Wild, Stacked? What’s the Deal with Slots Symbols?

You might be wondering why cherries, playing cards and buffalo feature so prominently in slot games. Is it purely window dressing or is there a strategy as far as the symbols go?
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If you’re new to playing slots, all the symbols can be confusing. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Every game features its own symbols and it can be tough for beginners to understand them.

The good news is you don’t have to understand symbols to play slots. Your only job is to push the button. The machine will let you know if you won or lost. However if you’re asking, “wait, is that good?” after every spin, it’s probably time to learn about slots symbols. 

What are the Different Types of Slots Symbols?

Slots symbols are the numbers, letters or pictures you see on the reels. Each symbol carries a different value and function. Winning happens when the right combination of matching symbols land in the right spots across the reels. I’ll get into how that works in a moment.

Since there are so many symbols you might come across, let’s separate them into categories. 

Standard Symbols

Standard symbols are the most common you’re likely to see. Most often, you’ll see one of three types:

  • Fruit – Cherries, lemons, oranges, etc.
  • Playing card values: 10, J, Q, K, A
  • Themed images: Other icons related to the game’s theme

Standard symbols pay the lowest of any category.

Premium Symbols

Landing combinations of premium symbols can lead to a big win. A combo of the lowest-paying premium symbols will usually pay more than the highest-paying standard symbol. Premium symbols are often images of characters, objects, or other items that relate to the theme of the game.

Scatter Symbols

Scatter symbols can add a lot of excitement to any slot. There’s no mistaking them since the word “Scatter” usually appears on them. Scatter symbols mean different things in different games. As the name suggests, these symbols can be scattered across your reels and still pay as long as the minimum number of symbols are hit.

Some slots require as few as two scatter symbols to pay. Other games require at least three or even four scatter symbols to receive a payout.

Scatters can also play like bonus symbols when the minimum number of them hits. Bonus rounds triggered by scatter symbols will often result in a special game feature or even free spins.

Bonus Round Symbols

If you want to learn all the details of bonus round symbols, we’ve got a separate guide dedicated to them. Bonus round symbols will trigger free spins or a bonus feature if you hit enough of them or they fall in the right combo. Bonus rounds can have the best potential of winning big.

Wild Symbols

Wild symbols can substitute for any premium or standard symbol. When a wild symbol falls in the right spaces near matching symbols, it will complete the winning combination. Very few games allow wilds to substitute bonus or scatter symbols, but some do.

Multiplier Symbols

Multiplier symbols that land in the right space or order can multiply the payout of a winning spin. For example, if you hit a winning spin with a 2X symbol, the game pays double what it normally would for the same combo. Most often, you’ll find multiplier symbols in bonus rounds, but they are in play on some games during regular spins.

What are Stacked Slots Symbols?

Playing a stacked symbol game is a fun way to learn about how symbols work. These games can offer matching symbols piled one on top of another. Stacked symbols are a personal favorite of mine. There’s something so satisfying about filling a screen with matching symbols. A result like that will pay out big.

Games featuring stacked symbols can improve the odds of winning combinations. That often means the game will offer lower win payouts or fewer winning spins. (If you want to learn more about this, check out our guide to volatility).

Paylines vs. Consecutive Reels – Which is Better?

Every slot will pay out based on paylines or consecutive reels. Paylines are predetermined lines that run from one side of the reels to the other. Games usually have different payline patterns and some will offer more than others,

Consecutive reel games award wins for matching symbols across three or more reels, no matter where they land. Aristocrat’s Buffalo series is a great example of this. Hitting just one Buffalo in each reel can pay really well. As you might imagine, that result is rare.

Between the two, one isn’t better than another. It comes down to your personal preference. I love playing stacked symbol games with paylines, but I get just as much fun out of consecutive reel games. It just depends on how I feel like playing that day.


As a slots beginner, keep in mind that all of us were beginners at one time. The first time I ever played, I had no clue what I was doing. That was 20 years ago and I know way more about how slots work now (although I still ask myself what I’m doing when I play, but for different reasons).

Just knowing the different types of symbols and how to categorize them is a foundation to build on. Anytime you want to know what a symbol does, check the info or help section. Every game has them and that’s where you’ll find the paytable. That’s where to find out how much each symbol is worth.

Now that you know more about symbols, get out there and test your new knowledge — but please do so responsibly. You might be amazed at how much a little understanding can enhance your playing experience.

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Author: Jay Adams
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