Reels and Paylines: What are They and What to Expect

One thing all slot games have in common is reels and paylines. From the simplest one-armed bandit machine to the more complex five-reel, 243 ways to win machines, you’ll find reels and paylines on them all. Here we take a closer look at these essential features, so you can see what lies in store when you start playing online slots.


The reels run from top to bottom on the game screen. Games have at least three reels in play, although many of them have five. There are also a few examples of games with six or seven reels in play, although these are quite rare. Five-reel options tend to be the most popular, with three-reel options the second-biggest selection you are likely to find. The reels each display one or more symbols, depending on the game and how big the reels are. For example, a small game with three reels may only display one clear symbol on each reel when they come to a stop. Bigger games with five reels are likely to reveal three symbols on each reel when they stop. These are sometimes referred to as 3 x 1 reels or 5 x 3 reels, with the second figure revealing the number of symbols visible and in play on each reel at each time.


Paylines will run horizontally across the game screen in most instances, although they take up a variety of positions. Some slots will have vertical paylines as well, although this is very rare. There will usually be numbers on the sides of the screen, indicating how many paylines are in play and where they are. If you take a look at the paytable you should see a graphic showing you how many paylines are in play and where they are. They can run up and down from one side of the screen to the other. Most games will have the paylines running from left to right. This means you have to get matching symbols from the left-hand side over to the right to trigger a win.

Reels and paylines form the main body of every slot game

Whether you play a three-reel, single-payline game or a five-reel, 30-payline game – or anything else for that matter – they will all feature reels and paylines to some extent. And the more reels and paylines there are, the more potential winning chances will come your way with each spin.