3 Reel vs. 5 Reel Slots

With casinos offering so many new generation slot machines with multiple reels and lines, it is easy to forget that casino floors were once dominated by more simple 3 reel slots in the past. While classic 3 reel slots are still alive and well in both land based and online casinos, they have definitely given way to the more popular 5 reel games which offer more paylines, betting options and bonus features.

The question we often receive though is that should one automatically play the newer machines and forget about 3 reel slots altogether? Here we'll answer that question by examining the strengths and weaknesses of both slots variants.

3 Reel Slots


The most obvious strength when it comes to 3 reel slot machines is their simplicity. Their straight-forward design and limited betting options eliminate confusion as there is generally only one payline to monitor, so they are easy to understand, play and enjoy. For this reason they are a great starting point for beginners.

In addition to ease of play, they generally also offer a way higher win frequency than their 5 reel counterparts. The reason for this is due to the fact that the jackpot doesn't compromise as large a part of the payout percentage as it does in the 5 reel variations. The majority of 3 reelers have a mere 4000 coin jackpot up for grabs which allows for many smaller payouts across the board as you play. So if you're playing with a limited bankroll, these are definitely the machines that you want to play.


The main weakness of 3 reel slots lies in the entertainment value that they offer. Most are designed using the "classic" slot machine graphics and symbols which means that you won't find too many offering 3D graphics, animations or bonus features which are now very popular amongst players. These weaknesses are the downfall of 3 reel slots, especially amongst players who are more experienced and have larger bankrolls to play with.

5 Reel Slots


The technology used in slot machines has come a long way since the first slot was invented by Charles Fey in the late 1800's. This is especially evident in the new generation 5 reel machines that blend a life-like video game quality with casino gaming. These slots come complete with animations and bonus features that offer a "game within a game" offering players an alternative to just the spinning reels.

More modern 5 reelers are often themed on popular comic book and movie titles and even feature video clips and storylines from these. Add to this the fact that more and more people are now playing these machines, so the jackpots that you can win are even larger than ever before and the progressive versions even offer jackpots in excess of a million dollars.


The one disadvantage of these games when compared with their more classic 3 reel counterparts is that they can be expensive, especially due to the fact that players are required to play the maximum coins size and full paylines to qualify for the jackpot win. If you choose to play lesser amounts and do not meet the jackpot qualification requirements and end up winning, you will not receive the full jackpot which can be devastating.

This means that you will generally need to wager $1 or more on every spin when playing these machines, an amount that can add up quickly if you don't end up winning any significant payouts.

As you can see from the above, both 3 and 5 reel slots have their strengths and weaknesses. Deciding on which one to play will depend on the type of player you are as well as your budget. If you are someone who is all about the experience then features will probably be important to you and 5 reel machines will be the better option. If however you are playing on a limited budget then 3 reelers will be the games for you. Or you can divide and allocate your budget so that you can play both. Either way you're assured a great deal of fun and even potential rewards in the process!