How Slots Work

How slots work is a more complex subject. There is more to slots play than insert your money, activate the "spin" button and wait for the reels to stop spinning. If you line up the right symbols, you win. Easy enough, it seems.

Today's machines are high-tech computers. Your arm won't get tired any more. You can press a spin button instead of pulling the handle. In case you didn't know it yet, modern, electronic slot machines are controlled by a computer chip, known as a Random Number Generator, or RNG, for short.

The RNG contains sophisticated calculations, which determine the outcome of every spin of the reels. You can be sure that the machine’s manufacturer closely guards the secrets of an RNG program.

The actual reels spinning around behind the glass are only there for the player's entertainment. In some machines they are actual reels, in others they are likely video images. Either way, they are visual symbols only. The RNG decided the outcome long before the reels stopped spinning.

Before there were computerized slots, machines used to have reels with mechanical stopping mechanisms. Today's machines use "virtual reels" -- it's a reel table that is part of the computer program and is hidden from the player. The number of entries in this reel table is what controls the payout odds. To better understand the process, picture the old type mechanical reels working like this:
 
Let’s say we have a three-reel slot machine that has 25 stops per reel. 25 x 25 x 25 equals 15,625 .
Let's assume the jackpot is paid if three 7s appear on the payline. Now if there is only one 7 on each reel, the chances of lining up three 7s are one in 15,625 spins. If there were two 7s on one of the three reels, the odds would be 1 x 1 x 2 = two chances of lining up three 7s in 15,625 spins. That's how slots work.

The same basic formula is used for all other symbols, including cherries and bars that produce smaller wins. You can see how easy the payback percentages can be manipulated. But that is done to the casino’s specifications at the factory when the machine is being produced, not when it’s on the casino floor.

It is impossible for the player to discern the odds of hitting a particular winning combination. The “odds” information is NOT revealed to the player, and there is no way to figure it out by looking at the symbols on the reels.

Next Chapter: from how slots work to slot games and strategies


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