3 And 5 Reel Online Slots

With the ever growing number of people visiting online slots casinos, there is pressure on the casinos to keep things exciting for the players. They have to be innovative and creative to remain on the cutting edge and keep the players happy. Some players prefer simple games with a standard old school feel, and some need ever mounting excitement with a chance at a huge jackpot.

Casinos have answered this call by offering two similar, but distinct versions of online slots; 3 reels slots and 5 reels slots. So, what differences are there between these two stimulating games? As you may expect, a partial answer is right in their names, but it doesn’t end there.


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3 Reel vs. 5 Reel

In 3 reels slots there are 3 wheels of symbols and usually 1 or 3 rows of play. Most of the 3 reel games are based off of the old ‘fruit’ style games we all remember from early slot machines. The symbols are lemons, cherries, 7s, and bars.

5 reels slots are a more recent addition to casino slots and are based on 5 wheels with multiple rows of play; as few as 3 and as many as 30 in some bonus rounds. This allows for many more options in each round of betting. Not only can the player choose the amount of their bet, but they can also select how many lines of play they wish to activate. 5 reel games are usually packed with better graphic and are very often themed slots that showcase famous movies, sports teams, or pop-culture staples.

Paylines & Winning Opportunities

Paylines, or winning opportunities, are another thing that separates the two. A payline is the path that matching symbols may follow in order to be considered a win. For example, on the original 3 reel slot machines, there was one payline that ran right to left across the centre of the 3 reels. A win meant that there was a match along that line. Later, paylines were added across the top and bottom rows.

5 reel slots may have anywhere from 5 to 100 paylines zig-zagging across the field of play. The large number of possible winning combinations translates to much higher possible wins and greater swings in variance or volatility.

Low vs. High Volatility

Volatility is the frequency at which a game will pay out and can relate to the size of the payouts as well. A lower volatility machine will pay out more often, but the payouts are usually smaller. A machine with a high volatility will have much larger swings. It may not pay out anything for a while and then will suddenly pay out a huge sum on a single spin.

Graphics & Sound

This is another area in which 3 and 5 reel slots tend to differ. 3 reel slots are usually lower graphics games and will have sound files reminiscent of your first mobile phone’s ring tone. They are focused more on the straight gambling aspect and are not usually looking to wow you too much.

By contrast, 5 reel games are known for their amazing graphics and super soundtracks. It is not uncommon for 5 reel slots to contain full story lines with videos or animations to drive the story and make the game more of an entertaining experience.

Jackpots & Bonuses

5 reel slots also offer side games, bonus rounds, and internal jackpots to players. If you check the paytable of a 5 reel slots game, you will find symbols that represent free spins, bonus rounds, and special side games that can be played just for matching the symbols on active paylines. Internal jackpots are pools of money you can win in addition to per spin wins, based on multiples of your bet per spin amount, and can be hundreds of times your wager.


While there are some obvious differences between 3 reel and 5 reel slots, they are both highly entertaining and exciting games that anyone can play. They each have something to offer to the online slots enthusiast. 3 reel slots focus more on the gambling experience and are great for the player who just wants to sit down and spin the wheels for a while. Because of their lower volatility, they will pay out smaller prizes more frequently so even if you don’t come out ahead on every spin, a small bankroll will go a long way.

If you have a larger amount to play with and can stand to watch it dwindle for a while, then 5 reel slots may be better for you. While they may pay out less frequently, you can win large amounts when they do. Whichever you decide to play, you can head on over right now – there is an open machine waiting just for you!