Types of Online Slots

Online slots can be categorized into types based on how the games are played and which features are offered. On this page, we take a look at the pros and cons of the various types of online slots available so that you can make an educated decision about which games to play and where.

Traditional Slots

A traditional slot machine game is also sometimes called a “reel slots” game. These games feature 3 spinning reels and usually a single payline across the middle. In decades past, these kinds of games were powered mechanically and were commonly found in land-based casinos everywhere.

You can find these kinds of games online, although they’re not technically traditional. They’re actually just video slots which emulate the playing style of these old-fashioned slots games. These games are also sometimes called “straight slots”.

The advantage to playing this kind of game is that the odds of winning are better. Many players love the bells and whistles of the more robust video slots that are available–the ones with 5 reels and 5, 9, 20, or even 50 paylines. They’re going to play those games in spite of their lower payback percentage.

Casino managers and slot machine manufacturers compensate for the lack of features on a straight slots game by offering better odds.

Video Slots

Most players now prefer video slots, which usually feature 5 reels and multiple paylines. In fact, some video slots feature 243 different ways to win, which is either an elimination of paylines entirely or an activation of every possible payline, depending on your perspective.

These video slots usually offer you the option of betting multiple coins on multiple paylines. By doing this, the games are able to offer you small wins on almost every spin, even though a lot of those wins are less than the total amount you wagered.

For example, if you’re playing a 5 reel slots game with 20 paylines with a maximum bet of 5 pennies per spin, you’re wagering $1 per spin. If you have small wins on 3 of those 20 paylines, it’s easy to see how those wins might total less than  a dollar.

Most video slots games feature some or all of the following features:

  • Free spins
  • Bonus games
  • Scatter symbols
  • Wild symbols

Free Spins

It’s common for modern video slot machine games to offer an opportunity to trigger free spins. Sometimes the designers make these free spins even more exciting by guaranteeing that each of those free spins is a winner of some kind, but not all of them do this. But anytime you get a chance to win something without paying an additional amount to bet on it, your chances of winning improve.

Bonus Games

Other video slot machine games feature opportunities to play bonus games of some kind. The most prominent example of this is probably the ubiquitous Wheel of Fortune game. When you hit a certain criterion, you’re allowed to spin the wheel, just like you would on the show, and that adds to your winnings.

Other games offer bonus games which include a skill element. For example, some games offer what are essentially video games like you’d play on an X-Box One, only you have to trigger that game by hitting certain symbol combinations.

The most common type of bonus game is one where you choose from several options on the screen, each of which has a prize behind it. There’s no skill involved in this kind of game, but it’s fun, and there’s always a prize behind each of the options you choose from.

Scatter Symbols

A scatter symbol is a winner regardless of which payline it falls on. If you get more than one scatter symbol at a time, you can trigger bigger winnings or additional free spins. Often those additional spins feature winnings which are multiplied by an amount determined by how many of the scatter symbols you saw.

Wild Symbols

A wild symbol on a slot machine game works just like a wild card in a poker game–it “stands in” for another need symbol in order to make a winning combination. Sometimes wild symbols also act as multipliers to your win amount.

Online Progressives

Online progressive jackpots feature large prize amounts that constantly increase in size until they’re won, at which point they get reset and start growing larger again. We have an entire page about playing online progressive jackpot slots and the pros and cons of using them..


Online slots are available in a bewildering array of categories and types. Most of them are video slots, although some of them emulate traditional 3 reel (or “straight”) slots. You’ll face better odds on the straight slots, but the extra features available on 5 reel, multiple payline slots usually compensate for the difference in payback percentage.

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