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Video vs. Reel Slots


When I started playing in casinos in those days of yore called the 1980s, virtually all slot machines were three-reel steppers with mechanical reels and handles on the sides. Video? That was for video poker blackjack and keno. Slots were the one-armed bandits.

Today, of course, video slots have taken over casino floors. They’re the most-played games, especially in penny denominations, so they get the most floor space. But reel slots still have their true believers who seek out the stepper games. Several agreed to share their reasons.


The reel games are all there were when my husband Bill and I started playing, and to me they still feel like real slot machines. They call them videos slots, but really they’re something different. I even like to play them online or on my phone – I’m not totally backward. But I like to play them as games for fun, not for money.

If I’m playing for money, I want to see bars, 7s and cherries. I want to see paylines that go straight across. I like to be able to tell myself if I’ve won or lost and not just have the credits happen when I’ve not even been able to see what lines up.


Seems to me I have a better chance to win on the reels. At least, I have a better chance to win something worth winning.

I’ve had some nice jackpots on the reels. I had a Double Diamond progressive that was almost $20,000. I’ve had the Red, White and Blue 7s, and I’ve had the Blazing 7s.

When I’ve tried video slots, I’ve never hit anything really big. My girlfriend convinced me to play penny slots, and I decided to bet the same way I bet on dollars – $3 at a time. I figured I might have a chance at a big hit if I made my usual bets.

Boy, was I wrong. I never saw a machine suck up my money so fast. My girlfriend didn’t notice at first, but when I went to my wallet for the third time she said, “What are you doing? Nobody plays $3 at a time on these. They play 30 cents or 60 cents.”

I asked, “Then why are they bothering to play with bets like that?” She said, “To have some fun. You’re not giving yourself a chance to play long enough to get the bonus.

That’s where the fun is.”

Totally different mindset, I guess.


I play both, actually. If I’m here with my husband, we play three-reel slots, or sometimes he plays craps while I play three-reel slots. If I’m here with other women from our neighborhood, we play pennies.

My husband never really regarded video slots as real gambling. He says, “We’re here to gamble. Let’s gamble.”

Part of it is that reel slots were all there were when we were young. Those are the games we’re used to. We both hit some pretty nice jackpots on the reels and we’ve never won anything big on video.

I think what really did it for George was the first time he played a video slot and bet something like 60 cents and got a winner that was only 20 cents. He thought that was just outrageous, that you could have a winner and still lose money.

We went out to dinner with friends and he was making a big fuss over this winner that was really a loser. The wife in the other couple tried to explain to him that yes, some winners paid less than your bet, but you didn’t have the same long streaks without any payoffs that you get on the reels sometime.

George wasn’t buying any of that. He said. “That’s not gambling. That’s just paying a fee to watch some video.” He’s never played a video slot since.

I think the video slots are kind of fun. When the weather is nice and George is out on the golf course a lot, a few of us women will have our own casino days and go spend time playing for pennies. I have a good time. The bonuses are fun, and you do feel more like you’re playing a game than you do on the reel slots.

But when George and I go, we’re there to gamble, not to play games. We’re well prepared for our retirement and can afford to play that way, and we have some big wins that pay for the times we lose a lot. On video, we wouldn’t lose so much but wouldn’t have the big wins either. So you take your pick.


My wife and I started taking a yearly trip to Las Vegas… it must have been close to 40 years ago. We tried everything. We played roulette, because that was easy. I played craps and she wouldn’t, because that was hard. We both tried blackjack, and that became our main game.

Sometimes we’d play together, sometimes go to different games then meet up in an hour. But we always took time to do casino hopping where we’d play slots together.

We used to grab those plastic coin buckets and walk from one joint to the next. Unless we hit something pretty big and the coins were too heavy, we didn’t cash them in until we were back at our own hotel. We just carried our playing money as we’d go.

Always, what we played were the three-reel slots. Mostly we played quarters, but there were a lot of nickel games then, too. Not the nickel video with all those lines like you see now, but nickel three-reel slots with one or three lines, just like the quarters or dollars. Maximum bet was three coins, and you could go a long way if you were only betting 15 cents on a nickel game or 75 cents on quarters.

In those days, whatever you won on a spin came right out with coins failing into a tray. What a joyful noise that was! I miss that, with the meters and tickets today.

One trip we’ll always remember, I had a $250 jackpot on a quarter machine, so we decided to splurge and play dollars. My wife won $1,000 her first time out on a dollar game! That’s excitement.

That’s still where the excitement is for us. To this day, we mostly play quarter three-reel games, when we can find them. We don’t lose too much, sticking to quarters, and when we win, it’s enough for a nice dinner at least, and sometimes a lot more. I don’t think you get that so much out of video, but that’s what we want.


It comes down to whether you’re playing to be entertained or playing for the money, doesn’t it? I’ve hit some nice progressive jackpots on reel games and nothing like it on video, though the video is fun to play.

My husband and I sometimes come to the casino with my daughter and her husband. It doesn’t seem like we play together that much. My husband heads straight for craps and sometimes video poker, my son-in-law heads straight for blackjack. My daughter and I try to play together, but she really likes the video better and I really like the reels.

Playing video with her this one time, I got one of those free spin bonuses and it went really well. I kept getting more free spins in the middle of the round, and I had some nice winners too. Everybody around us was watching.

When all of the free spins were done, it told me I’d won something more than 12,000 credits. That seems exciting, right? But it was a penny slot, so that comes to $120. There was a lot of fuss, but really when I play reel slots if I don’t get a few winners more than that, I’m disappointed. And that was my biggest win of the day.

I’m not saying the video slots aren’t fun, because they are, but I like to win something, and the reel slots are better for that.



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