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5-Reel Slots

Let's be frank: 5-reel slots are the most popular types of slots around in 2015.

From big branded titles to world-record progressive jackpots; if a new game is released at a leading casino from a leading developer, chances are it will be played over 5 reels.

It's no surprise: 5-reel slots offer the chance to play more paylines and usually come packed with multiple bonus features. With the additional reels compared to classic 3-reelers, developers have more scope to tinker and try out new features. While three reels is a little limited for today's action junkies, five reels is the perfect balance.

Whether you're playing in a land-based casino or online, 5-reel slots provide the best all-round way of enjoying games today.

Brief History of 5-Reel Slots

While traditionally slot machines came with three mechanical reels - a trend which still continues today with classic 'AWP'-style slots at casinos - 5-reel slots are nothing new.

In fact, the predecessor of slot machines - 1891's poker machine developed by Sittman and Pott - featured five mechanical drums with 50 playing cards displayed on them. Wins were made by lining up combinations of hands.

Barney's Casino in Nevada has for decades boasted the mechanical behemoth that is 'Big Irish Luck', a gigantic 5-reel slot crammed with bells, oranges and four-leaf clovers.

Although the first video slots that emerged in the 1970s were 3-reel games - like IGT's Fortune Coin and later Megabucks, it was the evolution of the microchip that allowed designers to include more and more symbols - and therefore winning and losing combos - on the reels. Video slots didn't have rely on mechanical reels, making it much easier to handle five reels at once.

With the advent of the first Internet slots that appeared in the mid-90s, 5-reel games were propelled into the mainstream. In both UK land-based casinos and popular online sites, 5-reel slots now rule the roost.

Common Features

Typically, game screens in 5-reel slots feature three or four rows of symbols to make a 3x5 or 4x5 grid. The increased number of symbols makes more paylines possible. This way, 5-reel slots usually feature anything from 10-50 paylines.

Other developers, meanwhile, can cram in every conceivable payline (left-to-right AND right-to-left) to reward prizes across 243, 720 or 1,024 paylines. Instead of linked combos of symbols, these 'multi-way' games award cash wins even if only two symbols connect. As such, a set stake is spread over all possible paylines to keep the wager down.

Wilds and Scatters are typical features in 5-reel slots. Wilds substitute for all regular symbols in a game to help form winning combinations and 'fill the gaps'. Scatter Pay symbols, meanwhile, pay out winners regardless of where they land on the reels.

And 5-reel slots feature all the usual extras common to modern video slots: Autoplay and Gamble functions, and stacked symbols and Wilds which can add to your wins.

Bonus Features

Due to the technology associated with 5-reel online slots, cool software touches can be found in many modern slots.

Expanding Wilds will stretch to fill the entire reel and bump up your winners, while replicating Wilds copy substituting symbols across reels.

But with five reels, the scope for triggering potentially lucrative bonus features is great. Three Scatters are usually enough over the 3x5 or 4x5 grid to trigger a Free Spins or Instant Win bonus feature, while some bonuses are activated by landing Scatters on Reels 1 & 5 or 2 & 4.

Benefits of 5-Reel Slots

3-reel slots tend to be limited in their scope: minimal paylines means fewer features and lower jackpots. The addition of two reels means that today's 5-reel games are much more diverse.

You can enjoy any one of a thousand themes, play branded slots that carry actual footage from films and TV shows, and trigger half a dozen bonus features via a range of Scatter combos on the five reels.

In addition, the biggest progressive jackpots will usually be awarded on 5-reel slots. Many progressive slots have upwards of 20 paylines and a jackpot that's awarded by lining up symbols on the 20th payline. While difficult, these jackpots do happen, and big prizes like that just aren't possible on a simpler 3-reel slot.

Try Before You Buy

With more reels comes more paylines and more ways to win. But not all online slots are created equal. Some have 'low variance' (lots of small, regular wins) while big jackpot games are 'high variance' (lots of lean periods followed by a big jackpot).

Although difficult to work out, 5-reel slots all feature different RTPs (Return to Player percentages) and varying jackpots. Always check the game's Paytable to see what your pounds can really earn you. And always try out 5-reel games for free first before committing real cash. That way you can see whether a slot is worth the bankroll.

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