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The History and Meanings of Casino Slot Symbols
by Carl Chapelle

Keeping Tradition and History Alive

So, you've seen the reels go round and round, with their bright colours and mysterious combinations, but did you know that all those arty graphics and pictures all have their own role and meaning?

It all goes way back to the 1800's, when many of the earliest Slots would pay out actual merchandise, such as gum, cigars and even drinks.

Prizes were usually given out by the store that housed the machine, allowing players and establishments to avoid falling fowl of strict gambling laws that prohibited cash pay-outs.

Gum seems to have been a favourite prize for players.

The fruity symbols would simply denote the flavour of gum that had been won. In fact, this is why UK players still more commonly call slot machines, Fruit Machines . Today the convenience of machines being able to run themselves, means that cash prizes and credits are the usual pay-out.

However, the symbols from those early days continue on, as a legacy from a colourful past tradition.

Some of the first Slots ran 5-reels and used images of cards, the aim being to mimic poker hands.

Unsurprisingly, pictures of playing cards still feature on many Slot Games today, whether they are online or in an arcade.

The next symbol, that almost always shows up, is the bell.

This image is a sort of homage to the very first 3-reel machine, which was first put to use in 1887.

Designed by Charles Fey, its name was none other than the Liberty Bell .

Its success, and ability to offer cash pay-outs, meant the 3-reel machine was quickly copied by other manufacturers.

None of whom were shy to associate their machines with the original, by using the bell symbol on their own reels.

Of all the symbols, the use of the lucky number 7 is perhaps the least in need of explanation.

But why is 7 lucky?

Some attribute this to its frequent use in the Bible, others to Hebrew numerology, where the word luck actually translates to the number 7.

Then, there are the 7 Japanese Lucky Gods, or, simply that it is considered a lucky prime number, whatever the reason, its appearance is like an old friend to many a player.

Another traditional symbol is the Nudge , again used on video and real-world slots.

The nudge is a prime example of a helping hand, allowing players to, as the name implies, nudge a reel toward a more favourable combination.

A More Modern Take

Today the traditional brick and mortar arcade has moved online and need to be accessible on desktop and mobile. The whole gambling experience has been taken to levels that were unavailable before as modern technology, including software and cutting edge-graphics has enhanced the overall experience to take the player to a totally new level. Sites dedicated to providing mobile casino reviews have emerged across the world.

If the origins of some symbols seem mysterious, then the Bonus symbol can seem just as cryptic.

Their use varies from game to game, with certain configurations needed to score a bonus game. On some Slots all that is needed is for one Bonus symbol to appear in the pay-line.

It's always worth consulting the game's rules in order to understand its use, and, to make the most out of its appearance.

Similar to the Bonus, the appearance of a Scatter symbol departs form the more traditional display of a winning reel.

With the Scatter, a pay-out, or, bonus game, can be won wherever they appear on the reels.

Again, the rules may vary from game to game, but they are rarely a sore sight for players.

Another welcome appearance is that of the Wild. Taking myriad forms across the virtual and material slot universe, these handy symbols step in to bridge a gap in a winning line.

The introduction of Wilds has spawned a whole family of its own, including Soaring, Random, Floating and Expanding Wilds!

Each can add its own nuance towards offering a winning combination, leading players to either a pay-out or a bonus game. Whilst the excitement of winning and cashing the money can be great, some interesting stories of “false slot machine” positives have made headlines. One case was of a woman whose slot win was supposed to be 43$ million but whose was subsequently told that the slot machine malfunctioned and thus, they could only offer her a steak dinner. Perhaps realistically a win of that amount is inconceivable and should ring some bells with the play. The New York State Gaming Commission said it pulled the slot machine immediately after the incident - fixed it - and put it back out on the casino floor where it is today. So keep an eye out for these unlikely events – what is it had to happen to you?

Perhaps one of the most promising symbols is that of a Spin Till Win .

This symbol does exactly what it says on the reel, giving the player an endless number of spins until a winning line comes up.

A win is guaranteed; however, the size of the prize is not.

Remember, this is the first winning line to come up, not the best, so enjoy it for what it gives, not how much.

New symbols do appear from time to time, others are variants on established glyphs.

We hope that you have enjoyed this shallow dive into what lies behind those fast spinning, colourful reels.

We also hope that, next time you hit the slots, it will enable you take a moment or two, to take on board all those symbols, and where they came from.

With a bit of luck, you might even find yourself connecting with a bit of history, whilst you're spinning up a storm on all your favourite Video Slots!


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