Rows and Reels: Online Slots' Layout Explained
Rows and reels are inherent attributes of any video slot. It was true decades ago, stays the same nowadays and will be forever. Why? Because both of them constitute the game's layout without which paying symbols would have no place to appear on.
It is true that first video slots had a very limited number of rows and reels (1 row x 3 reels layout used to be quite popular), and modern games do have much more both of them (even 4 rows x 6 reels layout does not surprise anybody in modern days).
Nevertheless, the underlying concept is the same as it used to be many years ago, namely, each slot game must have both row/s (at least one row) and reels (at least 3 of them). Otherwise you would not be able to play it.
Rows x Reels: slot’s layout
Row of a video slot is a horizontal line consisting of paying symbols.
Reel of a video slot is a vertical line consisting of paying symbols.
The only difference between rows and reels is in terms of how we count them in dimensions. So to speak, it is not rocket science at all, a very straightforward concept actually.
The last thing to mention here is that rows and reels altogether form the slot's layout. So when you hear layout, it means that somebody is talking about rows and reels in fact.
Rows vs Paylines: the Difference
Some players confuse rows with paylines, and actually there is a good reason why it is happening. This is the case because some paylines completely repeat rows’ patterns.
For example, this particular slot (Dead or Alive 2, by the way) has 3 rows and 9 paylines. Paylines №1, №2 and №3 are straight lines, and they exactly lay on slot’s 3 rows. Take a look.
As you can see, rows, opposite to paylines, must be strictly horizontal straight lines of paying symbols. Whereas paylines can be both straight lines or whatever curved line the slot’s developer have come up with.
As a result, it is fair to say that basically any slot has more paylines than rows.
Rows’ and Reels’ impact on RTP, Volatility, Winning hit frequency
RTP, Volatility and Winning hit frequency are the main parameters of online slots which impact gaming experience in a big way. How does the number of rows and reels of an online slot affect these three guys?
The answer may surprise you as so many articles on the internet misguide players on this matter. There is no correlation nor causation between RTP, Volatility, Winning hit frequency and the number of reels and rows.
As a result, there are many and many slot games on the market that pay great (have very high RTP) with very different layouts (the number of reels and rows), and vice versa. The same is true when it comes to Volatility or Winning hit frequency.
Some other questions you may ask
How many rows do slots usually have? 3 rows slots are still the most prevailing ones as of today. However, there is a clear tendency among slot producers to create games with more than 3 rows (4,5 or even 6,7). The first video slots had the only 1 row, by the way.
How many reels do slots usually have? 5 reels slots is what you can get nine times out of ten. Though some game developers try to experiment with the number of reels, 5 reels slots are still dominating the niche.
Can I customize the number of rows and reels (as I can do with paylines in some slots)? No, I have never played or come across such a slot so far. However, there are video slots on the market that may change the number of active rows or reels depending on some factors. Though it happens without asking a player. Hence, you can not adjust the number of reels/rows on whim.
How many rows/reels do the best paying slots have? As we have learnt from the previous chapter, rows/reels do not have any impact on RTP. Hence there is no such a thing as “slots with some number of rows/reels pay better than others”, very opposite to what some shady websites may claim.
Some interesting facts
There is a clear tendency throughout the last decades for reels to be growing in numbers. And actually it happens in a big way. If 30-50 years ago 1row x 3reels layout was the most prevailing, modern slots come with 3+ rows and 5+ reels most of the time.
So popular nowadays Megaways feature highly depends on the number of rows and reels. The number of rows and reels predict how many Megaways are going to be active. It happens because the number of reels and rows plays a crucial role in the underlying slot’s mechanics in terms of maths (read more about megaways feature and how so).
Summing up, without rows and reels online slots would not even exist, per say. The only precaution must be taken is that the number of rows and reels does not make online slots pay better or worse.
I have heard from some players “if an online slot has more rows and reels, it probably has more paylines, which means more opportunities to win, which means it has better payout”. This statement is absolutely wrong, so please keep it in mind.