How to Win on 3 Reel Slots

How to Win on 3 Reel Slots

While they may not be the most popular games at online casinos anymore, there are still plenty of reasons to learn how to win on 3 reel slots in the USA. This is especially true if you are heading over to Las Vegas, where a good number of slots you can find are one-armed bandits and fruit machines, commonly referred to as three-reel slots. Join us as we explore the ins and outs of betting on three-reel slots and showcase how you can win.

Slot Machine Guide

There is no guaranteed way to bag a victory on slots. Slots are designed in a way that lady luck and sheer randomness play massive roles in determining what you can win. However, there are elements to slots that we can control — such as which games to play and how to bet. These form the basis for any good slot machine guide that is going to tell you how to win.

You can never guarantee a win on any slot, but there are things you can do to boost your chances of success.

Some of the tips and tricks we’ve got for you are quite elementary, and yet many slot players won’t think to use them. For instance, you should explore the RTP, volatility, and probability of slots before betting on them. We’ll walk you through some of that right here.


Slots don’t quite have the same history as table games. They first came to the forefront at the end of the nineteenth century, and throughout most of the early twentieth century, they were either outlawed or only paid out candies and gum. Modern slots first really came to the attention of the average gambler when casinos became mainstream in the 1950s.

The very first slot machines were three-drum games, and much like the one-armed bandits today, they were mechanical. Video slots (and all their trimmings, such as paylines, bonus rounds and more) didn’t appear until the late 1970s. Most of the early slots depicted fruit, horseshoes, symbols of luck, bars, bells, and dollar signs. Many of today’s three-reel online slots pay homage to those pioneering games by utilizing the same symbols and relatively the same gaming mechanics.

Random Number Generators

Unlike the slots of old, today’s three-reel slots often use random number generators to ensure fair play. Online slots, even those with three reels, are governed by algorithms which guarantee a random outcome on each spin. As there is no way to predict what will crop up, you can’t ensure wins in this manner.

Time to Play Slots

Is there ever such a thing as a good time to play slots? Some people think so. Some gamblers believe (wrongly, we might add) that if a game hasn’t paid out in a while, then it is due a win. That is not how random number generators think or work. It is true that if you play during off-peak hours, there are few other people playing to steal a progressive jackpot prize. However, as most three-reel online slots offer non-progressive prizes, the same prizes can be won at any time by anyone, repeatedly.

This means that there isn’t really any truth to there being an ideal time to play slots.

Types of Slot Machine Games

There are many different types of real money slots out there which can be called “classic slots”, and not all of them have three reels. Let’s walk you through a few of the more common ones below.

Classic 3 Reel

The classic three-reel slot will normally feature fruit symbols, bells, bars, dollar signs, diamonds, and other dated imagery. They will often have a single payline running through them and seldom include any special features. However, fruit machines of this caliber may include nudge mechanics, and “pub fruities” may offer a board game-style bonus.

5 Reel

While almost all five-reel slots are video slots (games with bonus rounds, many paylines and other goodies), there are a couple that still qualify as fruit machines and classic slots. These games may only have five paylines (and there are three-reel slots with five lines, too) and are devoid of many special features. Because of their simplicity and lack of a theme, they are often lumped in with three-reel games as “classic slots”.

Mega Joker slot
5-reel fruit machines are very similar to 3 reel classic slots

Progressive Jackpot Titles

When you think of jackpot slots, you will likely think of multiple paylines, bonus rounds, free spins, and epic jackpots worth millions of dollars. However, it is worth noting that some three-reel slots also have progressive jackpot prizes. Microgaming’s Major Millions, Cashapillar and a few others are prime examples of this. A progressive jackpot slot does not necessarily have to contain a given number of reels.

How to Choose 3 Reel Slots to Play & Win

Now, as mentioned earlier, we can’t guarantee wins on three-reel slots, and nobody else can, either. However, we can still point you in the right direction when it comes to learning how to win on 3 reel slots.

Here are a few pointers to help you win on 3 reel slots for US players. They include:

  • Study the game’s RTP rate. The higher the RTP rate, the better.
  • Don’t play highly volatile slots if you are on a budget. Avoid them.
  • Highly volatile three-reel slots are only suitable for players with budgets capable of sustaining losing streaks.
  • Compare the prizes in several three-reel slots. Find games that offer decent rewards.
  • Count the number of symbols. There won’t be many paylines to win on, so the fewer symbols a slot has, the better.
  • Look for three-reel slots that have at least one bonus feature, such as a wild symbol or a nudge mechanic.

The slot machine you choose should combine the various elements listed above. The more boxes you can tick off, the better the three-reel slot will be, and thus, the better your chances of success are.

Best Online Casino Sites to Play 3 Reel Slots

Picking an online casino that is fair, licensed, and trusted is just one part of trying to improve your odds of landing a win on 3 reel slots. If the casino is rigged, a scam site or sub-par in other ways, then your odds of success aren’t going to be great. We have a list of recommended top casinos for you to choose from. Each supports a stellar array of three-reel slot games that give you decent chances to win.

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Strategies & Tips on How to Win on 3 Reel Slots

As you no doubt noticed above, there are definitely ways that you can find the top three-reel slots to play. However, there are also a few other tips we have for you that will help you once you have found such a game. Having found a three-reel slot that fits the bill, it is common sense to deploy the following strategies.

Bankroll Management

Be sure that you don’t go all in. Big wins tend to be few and far between three-reel slots, so you’ll need to sustain your balance to see yourself through those losing streaks. Don’t put your stock in systems like the Martingale, as they can aggregate the situation and deplete your balance quicker. Instead, just be smart and stick to low-value bets until you land a sizable win, and always quit while you’re ahead.

Use Free Spins and Other Casino Offers & Promotions

There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of casino promotions and bonuses, including deposit offers and free spins.

Typical free spin bonus
A typical free spin bonus can help you land a win

Free spins can be bagged in any number of ways at a casino. They can help you win real money without risking your own, even if they do come with terms and conditions that may limit what you can walk away with.

Bonus/Promotion TypeWhen To Claim ItAverage Value
No Deposit Free SpinsAs a new player, as a loyalty bonus10-25 spins
No Deposit BonusAs a new player, as cashback$1-$25
Free Spins BonusAs a loyalty bonus, when depositing10-100 spins
Welcome BonusAs a new player, when depositing25-500%
Reload BonusWhen re-depositing5-50%

Make Maximum Bets

As mentioned earlier, it is worth sticking to low-value bets if you are in it for the long haul. However, if you land a sufficiently large win, you can start to explore the upper end of the betting scales, as you’re only doing so with money you’ve already won. Following a big win, it is recommended that you withdraw your starting balance and keep that safe. You can then splash the cash you’ve won, even betting with sizable stakes if you wish.

Consider RTP and Volatility

As touched on, understanding RTP and volatility are the key if you want to win on 3 reel slots. RTP is the amount of each bet that the casino makes available for players to win, so the higher the RTP, the fairer the slot.

Classic slots are best played as low-variance games with high RTP rates.

As for volatility, remember this: highly volatile games pay infrequently but dish out big wins, while low variance ones cough up wins regularly, but they tend to be smaller in value.

Hot & Cold Slots

Don’t for one-second fall into the trap of believing that there is such a thing as hot and cold slots. A hot slot is a game that hasn’t paid out its jackpot for a while, while a cold slot is a game which has recently paid out its jackpot. The assumption is that hot slots are “due” to pay out their winnings, and cold slots won’t. As three-reel slots are run by algorithms and RNGs, you should know that everything is decided at random in slot machines. Therefore, hot and cold numbers are nonsense. Don’t put any stock in them.

Practice for Free

Finally (and this is our best piece of advice), don’t hesitate to try free gambling slots. Yes, we know that you won’t pocket real money if you win on 3 reel slots in a demo mode. However, you will gain valuable insight into how a three-reel slot works before you risk your own money on it. If you want to study a slot’s volatility, variance, RTP, payouts and gameplay, playing free slots is the way to go, at least initially.


No. Moreover, there isn’t any way to cheat any kind of slot, at least not online slots. You might have more luck with mechanical slots, but we don’t recommend doing that.

No. There are a good number of three-reel games out there that have three paylines or even five paylines. 3x3 grid slots can sometimes offer nine of them.

Most classic and three-reel slots have increased prizes based on the number of coins you stake per spin. This is no different than what happens in video slots; only it is more visible in three-reel slots.

That depends on the game you’re playing and your stake. Some three-reel slots support progressive jackpots, though, so the total prize pot could be immense.

There are three-reel slots that were popular in the UK in the 80s and 90s. They work in largely the same way, although they tend to offer a nudge mechanic and sometimes even trail-based board game bonus rounds.

Publication Author
Donald Peterson
Author of articles
Donald Peterson is an avid gambler from Edmonton, Alberta, who also writes about his experience with casinos. He’s been in the business for over 10 years, following the ever-changing industry landscape. His articles are aimed at helping beginners with choosing casinos, suitable games, and strategies.
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