What is a Slot Machine?


A position in a group, series, sequence, or set. A place or space in a machine. A position in a ship or airplane where cargo is placed for loading and unloading.

The old mechanical slot machines are long gone, replaced by electronic devices with bright video screens and cute themes. But the basic principles remain the same: A player pulls a handle to rotate a series of reels (typically three) with pictures printed on them. If the pictures line up with a pay line, the player wins. The amount of the win is determined by which images line up (and whether they’re single or multiple).

Newer slot machines have microprocessors inside them that generate random numbers for each possible combination of symbols on the reels. When the computer receives a signal — anything from a button being pushed to the handle being pulled — it sets a number and then spins the reels to that combination. If the combination matches one of the payout symbols, the player wins (or loses). Psychologists have found that playing video slots leads to a debilitating addiction about three times more quickly than does traditional gambling.

A popular superstition is that if a machine hasn’t paid out in a while, it is “due” to make a winning spin soon. This belief has no basis in reality: Machines are programmed to be random, and each spin is independent of the last. It takes an incredible amount of split-second timing to hit a jackpot, and the odds of hitting it again are extremely small.