Classic 3 reel slots have never been more diverse in their themes, bonus features, key stats and odds than they are now. And they keep getting more adventurous as game developers continue to build on the simplest of slots to create something new and exciting.

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3 Reel Slots: The Beginning

slots with 3 reels After the very first slot machine was built in California in 1894, the first 3-reel slot machine with automatic payouts was created just 4 years later. It is said that this is the design from which all classic fruit machines ( fruit slots ) were copied and it may just be true. With time, digital technology moved physical slots to a place online, giving all game developers the opportunity to experiment with 3 reel slots.

How does a 3 reel slot machine work? In most 3 reel slot machines, matching 2 or 3 symbols of the same kind on a payline will result in a win. Once that line goes through one symbol on each reel, your winnings are calculated; this is usually from left to right, before the next round begins. In classic slots, these symbols will be all sorts of fruits, but in contemporary versions of a classic slot , they can literally be anything.

Traditional 3 reel slots only have one payline, but more recent 3 reel slots can also have up to 10 paylines positioned horizontally, vertically or diagonally. It always helps to look up the paytable before playing to see how winnings are formed on a particular slot.

Why Players Love 3 Reel Slots

Classic 3 reel slots are great for newbies just getting used to these games as they are super simple and not packed with unnecessary bonus features. On modern slots, some features are added purely for the visual effect instead of winning.

With 3 reel slots, less is more, plus they can pay well compared to modern slots because you don't have to activate as many features. Betting on fewer paylines is also an advantage as it allows you to continue with your budget for longer. However, in many cases you have to bet the maximum to get the biggest prize of the slot machine.

Another reason seasoned players love 3 reel slots is the sentimental value many of these slots have. Indeed, some of the old slots may seem boring to the new generation of gamblers, but veterans still crave that good old physical slot feel.

Play 3 Reel Slots

You don't have to be a slots expert to play 3 reel slots, but it always helps to check the paytable before playing for real money. Knowing the stats and symbols will help you better understand what happens on the reels and where the winnings come from.

Once you've looked at the table and noted what the wilds, scatters and other symbols are, what they do and how much they pay out, you can set your bet. Depending on the slot, you can place your bet per round or per payline. For slots with more than one payline, you want to bet on all paylines – you don't want to miss out on a winning combination formed on a payline you didn't bet on.

Once you have placed all bets, all you have to do is press the spin button to start the game. On some slot machines, for a faster game, you can press the same button to stop the reels faster.

3 Reel Slots Features

Below we briefly explain what the most common features are and what they entail:

  • Wilds : Wilds are the most common features in online slots and come in many different types, shapes and designs. But whatever they look like, the main job of a wild symbol in a 3 reel slot machine is to substitute for other paying symbols to form a winning line. In most cases, wilds do not substitute for scatters, free spins or bonus symbols.
  • Scatters : A scatter symbol is the second most common bonus feature in an online slot, but it doesn't always come for 3-reel slots. When they are there, they act as special symbols and usually trigger several bonus rounds. The rest of the conditions depend on the Usually 3 or more scatters anywhere in the game can trigger a round of free spins. In some classic slots, where there are no free spins, you may only get a payout with multiple scatters. Scatters also don't have to follow paylines, so they can pay out from scattered positions.
  • Free Spins or Respins : Free spins (not to be confused with casino bonuses ) often appear in slot machines as a lucrative bonus feature that costs you nothing. For example, if you have triggered 10 free spins, you will receive 10 consecutive free spins that will not be deducted from your playing balance. The good news is, you will still be able to form winning combinations. Everything you win during the free spins round will be added to your playing balance. A respins is another extra feature that gives you a second chance to boost your bankroll. When a respin is triggered on a reel, that reel remains sticky or locked in place while the remaining reel(s) spin for potentially more winning combinations.
  • Jackpots : It is rare for classic slots to have jackpots, but the newer versions of 3 reel slots can include them. Jackpots are special prizes that can be fixed or progressive depending on the slot. Some slots may contain a mix of multiple fixed jackpots and progressive jackpots with prizes varying in size.

As we briefly mentioned, not all 3 reel slots feature scatters, free spins rounds or jackpots. These types of bonus features are more common in 5 reel slots and vary from slot to slot depending on the game developer.

The Slots That Have 3 Reels | Frequently Asked Questions

Do all 3 reel slots have a single payline?

No, modern slots often have more paylines.

Where can I play 3 reel slot machine?

You can do that in casinos from our top list.

Are 3 reel slots also available on my mobile?

Most of them are, but the old classics are sometimes not yet optimized for mobile use.

Can I get free spins?

You can, but casinos are more likely to forgive it for video slots .

Do 3 reel slots have additional features?

Not always, but when they do, they are similar to those on other slots.

Written by: Jason Vink |

Jason is an online casino expert. He obtained a BA in Communications in Brussels before starting to work at internet gambling portals in Malta (EU) in 2012. He later joined and has since started sharing his expertise with our readers. Jason is able to assess and test an online casino on many different functionalities to ensure the enjoyment and safety. If you have questions for Jason, you can always send him an email: jason [at]