Slots Explained: Reels, Paylines, Wilds and Scatters 

The world of online slot games can seem labyrinthine and confusing when you first enter it – but don’t worry, these highly popular casino games are actually quite straightforward once you have some of the lingo explained. Read on to find out more about reels, paylines, wilds and scatters – what they are and what they mean.  

Reels and Paylines 

All slot games, whether you are playing on or offline, come with reels, which you need to spin in order to play. 5 is the usual number of reels in most games, but some slots will have as few as 3 and others  could have as many as 9.  

Each reel contains a certain number of symbols, which can line up to form winning combinations, known as paylines. As with reels, the number of paylines can vary quite widely depending on the particular slot you are playing. Some slots will have just 3 paylines – but then you could find yourself playing a slot that has as many as 100.  

These paylines can run in different directions across the reels; from straight across, to vertical or even in a zig-zagging formation.  

The number of paylines is crucial, as these determine the size of your winnings. In order  to play, you must choose the number of paylines you wish to use, as well as the coin size of your bet. Then it’s all down to the spin, and how many consecutive symbols appear on the paylines. The more paylines there are, the more opportunities you have to win.   

There is a great deal of variation among slot games when it comes to payouts, which are dictated by factors such as the size of your stake, and how many symbols you have managed to line up on your payline. 

Wilds and Scatters 

The symbols used in slot games have come on in leaps and bounds since the original real-life slot machines first came into use. A lot of the time, the symbols will be related to the game’s theme – so you could find cartoon characters, for example, or planets if it is a space-themed game, or Egyptian gods and scarab beetles if it is a game set in Ancient Egypt. 

Symbols come with different values, either low or high-paying – but there are two very special kinds of symbol you need to look out for.  

Wild symbols are the slot game equivalent of a joker card, and substitute for other symbols in order to bring you a winning combination. Depending on the game, they could appear on any reel or only on some, and sometimes they can serve as multipliers, or activate a bonus round or free spins. Some games have stacked wilds, which fill a whole reel, or expanding wilds, also fill the whole reel and turn other symbols into wilds. Finally, sticky wilds are wild symbols which remain in place for several spins, a boon as they often bring you winning combos.  

As for Scatter symbols, these are often sought-after by players as they can bring high payouts and frequently do not need to appear in any particular position or in any particular number. Often, when you trigger 2 or more scatters, you will unlock a slot game’s bonus rounds or free spins feature.  


So, there you have it – some of the most basic and essential components of slot games have been demystified. Now all that is left to do is find a game of your choosing and start playing, hopefully with greater confidence!

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