Slot Terminology Guide
There are a lot of terms and vocabulary associated with playing slots at casinos or virtually. As part of our ultimate guide to slots, we have outlined some of the most popular and important slot terms for you to know and understand before choosing to play slots.
Ultimate Glossary of Slot Terms
Slots are unequivocally the most played casino game in the world — and as online slots continue to gain more popularity, now has never been a better time to learn more about this interesting game.
As part of our ultimate guide to slots, we’re going to provide a deep dive into the slot terminology and slang that you need to know if you want to succeed at playing slots.
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The three-reel (3-reel) slot is the format of the traditional slot machine, which features three spinning reels only. The 3-reel slot game is also known as a classic slot and offers the simplest gameplay of online and in-person slots. Once a 3-reel slot is activated, the three vertical reels with symbols will spin and eventually stop, revealing a set of symbols across those three reels. The symbol combination in the payline indicates whether it was a winning or losing spin.
The five-reel (5-reel) slot is a category of slot games that have five spinning reels covered with game symbols. The 5-reel slot game is more dynamic and advanced than the classic, 3-reel slot. The 5-reel slot machine is most popular online, but it is also becoming more popular in land-based casinos because of its interactive elements and advanced gameplay capabilities. Five active reels provide more potential paylines and add another element to keep players interested and betting.
The six-reel (6-reel) slot is a slot type that features six slot reels and is found predominantly online. While the 3-reel and 5-reel slots make up the majority of in-person and online slot games, slot developers are experimenting with six reels as a way to add more diversity and enhance gameplay for slot players. From a probability perspective, there are no clear advantages or disadvantages to playing a 6-reel slot machine over another slot format, but it can offer different thematic and gameplay opportunities that may be more enticing than other more standard formats.
The seven-reel (7-reel) slot is the rarest of all slot types and boasts seven spinning slot reels in its gameplay. The 7-reel slot is rare and unlikely to be found anywhere but online. The 7-reel slot is available for the slot players who are looking for different, more advanced gameplay. It’s important to remember that you stand no better or worse chances when you gamble on a 7-reel slot versus a 3-reel, 5-reel, or 6-reel slot.
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When playing slots, the term “action” refers to the accumulated bets wagered on a slot game over a specific period of time. Slot action can include a single wager on a spin or the total amount bet over many hours depending on the context.
An active payline in slots describes a specific sequence of placements on the reel window on which a player has wagered. Most slots have multiple paylines that a slot player can choose to activate or not in a given round, and if winning symbols are found in an activated payline, the slot will pay out to the player.
Full jackpot payouts may be subject to high taxes, so some jackpot winners may choose to get paid in yearly “annuity” installments. This is the opposite of an instant winner.
Automatic (Auto) Play
An option to spin the reels a certain number of times in succession automatically, without having to press a button or pull a lever every time.
The amount of money that a player has to gamble with.
The amount of money that a player wagers on a spin. You can bet just one unit or credit per spin, or you can bet as much as you want up to the bet max allowed on that slot.
The max is the largest amount of credits that a player can wager per spin. The slot machine or online slot will usually have a “bet max” (also called a “max bet”) button that you can press to easily let you bet this amount. This gives you the best odds of winning the biggest payouts, as the highest stated prize amounts are calculated for the bet max. Note that the payout chart is almost always based on this max wager amount.
On the opposite end, the “bet min” refers to the lowest amount of credits that a player can wager per spin.
Players use this slang term to refer to a big jackpot.
Also known as a bonus game, this component offers free spins, additional wilds, scatter symbols, bonus rounds, or other extras that enhance overall gameplay and give the player more opportunities to win. These features can be triggered randomly or from a specific combination of symbols on the reels.
Bonus Multiplier/Bonus Modifier
A symbol or series of symbols that multiply the payout by a particular amount. It’s common to see 2x and 3x multipliers, but slots can offer any multiplier amount (some offer 10x).
When you see a slot machine themed after a popular TV show or movie franchise, that’s a branded slot. Examples include Wheel of Fortune, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, and Baywatch slots.
The light on top of a slot machine in a physical casino. It lights up to call over an employee if the machine has a problem, and it also lights up when you hit the jackpot.
A group or bank of slot machines that are gathered together on the casino floor, usually in an oval or circular formation. Many times, different slot carousels are grouped by their denomination of betting units: One carousel may be dedicated to penny slots, and another would be for dollar spins, etc. Circus Circus in Las Vegas takes the term literally by placing their penny slots on a two-story spinning carousel with a snack bar on the top level.
When a slot machine is certified, that means it is guaranteed to have a payout between 98% and 100%. Sometimes also called “certified loose slots,” the casino will visibly advertise these on the floor so that players can easily find them.
A retro-style slot machine that’s based on the old-school 3-reel slot machine. Classic slots often feature the famous BAR, bell, fruit, and 7 symbols, which all come from the earliest slot machines. The bell comes from the first-ever slot machine, The Liberty Bell. Other early machines would dispense fruit-flavored gum as prizes, and the fruit on the reels depicted the flavor of the gum. The BAR symbol came from an early logo for the Bell-Fruit Gum Company that provided those classic prizes.
Coin In/Coin Out
“Coin in” refers to the number of credits played in a slot, and “coin out” refers to the number of credits the player has won/have been paid out.
Refers to slots that haven’t paid out in a while or generally don’t pay out very often.
This is your bankroll after you’ve inserted or deposited money into the slot. The slot will typically have a credit indicator near the bottom of the screen.
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Think of this as a “practice mode,” in which you can play an online slot for free to test it out. You can’t win any real money in this mode.
A jackpot that pays out the same fixed amount every time. This is the opposite of a Progressive Jackpot or Progressive Slot.
Fixed Value Slots
These slot machines take only one denomination of coin per bet. Players don’t choose any extra paylines, either. This type of slot offers a straightforward, simple experience.
This is the same as Demo Mode, where you can play a slot machine without wagering — or winning — any actual money.
Players can win free spins from hitting a specific combination or from a bonus feature. These give players the chance to play extra rounds for free.
A British nickname for slots. The term came from the first slot machines, which had fruit symbols on their reels.
This feature gives you the chance to double your previous winnings on a successive spin.
Games Per Hour
On average, players can get in about 500 games or spins per hour on a standard, coin-operated slot machine. This number can vary, of course, depending on the style of slot.
To “hit” is to get a winning combination on an active payline. In other words, it’s a winning spin.
The regularity with which a slot stops on a winning combination, often expressed as a percentage. If a machine has a hit frequency of 10%, then that slot will stop on a winning combination 10% of the time. The higher the hit frequency, though, the lower your potential jackpot. Slots with lower hit frequencies will have higher jackpot amounts. Slots with a low hit frequency are often called tight slots because the wins can be so far apart.
The opposite of cold slots. These slots appear to pay out at a higher than average rate. Plenty of players jump from one slot to another to try to find a hot slot.
Also known as symbols, these are the images on slot reels that create combinations across the paylines.
As opposed to an annuity winner, an instant winner gets their full jackpot payout at once.
This is the top monetary amount that a particular slot can pay out. Oftentimes, you can only hit the jackpot by making a max bet.
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The amount of money that a player is betting on each of the paylines.
Linked Progressive Slot
A slot that’s connected to a larger network of games that share a progressive jackpot.
A slot machine that has a high payout rate. These offer higher chances of winning. See Hit Frequency.
The maximum amount you can bet on a spin (see Bet Max). In order to win a progressive jackpot, you’ll often be required to make the max bet.
A slot that offers more than one payline. Each line that you bet on increases your wager and improves your chances of winning.
A bonus feature in many slots. When a multiplier is activated, your payout will get multiplied by a factor of 2x, 3x, or more.
A slot with only one payline, where players have to line up three of the same symbol to win.
Slot machines that you can play exclusively online as opposed to in a physical casino. Just like standard slots, these come programmed with random number generators to ensure fair play. Many online casinos let you play on demo mode to try out their online slots before dedicating yourself to making actual bets. To play for real money, you need to create an account with the online casino.
Payback Percentage or Payout Percentage
The average percentage that a slot will pay back the player over a period of time. Slots will often have a payback percentage of 90%-95%. Also known as the Return to Player (RTP).
The active line on the slot where the symbols have to line up in a winning combination. Most slots nowadays offer multiple paylines that go horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or other configurations. You play one credit for every payline that you activate.
The winnings from a slot, whether it’s from a single spin or the entirety of your time played on that slot. This amount is affected by the amount you’d bet, which symbols came up, and any active multipliers.
A list of the available payouts for a slot. This will list which combinations you need to hit in order to win. It should also detail any bonus features like wilds.
On these slots, players can wager as little as $0.01 per payline. These low-stakes machines are still massively popular because they offer low risk for the entertainment factor.
A grand prize that grows with each spin until someone finally wins it all. A portion of each bet is banked in order to add to this growing payout. Payouts can often reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A slot machine that has a progressive jackpot. These can be found in brick-and-mortar casinos as well as online. Multiple progressive slots are networked together so that they can all contribute to “feeding” the growing jackpot.
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Random Number Generator (RNG)
Slots need to be completely random in their results to exist as a truly luck-based form of entertainment. All slot machines now, from physical ones to online formats, use technology known as a random number generator to randomly determine the sequence of a slot’s spin. This software makes sure that the machine is fair, eliminating the chance of a casino bilking players and keeping players from determining any winning patterns.
The rotating barrels that contain the game’s symbols and, once spun, show the final combination of a spin. Reels on slot machines now are almost all digitized, with slots featuring three, four, five, or even more reels on a screen. The more reels that a slot has, the more challenging it is for a player to hit the jackpot.
Return to Player (RTP)
The percentage of money that comes back to the player while on a particular slot. These numbers are almost always less than 100% to allow the casino to make money. If a slot’s stated RTP is 95%, then that means that for every $100 you spend on average on that slot, you can expect to get back $95.
A special symbol that awards the player with a special payout or activates unique bonuses. A scatter doesn’t have to be part of a winning combination to activate.
A button that lets players choose which paylines they want to bet on for a round. The more paylines a player selects, the more likely they are to hit a winning combination.
An exclusive brand of slots designed by and for a specific casino.
Skill-Based Bonus Rounds
A bonus mini-game that often resembles a video game and uses some skill to win. These could include tasks like target shooting, blasting asteroids on your screen, or solving logic puzzles.
Also known as a player’s club. This is a VIP member program to loyal players to earn comps or other rewards from the casino. They are often tiered programs that offer additional perks as you move up the ladder. So, the more you play, the more rewards you can get.
A tournament within a casino where a group of players pay an entry fee, play for a set period of time, and vie for a specific prize at a pool of slots. These can be offline or online events.
Multiple wilds that are positioned on top of each other on only one reel.
Also called icons, these are the images on the slot machine that determine whether you win or not. They can include cherries, 7s, money bags, bells, or even images of movie or game characters based on that slot’s theme.
A slot with three reels (another name for a 3-reel slot). Players have to line up three identical symbols to win.
At live casinos, it’s very rare to see slots churn out actual coins into a bucket anymore. Instead, the machine will print out a ticket that the player can take to the cashier when they’re ready to collect their winnings.
A slot machine that pays out less frequently than a loose slot. See Hit Frequency.
Just like with pinball machines, this is an error notification alerting the staff that there’s a malfunction on a slot machine. This is also a failsafe that detects if a slot is being tampered with.
The amount of credits played on a slot for the current spin.
A slot with only two paylines. A player has to match three symbols in order to win. But if the winning combination has six symbols, the payout is doubled.
Refers to the game’s consistency and risk level. A low slot variance has smaller yet more frequent payouts, while a high slot variance means larger but less frequent wins. Also called volatility.
Slots that don’t contain mechanical reels. These are the most common slots you’ll see in live casinos because they’re easier to operate and maintain. All of the elements are shown on an electronic display, just like a video game.
Instead of a physical reel, modern video slots use a computer screen to display virtual reels. Because they’re digitally designed, virtual reels can show a lot of design creativity, like glowing or animated symbols.
The amount of risk inherent in a slot. This measures how easy or difficult it is to hit the jackpot on a particular slot. It’s basically the same as variance, wherein high volatility means less frequent payouts but bigger potential wins.
The method that a player has to use to manage their bankroll effectively. If you divide your bankroll into smaller amounts and decide how many rounds you want to commit to playing, you’ll be able to stop before you find yourself losing too much money. With a plan in place, you may even be able to cash out with a tidy profit.
These symbols can be substituted for any non-scatter or non-bonus symbol on a payline. They help you complete a winning combination more easily. Some wilds offer multiplier bonuses, so check the paytable for details.
When the reels stop and create a particular combination of symbols on an active payline. You get paid according to what’s on that slot’s paytable.
A payline that isn’t horizontal or vertical on multi-line slots. Instead, the line goes in a zig-zag formation.