The Simplicity of Classic Slots

When slots were invented over a century ago, they started as simple machines that played on three reels with a limited number of symbols and a single win line that ran across the center. Players pulled a lever to initiate the spins, which earned the machines the nickname “one-armed bandits”, a moniker people use in reference to slots to this day.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, with slots evolving into advanced, software-driven games with multiple paylines, superb animations, and tons of cool features like bonus games, free spins, and wild substitution symbols.

Despite these improvements, classic three-reel slots have not lost their loyal following. Many casino goers still prefer them over their fancy multi-line cousins because of their simplicity and classic feel. Classic slots are a great introduction for slot rookies who want to learn the ropes of this casino game. Let’s dive deeper into the peculiarities of three-reel slots, their gameplay, odds, and features.

Themes and Symbols in Classic Slots

Classic slots play on three spinning reels and feature a limited number of paylines. Many of the oldest games award payouts on a single horizontal line that runs across the center of the screen. Others feature several horizontal and diagonal paylines. This increases the player's chances of earning payouts. When identical symbols align on a payline, the player wins the corresponding prize.


Gameplay, Bet Sizing, and Coin Denominations

Coin Denominations
Bet Sizing

Maximum Bets and Jackpots

1Maximum Bets in Classic Slots

As we explained, betting the maximum refers to betting the highest number of coins the game supports. In the context of classic slots, this is usually three coins per spin. Below is an example with the paytable of Betsoft’s Lucky 7 game. Examine it and see if you notice any tendencies.

2Example of Classic Slots Paytable

Betsoft Classic Lucky 7 Slot Paytable
Winning Combination Payouts for 1 Coin Payouts for 2 Coins Payouts for 3 Coins
7 7 7 1000 2000 5000
3 x Lucky 7s 250 500 750
3 x Cherry 150 300 450
3 x Triple Bar 100 200 300
3 x Double Bar 50 100 150
3 x Single Bar 20 40 60
Any 2 Cherries 10 20 30
Any 3 Bars 3 6 9
Any 1 Cherry 2 4 6

As you have probably noticed yourself, all winning combinations but one offer prizes that increase proportionately in equal increments with each additional coin you wager. For example, the payout for three triple bars with one coin is 100 credits while those for two and three coins are 200 and 300 credits.

The only exception is the top-paying combination of three 7s where we observe a huge discrepancy between the payouts for two-coin and three-coin bets. The difference between the top prizes for one and two coins is only 1,000 credits while that between winning two-coin and three-coin bets is 3,000 credits.

In other words, the only way for you to have a chance at snatching the fixed jackpot of 5,000 credits is by betting the maximum on each spin. If you worry about the cost, you can use a lower coin denomination. Otherwise, you miss out on the opportunity to earn extra-large payoffs. This tendency can be observed in the vast majority of classic slots, not only Lucky 7.

The Nudge and the Hold Features

As a general rule, classic slots lack special symbols and bonuses like free spins and “pick me” bonus games. However, they are not entirely devoid of interesting features. Some 3-reel games boast the so-called nudge feature which is particularly useful in near-miss situations where the matching symbols align on all positions but one.

The Nudge Feature
The Hold Feature

Figuring Out the Odds of Simple Three-Reel Slots

1The Odds of Classic Slots

Simple retro slots use the same approach as their modern cousins where odds and house edge are concerned. In other words, the odds of hitting winning combinations are not proportionate to the payouts said combinations award.

The early three-reel machines were purely mechanical and had fewer symbols per reel due to the limitations of physical space. Players could calculate the true odds of winning as long as they knew the number of symbols each reel contained.

Some of the positions on the reels are blank and lack any symbols whatsoever. The symbols and the blanks are collectively known as stops. The odds are easy to calculate when you know the number of symbols per reel.

2An Example

For example, if you have 10 symbols per reel, the number of winning combinations will be equal to 1,000 (10 x 10 x 10). Provided that the machine has a single winning combination which pays 950 to 1, the house has a clear edge (of 5%) over the players because they will win only $950 once every 1,000 spins on average.

If each symbol had the same chances of appearing as the rest and the games paid at true odds, the casino will not register any profits in the long run. To prevent this from happening, game designers “weight” the reels so that there are fewer high-paying symbols per reel than low-paying ones.

3How Operators Reduce the Odds

With randomly-generated games, certain stops like the blanks and the low-value symbols have more random numbers attached to them. This makes the appearance of high-value symbols less likely and reduces the odds of winning the flat jackpot.

Modern video slots rely on the same principles but use virtual reels on which a great number of symbols can be mapped. Thus, the player cannot determine the number of possible combinations and figure out the odds.

A Smart Approach Toward Playing Classic Slots

The results in both classic and video slots are completely random, which is to say no strategy can help you win consistently over the long haul. You will win some sessions but will ultimately end up losing in the long run because the reels are weighted in favor of the house.

Slots are meant to entertain you but you must pay a price for this entertainment. With that in mind, there are several smart things you can do to improve your playing experience, preserve your slot bankroll, and extend your gameplay.

Examine the paytable
Choose Classic Slots with Higher RTP
Play Slots With Higher Coin Denominations
Stay disciplined

Classic Online Slots That Have Stood the Test of Time

Modern video slots with sleek graphics and tons of extra features are all the rage right now, yet some players still prefer to spin the reels of the classics. Some three-reel slots have aged incredibly well, continuing to attract the action of purist spinners. We handpicked five classic slots that have truly stood the test of time. You can play them online with free demo credits or for real money.

Break da Bank
Triple Diamond
Grand Spinn Superpot
Goblin's Cave
Lucky 7