Special Symbols in Slot Machines and Playing Strategies

Slot machines have been a huge hit since their inception, more than 120 years ago. There is something enchanting about them, how easy they are to learn and the number of chances a player gets to win. You don’t have to spend hours staring at people across the table, trying to guess their cards, like in poker, or memories complicated strategies like in blackjack. Just spin those reels and see what happens. Even if you don’t win, there is always another spin, and it’s not like they are expensive. For many new players, the most confusing part of slots is symbols. There are so many of them and each has a different meaning. If you want to know how many types there are or why are things like fruits and bells part of slots, read below.


The first slot machines, invented in the 19th century, used card symbols. These three-reel slots used various poker combinations as winning hands. Invented by Charles August Fey in 1894, these early slots proved immensely popular. Four years later, Fey constructed a new model and included two new symbols. The first one was a horseshoe, a universal symbol for luck. The other was the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American patriotism. Fey even named the new model after it, calling it Liberty Bell. Unfortunately, only four of these machines are in existence today, as most of them were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Fey’s competitors, mainly Mills Novelty Company of Chicago, were quick to copy his design, and Liberty Bells slots spread across the entire country.

Fruit Symbols

For many people unfamiliar with the slots’ history, fruit symbols can be baffling. What possible connection could exist between them and a gambling machine? The story of fruit as slot machine symbols is an interesting one. By 1909, under mounting pressure from moralists and clergy, San Francisco banned all slots. At the time, it was estimated that there were more than 3,000 of them operating in the city. Industry Novelty Company, one of the slot manufacturers, bypassed the ban by renaming their slots as “chewing gum machines”. The fruit symbols were introduced to represent various flavors. The solution was simple and many other manufacturers used it, leading to the adoption of fruit as a standard slot symbol.

Standard Symbols

Over time, slot symbols developed into several distinct types. The first are standard symbols. They can be anything really, from card symbols to fruits, depending on the type of the slot. Watermelons, lemons, cherries, plums, grapes, oranges, and bananas are the most used fruits. Face cards, with the addition of nines and aces, are also used, together with suits symbols (clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds). These are usually low-level symbols, offering 3x or 5x wins on your bet. The other set of standard symbols are premium ones. On a fruit-themed slot, they are often sevens, triple bars, bells, or diamonds. Other themed slots follow their themes. For instance, on a pirate-themed slot, premium symbols would be a pirate flag, treasure chest, parrot, or something similar, in line with the theme. These symbols can give you up to 50x your bet. Of course, to win it, you have to get up at least three of them in a line.


Wilds are a series of symbols that can substitute any other symbol on a slot. Think of them as jokers in a deck of cards. There are several distinct types of wilds. The first one can only substitute an adjunct symbol. Its usefulness is rather limited, but every once in a while it can come in handy. The second type is called the stacked wild. Stacked wild cover the entire reel. On some slots, stacked wilds can appear on multiple reels in the same spin. The payouts can be very high when that happens. Often, stacked wilds carry a 3x multiplier. Then there is a sticky wild. When it appears, it stays (or sticks, hence the name) on the reel for several spins, vastly increasing players’ chances of a win. The best part is that it isn’t limited to just one win. You can have as many wins as spins it is visible. Finally, we have a walking wild. A walking wild moves across the reels with each spin, until it drops out from the last one.


Scatter symbols aren’t that common, but they can give you a win even when not a part of a payline. As long as it appears on any reel, you can benefit from it. Some scatters offer payouts, just like any other symbol, but for the most part, they give free spins. Usually, at least three are needed to activate free spins. The more you have, the more free spins you get. Scatters also often give multiplier bonuses, usually in combination with free spins. Again, the exact amount depends on the number of scatters you have. If, for instance, three scatters give 10 free spins with a 3x bonus, four will give you 15 free spins with a 4x bonus.

Bonus Symbols

As the name suggests, these symbols grant various bonuses. Bonus symbols are very common in video slots, where they can activate bonus games, allowing players to score big wins. Usually, these games follow the main theme of the slot in question and offer a welcomed distraction from ordinary spins. That is why players love them so much. By themselves, they don’t offer any monetary prizes, like scatters do, but can trigger some hefty bonuses. On some slots, they can only appear on certain reels, while on others they can be anywhere. Some, like Mega Fortune, allow five bonus symbols at the same time, one on each reel, even though there is no benefit from having more than three at the same time.