How Slot Machines Work

If there’s a single image that personifies Las Vegas and gambling, it has to be the slot machine. From the earliest version with rudimentary wooden gears and metal spools to the newest computerized machine with video displays and accompanying music, this one-armed bandit is one of the most popular ways to gamble and one of the cheapest. But what makes a slot machine work?

Let’s first take a look at your average slot machine. The machine consists of a single window through which you can see three reels displayed vertically side by side, with each showing a variety of symbols. To the right you can see a long arm with a small ball on the top, just right to grab ahold of and pull towards you. Just below the machine itself, you can see a shallow metal trench that will collect and hold your winnings if there are any.

The basic machine works this way: You pull the arm and it spins the reels. Each reel has small tabs just above each symbol that slows the rotation of the reel and will eventually bring it to a stop. Of course, each reel is separate from the one beside it, meaning that you will have random results come upon each spin.

Slot machines register wins depending on what images are displayed on the display window when the three reels come to a full stop. Usually three of a kind results in a win, engaging the payout system, which will dump a certain number of coins or tokens into the holder. Of course different machines have different displays and payoff schemes, some of which may involve playing three horizontal lines instead of the single one or possible diagonal lines in some cases.

Of course, over time most of the mechanical parts of slot machines have been replaced with electronic parts, along with computer chips installed to assist in both helpings to determine the possible payouts to the player and to help security. Let’s take a quick look at the newest machines that you’ll probably run into during your next visit to Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

In these new machines the computer instructs step motors in order to spin the reels and bring them to a stop. These small motors aren’t like the usual electric models you may be used to; these use small pulses in order to spin the reels a lot or a little with near-perfect precision.

Now, does this mean that the games are rigged? No! What happens is that instead of allowing gravity or other external sources to determine when the reels stop the reels are directed by a random number generator deep inside the body of the slot machine. This computer program literally picks numbers out of thin air at a truly random pace, unable to be affected by any external sources. Obviously this is a much more secure way of creating a chance scenario instead of the rickety machines of yesteryear.

The actual formulas that are used in these computer chips are a highly kept secret and rightly so. Most casinos rotate these chips in and out of various machines to make sure that their machines stay truly random and able to deliver the same experience to all their customers, be he/she the first or the first hundred.

But have no fear about being ripped off there are a variety of government agencies that are set up specifically to guarantee that these chips are true random number generators. They can swoop into any casino and demand any machine be opened up right there on the spot. If inspection of the machine shows either a defective chip or one that has some unauthorized alteration the casino can be shut down or at the least pay a very heavy fine.

Having said that the odds of winning at a slot machine are one of the worst ones in gambling. The true randomness of the reels guarantee that if you win it is nothing more than true luck, despite many claims that if you play long enough you might find some sort of numerical formula and be able to predict a win. When playing the slot machines it’s best to consider the money you lose as part of the gambling experience and not to count on winning anything more than the thrill of scoring three in row.

The slot machine has been one of the most popular gambling machines at casinos and resorts around the world. With a long history behind it as a wild and fun ride, this machine is guaranteed to be around delivering the same thrill and anticipation of watching those three reels spin around for a long, long time.

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