and a 4X one.

Multiplier: Free Spins

Lots of slot games offer a multiplier for all the winnings earned in Free Spins mode, which gets triggered by scatter icons.

Understanding the Paylines

Landing matching icons on the reels isn’t always enough to trigger a payout. For most slots, the matching icons must land on a payline, starting from the left-most reel and moving to the right. The standard number of paylines are:

  • 1 or 3 for Three Reel slots
  • 9, 20, 25, 50 for Five Reel slots.

As the number of paylines included in a game increases, so does the number of ways you can win. But you’ll also incur an additional cost per round since you’re betting on every line. In order to accommodate smaller bankrolls, many games offer customizable paylines. These let you select the number of lines you want to play—something that’s not possible with fixed-line slots. To activate lines, simply use the “Select Line” button provided on the game interface.

While most slots use conventional paylines, some are designed in a way that breaks free from tradition. In our casino, you’ll find a couple slots with the following unique payline structures.


Spinning Slot Machine

Within the multi-directional umbrella, there are two-way paylines and three-way paylines. A two-way payline goes left-to-right and right-to left. This doubles the winning potential compared to a conventional one-direction payline.

The three-way payline goes left-to-right and right-to-left, and also lets you match up icons on the inner three reels, meaning the start of the matching line doesn’t need to begin with Reel No. 1 or Reel No. 5. It can go through Reel No. 2, 3, and 4.


All-Ways-Pay slots get rid of paylines altogether. In order to win a payout, you must land matching symbols anywhere on consecutive reels. Within this umbrella, there are 243-Ways-to Win slots and 720-Ways-to-Win slots. A 243-Ways-to-Win slot requires the matching icons to land anywhere on consecutive reels, going from the leftmost reel to the right, as is the case with Gridiron Glory. The 720-Ways-to-Win slots require the matching icons to land on consecutive reels, going left-to-right and right-to-left.

As is the case with any luck-based casino game, gaining an edge in slots is all about hunting down the top slots features in a game. Free spins, multipliers, bonus rounds—all these features create opportunities to win without having to risk your bankroll. Next time you’re checking out a new game, open the paytable and scan the features: they’re the gateway to big wins.

Payment Methods


Gambling should be entertaining. Remember that you always risk losing the money you bet, so do not spend more than you can afford to lose. If you think you may have a problem, click here. is operated by Harp Media B.V. registered under No. 144943 at, Chuchubiweg 17, Curaçao. Harp Media B.V. is licensed and regulated by Curaçao eGaming (Curaçao license No. 1668 JAZ issued by Curaçao eGaming).

In order to register for this website, the user is required to accept the General Terms and Conditions. In the event the General Terms and Conditions are updated, existing users may choose to discontinue using the products and services before the said update shall become effective, which is a minimum of two weeks after it has been announced.