Slot Machine Symbols: Types of Icons Explained

Some of you are casino players who have been hitting the slot machines regularly or every now and so. But have you ever wondered what the symbols appearing on slot machines mean and where they come from?

Let’s dig down into the history of slot machine symbols.

History of Slot Machine Symbols

According to our recent research on gambling in Canada, around 50% of casino lovers preferred slot machines over other casino games. These colourful devices are visually appealing and very simple to play on. If you have ever tried your luck with slots, you may have wondered what all the symbols mean.

Most of the slot symbols we know today are very different from what was used in the past. With the modernization of machines, many symbols were replaced, and new ones were added. However, the basic symbols are present to this very day.

It started in 1894 in San Francisco, when Charles Fey invented the first automatic payout machine—The Liberty Bell. It was a 3-reel spinning slot with five different symbols (card suits, the bell, and the horseshoe). Each time the bell symbols aligned, the machine automatically distributed coins to the winner. Back then, the matching symbols meant the winner received the highest payout of 50 cents. Today, we call that a jackpot and, of course, the winning price is way higher.

Before the rollout of the first slot machine ever, poker machines and wheels of fortune were already quite popular in the US. Understandably, the poker theme highly influenced the creation of the first slot machines.

After the invention of the first slot machine, it seemed as though the gaming industry in the US had a promising future. But in the 1900s, gambling of all types and forms, including a cash prize, was banned entirely.

Therefore, gambling providers had come up with the creative idea of replacing the payout with fruit candies. Each time a player would match the winning symbols, they would get dispensed a fruit-flavoured candy or bubble gum as a winning price.

That is why we still see fruit symbols on the spinning reels. Who would have thought that that’s the way they came to be?

How Many Symbols Are There on a Slot Machine

Nowadays, slot machines offer endless winning combinations, adding to the excitement when spinning the reels. A standard slot machine has three reels, while the more advanced ones have five reels.

Regardless of the type, each slot machine can have as few as ten gambling symbols in a single reel or as many as 40 per reel.

For instance, a 3-reel slot machine can display a combination of 10 symbols per reel, which translates to a total of 1,000 combinations (10x10x10).

Some 3-reel slot machines have 20 symbols in one reel, which adds up to 60 symbols. The 20x20x20 combination means that the odds of hitting the jackpot are one in 8,000.

It can presumably indicate that the chance of hitting the jackpot is somewhat fair. However, the  computerized slot machine system makes reaching that goal more challenging.

Many modern slot machines today will display 40 symbols per reel, equating to 120 symbols. The 40x40x40 formula makes jackpot winning chances to one in 64,000.

To hit the winning prize, you must be lucky enough to land all matching symbols in the winning line.


Types of Slot Machine Icons

We already covered the evolution of gambling symbols and learned that the first classic slot was a 3-reel machine. These machines have changed since and the combination of icons vary depending on the game.

The 3-reel machines will have fewer gambling symbols than a 5-reel machine. The more complex the game, the more icons there will be.

Next, we’ll discuss what you’ll typically find on a slot machine, whether you’re trying your luck at a casino or playing online.

Standard Reel Symbols

When we spoke about the invention of the first slot machine, we mentioned that it was heavily influenced by the early poker games and used card symbols. But later on, slot machines gained a new look with the fruit symbols.

Card numbers and fruit icons are being used as slot machine icons to this day. They’re the classic symbols that you see while spinning the reels. Lemons, grapes, melons, oranges, cherries, and card numbers from Tens to Aces are among the most widely used gambling symbols.

Wild Symbol

The interesting thing about this slot machine icon is that it counts as a joker. The wild symbol can replace any other symbol on the reels, increasing the chances of hitting the winning combination. Let’s say you have a cherry on the first and second reels. If you’re lucky enough to land the wild symbol on the third reel, it will complete your winning pay line.

There are, however, certain exceptions when the wild symbol can’t replace another icon. This usually goes for scatter symbols or any other bonus icons.

Multiplier Symbol

The name itself is quite explanatory. Landing a multiplier symbol multiplies your win, automatically increasing your payout. How much your payout will increase is highly dependent on the number of the multiplier. If you land a multiplier of four, it raises your winning price four times.

What makes these unique features stand out from other gambling symbols is that multipliers can also serve as wild symbols. Some multipliers have a wild icon, meaning they can stand next to any icon to help complete a winning combination and multiply the winning prize.

Scatter Symbol

Scatter symbols are among the highest-paying and serve to unlock different bonus features. The best thing about scatter symbols is that they don’t need to be aligned in the same pay line as the other slot machine icons. It’s enough to have them appear on the reels to trigger any of the bonuses.

Landing a scatter means you have extra free spins, which can be highly profitable because free rounds can come with rewards. So having bonus spins will not only increase your chances of winning a prize, but it can also multiply your payout.

Bonus Symbol

The advantage of modern slot machines is that they offer a vast selection of bonus rewards. Bonus symbols can significantly differ between various types of slot machines, but the principle generally remains the same. Having a bonus means you can collect multipliers and increase the size of your prize, get one or more free spinning rounds, or unlock other bonus features.

Bonuses are highly favoured among slot players because landing them means more chances to win. Eventually, it all boils down to luck.

Stacked Symbol

A stacked symbol is another slot machine icon that favours the player.

Stacked symbols take up larger space on the reels and increase the odds of aligning up in the winning line.

These unique gambling symbols are designed to allow the player to land several stacked symbols. You stand a good chance of winning whether you land a stacked standard symbol or wilds and multipliers.

Overall, the best advantage of these symbols is their high winning potential, and they can appear in multiple slot lines.

Sticky Symbol

Another great feature of slot machines is a sticky symbol. The sticky symbols stick together for a number of spins. They allow the player to stand a greater chance of hitting a winning combination by sticking icons that can stay together for several spins.

For instance, having sticky multipliers or wilds throughout several rounds increases the odds of aligning the winning symbols in one line and multiplying the prize. The fact that sticky symbols can potentially unlock a substantial winning potential is why they are usually placed at the end of the reels.


Finishing Thoughts

These highly popular machines provide a level of dopamine kick just enough to come back for one more try.

Slots have come a long way from the first featured symbols to today’s sophisticated icons.

With an expansive selection of symbols, players stand a higher chance of hitting the prize. But be wary of the fact that it can also put a hold on your budget.


How many symbols are on a slot machine reel?

The standard 3-reel slot machine has about 20 gambling symbols per reel which would be a total of 60 symbols. How many symbols will be on a machine depends on the type of slots.

What do slot machine symbols mean?

The standard reel symbols are the suit of cards and the fruits. Any combination that has been matched in one line means a player has won the winning prize.

Wild symbols count as a joker and scatter symbols trigger free spins and bonuses. Sticky symbols stick through a number of spins and stacked symbols double the chance of symbols aligning up in the winning line.

How do you get all three vault symbols in the slot machine?

There is no surefire way to get all three vault (or any other) symbols on the slot machine, as slots work similarly to RNG—hitting any sort of jackpot is mostly luck!

What are the best symbols in slot machines?

The best gambling symbols in a slot machine are the highest-paying which automatically brings us to the scatter symbols. However, sticky symbols also have a huge potential for high payouts.

How many symbol combinations are there on a slot machine?

The total combination of symbols highly depends on the slot type. The number of slot machine symbols can vary from 1,000 to 64,000 combinations.

What are Wild symbols in slots?

The wild symbols can substitute any other symbol needed to hit the winning combination in the line.


Toni always had an appetite for learning new things and random facts about almost everything, which is why when he got offered the job to work as a content writer he took it without hesitation. Writing daily took his love for words and research to a whole new level, and made him realize that this is a career he would love to pursue. Although he spends most of his time researching his next piece, you can also find him on the football court, in the gym, or at home with a book in his hand.

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