In this article, you will learn more about the slots symbols – classic or traditional, special symbols, wild and scatter symbols, and more. We have mostly focused on the negatives of the slot games so far and for a good reason – slots have many antagonistic attributes with very few redeemable qualities. That being said, we are still inclined to give the game the benefit of the doubt and help you (to at least some extent) even the odds if you really want to defeat the one-armed bandit.
Keep in mind that no matter what anyone tells you, the odds will never be in your favor – this is just how things are. However, we can provide our knowledge, wisdom, and assistance to level the field to at least a small degree, which is no small feat in a game that was designed to generate constant revenue for casino operators. The more you know about slots, the more likely you are to stay away from these money-grabbing machines. Still, their simplicity, fun themes, and the prospect to win big with only small bets make them extremely appealing.
If you truly want to play the game for one reason or another, the least we can do is give you a bit of information that can help you defeat this formidable opponent. There are several distinct features of slots you need to be aware of and among them are the various symbols that can appear on the reels.
As we have already mentioned, slots work with symbols. Looking at the screen and seeing a certain combination of symbols is how you understand the random number picked when you pressed the button. A favorable number will give you a combination of winning symbols. An unfavorable number will give you a combination of losing or irrelevant symbols. You do not need to know what the number is – you only need to look at the symbolic representations of that number and you can immediately deduce the outcome.
In most slot games, winning combinations are formed by 3, 4 or 5 identical symbols, which appear on an active payline. In slots with 6 reels, combinations may include 6 symbols, of course. There are also games with even ore unconventional reel structure where rather than on paylines, symbols need to land on adjacent positions, creating the so-called clusters. In these slots, winning clusters are usually formed by 9 symbols of the same kind or more.
In the past, the machines would show traditional symbols such as card faces, fruits, liberty bells, lucky 7s, and Bar symbols. Today, the development of modern video slots has allowed game creators to come up with much more interesting symbols, depending on the theme of the slot. The Chinese New Year theme would be represented by firecrackers, golden dragons, and traditional coins; Cleopatra-based machines would use Egyptian pyramids and scarabs, while jungle-themed games would have tigers, elephants, and snakes.
The variety of themes and symbols is astonishing – developers’ imagination is the only limit. But along with these themed symbols, many slots still make use of classic images such as playing cards. Usually, symbols of cards from Tens to Aces form the low-paying combinations in the game, while the themed symbols pay considerably more when they line up. In other games, this role (of the low-paying symbols) is reserved for other traditional images such as fruits – lemons, cherries, and melons, or gems, including rubies, emeralds, and diamonds.
Some slot games have special symbols characteristic to their own theme that you need to be aware of. Some casinos require the manufacturer to substitute the jackpot symbol with the icon of the said casino. This way they hope to condition people into believing that their casino is the best by creating a false association between the victory and casino’s symbol. At the end of the day, it does not really matter, though. The programming of all machines is basically the same.
There are many more interesting symbols in modern slots, however. Apart from forming winning combinations, they have different functions in the game. In order to understand slots better, players should know the basic types of special symbols, namely the wild and scatter symbols.
The so-called “wild symbols” are a really neat idea – they can increase players’winning chances, which is why they are so popular and can be found in most video slots today. Much like wild cards in card games, a wild symbol is the type of symbol that can morph itself based on what you need for a winning combination. Let us give you an example. Let’s say a “camel” is your wild symbol. Once you press the Spin button, you get a pyramid, a camel, and another pyramid on a payline. Normally, this would not be a winning combination since you do not have 3 identical symbols.
In this example, however, the camel manifests itself as a pyramid, so you win. If the other two symbols were something else, then the camel would have presented itself into that something else. Usually, wilds can substitute for all regular symbols in the game, thus helping you complete combinations more easily. Of course, this means that the wild symbol changes the odds of a traditional, no-wild game and makes it more favorable to the player.
A word of advice regarding the wild symbols, though – they may not complete winning combinations every time. In some cases, casinos limit the substituting power of the wilds so that they cannot complete jackpots or other particular winning combinations. And in almost all games, wilds cannot substitute for other special symbols. This is specific for each casino and game, so you will have to either ask the staff or look for the information on the slot itself. Still, most wild symbols form winning combinations on their own, which is an added bonus, of course.
There is another group of symbols with a really interesting function in slot games. They are known as “scatter symbols” and can usually form their own winning combinations, as well. Their most important characteristic, however, is that they pay even if they appear scattered on the screen. Unlike most symbols, the scatter does not need to fall on any specific payline – 3 or more scatter symbols would form a winning combo by appearing anywhere on the reels. Moreover, scatter wins are usually multiplied by the total bet rather than the bet per line as it is normally is with regular or wild wins.
As you can see, the description above is already enough to make scatters the most anticipated symbol in the game. But this is not all. In fact, their most exciting function is that they usually trigger the bonus feature of the slot. This could be a set of free spins or a bonus game that is played on a different game screen. In most cases, scatter symbols activate 5, 10, or more free spins and the exact number of the spins would be determined by the number of scatters that triggered the feature. For instance, if 3 scatters trigger 5 free spins, 4 scatters could activate 10 spins and 5 scatters could unlock 15 free spins.
Many video slots nowadays offer bonus games that are not played on the main set of reels. Instead, they are simple, entertaining games of varied nature that fit the theme of slots. For instance, some bonus features require players to pick several treasure chests – each chest would unveil a different coin prize or multiplier. Other bonus games include some skill element – the player may need to find 3 matching symbols out of 15 images to get a reward.
The exact gameplay of such bonus features differs significantly from one slot to the next but what they usually have in common is the way they are triggered. In most slots, this happens when 3 or more bonus symbols land on a payline – these bonus symbols rarely form winning combinations, though. Their main function is to unlock the bonus feature of the slot. In some games, players need to get 2 bonus symbols on particular reels – on reels 1 and 5, for example, rather than on a line.
Multipliers and Wild Multipliers
The other common category of special symbols in slots includes the multipliers. As their name suggests, they multiply the payout from any winning combination that has been formed. Sometimes, there are scatter multipliers that would double or triple the winnings from the round – in this case, even a single multiplier appearing on the reels could be enough to bring players larger prizes.
Most of the time, however, multipliers are wild symbols, which not only complete but also multiply a winning combination. They are mainly used in simpler slot machines, including classic, 3-reel games, and their objective is to boost the excitement from the slot. If you get more of these symbols, the multiplier increases in most cases. For example, one multiplier would double the winnings so if you get 2 multipliers, the prize is multiplied by 4. But if you get 2 triple multipliers (3x), it’s multiplied by 9.
Some casinos offer even higher payouts if you get these symbols. The problem is that large multipliers (4x, 5x, and more) are rare and even though it seems like they improve your chances, they hardly ever occur. So, often, large multipliers are used to lure in players and keep them playing than anything else. Still, should you concern yourself with playing on a machine with a multiplier, go for a double or a triple. They are more common than their higher counterparts.
Types of Wild Symbols
Wild symbols started appearing in the first slot machines a long time ago and while in the beginning they were used simply as substitutes or as wild multipliers, today, they are very different. Game developers have recognized the popularity of this symbol, introducing new and more exciting varieties of wilds. In fact, there are so many and different types of wilds in modern-day slots that they deserve some extra attention.
Of course, we should note that in some games, wilds may not appear everywhere but only on select reels. For instance, they can land only on the reels 1, 3, and 5, or on the first three or the last three reels – this would depend on the particular game and its rules. In addition, along with being wild substitutes and multipliers, these symbols can sometimes trigger bonus games. There are several types of wild symbols, however, that perform even more unusually on the reels.
Expanding wilds are really exciting symbols that appear in some slots, increasing players’ winning chances significantly. When they fall on a reel, they expand and cover all positions on this reel. They occur randomly and may sometimes expand to more than one reel at the same time. This increases the probability of forming one or more winning combinations with the help of a wild. In certain games, an expanding wild may land on all reels simultaneously, transforming all symbols on the screen into wilds for even more and bigger prizes.
This version of a wild symbol is quite commonly used by game developers, although the effect of getting stacked wilds is not as spectacular as when having expanding wilds. However, the two symbols work in a similar manner by covering more than one position when they drop. This type of wild, in particular, appears as stacks of wilds on a particular reel and may expand to cover two, three or four positions.
Expanding and stacked wilds drop randomly on the reels and remain for only one spin. Sticky wilds, on the other hand, stick to the reel when they are a part of a winning combination and remain on the screen for several spins. Of course, the rules regarding them may vary across games but in many slots, sticky wilds can be activated only in a bonus game or during a free spins feature. They work in a pretty straightforward way – once they complete a winning combo, they “stick” to their position, while the reels are spinning for the next round.
Shifting and Trailing Wilds
These wild symbols resemble the above-mentioned sticky wilds in one important aspect – they remain on the reels for more than a single spin. Shifting wilds are wilds, which usually remain for 3 or 4 spins after they help complete a winning combination. As their name suggests, however, they do not stay in place as sticky wilds do – they shift their position constantly, creating new winning opportunities with every spin.
Trailing wilds, on the other hand, also move around the screen but they usually transfer one position left, right or downwards, making a copy of themselves with each move. In other words, they leave a trail of wilds until they reach the end of the reel grid and eventually leave it.