Should you choose a 3-reel online slot machine or a 5-reeler?

If you're a new slots gamer, you may wonder about the machine choices. When you open the listing of available slots you’ll find hundreds – sometimes thousands – of titles including games with varying themes, betting levels and skill levels. The choices may seem overwhelming but the first choice that you’ll have to make will involve the most basic – whether you want to play a 3-reel game or a five-reel online slots machine.


There are many shapes, sizes and varieties  of slot machines. Most people are familiar with the five-reel, themed video slots which are the industry standard today. Before 5 reel slots became a casino staple, casinos featured three-reel classic reel slots.

The basic concepts behind playing slots remain the same, regardless of whether you are playing a reel machine or a video slot. There are, however, important differences between the two. Each type has something different to offer. You should be familiar with both so you’ll choose the one that meets your personal needs and gaming abilities.

It may seem that the main difference is simply the number of reels that appear on the screen during the game but when you choose the type of slot machine that you want to play, consider these points:

  • The steps needed to operate a video slots or a reel slots are essentially the same. You place your deposit, delineate the paylines that you want activated and click “spin” or pull the lever. After that, the random number generator determines if your symbols line up and, if so, how much of a payout you’ll get.

  • Reel slot machines do not offer bonus events, free rounds, wild symbols or scatter payouts. Video slots do.

  • The maximum bet for reel slots and video slots varies. The maximum number of bets is usually lower on a 3-reel machine but this is not the case with video slot machines where maximum bets can go quite high.

  • Some people believe that three-reel slots have better odds than five-reel slots. This is not really the case. The odds of winning when playing either a three-reel slots or a five-reel slots are essentially the same.

  • In both video slots and reel slots, there’s a RNG (random number generator) that determines the outcome of each spin.  The use of a RNG means that the results of each spin is completely random and independent of previous results. Anyone that tells you that the results of previous spins can help to predict a subsequent spin (the so-called “Martingale system”) is feeding you a line. It simply doesn’t matter whether the machine has paid out recently since that does not impact future spins. There is no relation between one spin and another.

About Video Slots

Slot machines have evolved considerably since their invention in the late 19th century. Today, video slots are immensely popular among people of all gaming levels. This is due to the fact that there are so many variations from which to choose. The introduction of the video slot machine, in the ‘70s,  changed the casino industry.

The five-reel video slots changed how people played slots. They paved the way for coinless video slots, slots with different types of features, themed slots and other innovations. All these elements eventually combined to made it possible to play slots online.

The video slot machine that you see in the casino today was made possible by the tinkering of Walt Fraley who, in 1975, adapted the old three-reel slot machine to the needs of the modern casino.

Once video poker became popular in the 1980s, Fraley’s video slots gained prominence.  Over the decades, technology has advanced and today there are many different variations of live and online video slot machines.

Today’s machines feature everything from hi-res videos that introduce a storyline to the slot’s theme to animated features, bonus games, interactive elements and more. These factors, among others, have helped make video slots some of the most popular games featured at both online casinos and land-based casinos worldwide.


Although video slots differ from the traditional 3-reel machines in many ways, the setup is similar: The random number generator, embedded in the machine, chooses a number combination that corresponds to certain symbol sequence. The spinning reels and payouts are based on which symbols stop on specific paylines. The five-reel machines have added graphics and dynamic elements that bring players a genuine Las Vegas casino event to their gaming screen.


You might think that, since five reels creates more combinations, a five-reel game will give you more chances of creating a winning payline.  However, in both 3-reel and 5-reel games, payouts are determined by the RNG. That means that statistically, small wins are more frequent than big wins. That doesn’t account for luck – just probabilities.

All slots machines’ promised payouts are the same, regardless of how long the gamer plays.  You may have a hot streak but the longer you play, the closer the game plays to its advertised payout percentage. 

Some casino advisors suggest that you can increase your chance of hitting the jackpot if you play max bet but not everyone has that gaming budget. Chance is left to the RNG.  What is true, is that you cannot win the max payout without putting down the max bet - so keep that in mind when placing your bet.  In general, you’ll get the best odds of hitting the max jackpot when you bet max coins.  


There are hundreds of slot machines at the casino. When you’re deciding which game to play, think about your gaming budget, your interests and your prior slots experience. Then, make your choice and get ready for a fun-filled gaming adventure.