Slot Tutorials

Slot Vocabulary: Weighted Reels

Near miss Wicked Winnings II
Written by Joshua

In last week’s Slot Vocabulary post, I spoke of the idea of reel stops – these are the locations that a reel can come to a stop, and each reel has a set number of them. Where reels stop obviously impact what the payout of a given spin will be, so it’s a critical part of a slot machine’s design.

A secondary part of this is the ability to add a weighting component to each reel stop. By this I mean the relative frequency one reel stop will be used compared to another. This can be accomplished by virtual reel mapping, in particular when it comes to physical reels with a limited physical component.

Imagine a physical reel set that has symbols with spaces between them. A game could be designed to stop on a space with more frequency than, say, a bar. And a bar could stop with more frequency than a 7. By using weighted reels, you can effectively increase the number of potential combinations, and make some scenarios more common than others.

For instance, weighting certain reel stops next to, but not on top of, the bonus symbol, multipliers, scatter symbols and so on can create the effect of near-miss scenarios that look like you almost made something happen, even though by design it wasn’t going to stop there. This has a psychological impact on certain players to get them more excited about playing further, when in fact the near-miss elements are part of the game by design.

The use of weighted reels can make bigger top payouts possible, but at the cost of more dead spins or false wins. This is why one way you can tell the volatility of a slot is by looking at its top payout opportunities – the higher that top payout, the more that game has to be designed to take in money longer and reduce the odds of that top payout occurring.

So a 2,500 coin three quarter Double Diamond mechanical reel machine, which less than a 1,000x top prize, will be able to pay that top prize with more frequency than, say, a $10,000 minimum progressive grand on a Lightning Link or Dancing Drums machine.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


  • I’m a slot player. I’d like to know more about the names of all game symbols, like in the orientalist theme games, what are the symbols, dragons, ingots, etc. I like to know what I’m rooting for. And what’s the back story on the different themes.

    • Thanks for the suggestions! It’s certainly not something that can be covered in a post or two, but certainly over time I’ll be sure to inquire about this when I’m talking to various parties about their games, and see what I can share!

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