How slot machines work

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Slots are among the most popular casino games. As they don’t require any gambling knowledge or strategy, slot machines were created for recreational and casual use, unlike traditional casino games such as Blackjack and Baccarat.

Since they were introduced to the public, slot machines have proved to be a huge success. Over the years, their novelty has grown so much that today they have become the most popular and profitable game in all casinos worldwide.

Slot machines developed along with technology, so their classical mechanical designs have been completely replaced by computer-controlled systems. Nevertheless, the game remained the same. A player starts a game by pulling the handle and rotating a series of reels (usually three) with pictures printed on them. If all three reels show the same winning picture along the same line, you win.

Although slots are one of the most popular casino games, most people don’t have a clear understanding of how they work. Some people have a misunderstanding of how they work, while others just dive into them without giving it any thought or research.

Today we will explore how modern and classical mechanical slots work. We will go through the inner workings of the game, what determines the odds of winning on a slot machine, and some popular variations of the game.

Let’s begin.

Mechanical slot machines
Classic slot machines work on a principle of gears and levers. The reel is supported by a central metal shaft. This metal shaft is connected to a handle mechanism that gets the machine spinning. Once a coin is inserted, a coin detector registers it and unlocks the brake system which enables the handle to move. The braking system stops the spinning reel, and sensors communicate the position of the reels to the payout system.

Although there are various ways to arrange these mechanical elements, we will focus on the most common design. As we said, three reels are connected to a central shaft. The shaft also supports three notched disks that are connected to the three reels.

Below the central shaft, there is a second shaft that supports a metal piece called the kicker. The kicker has three paddles, which are lined up in a way so they can push against the notches on the three disks. The second shaft also has a series of stoppers, which are teeth that lock on into the notches on the disk.

Once you pull the handle, a hook mechanism is rotated which catches the kicker and pulls it forward. A catch on the other end of the kicker catches a control cam piece and rotates it forward. A series of gears that are connected to the control cam are then rotated. A spring then pulls the control cam back to its original position.

Modern or computerized slot machines
Although modern slot machines are designed to feel and look like classic ones, they operate on an entirely different principle. With retro slots, the outcome is controlled by the motion of the reels, as with modern slots, everything is done by a central computer.

The central computer uses step motors to turn each reel and to stop them at the prearranged point. These step motors are powered by short digital pulses that are controlled by the central computer, unlike the electrical current that powers standard electric motors.

Although the computer commands the reels where to stop, the slots are not pre-programmed to pay out at a specific time. Every slot central computer uses a random number generator, that ensures that every pull on the machine has an equal chance of hitting the jackpot.

What are the odds?
With today’s modern slot machines the odds of hitting a winning combination or jackpot depend on the set-up of the virtual reel. Every stop on the actual reel may correspond with several stops on the virtual reel. Plainly said, the odds of hitting a certain image on the actual reel are conditioned by how many virtual stops correspond to the actual reel.

The top jackpot for each reel, in a typical weighted slot, corresponds to only one virtual spot. This implies that the odds of hitting a jackpot image on one reel are 1 in 64. On the other hand, if the reels are set in the same way, the odds of hitting the jackpot on all three reels are 1 in 643.

Slot machines with bigger jackpots usually have virtual reels with many more stops, which decreases the chance of winning drastically. Some people use slot strategies, such as: “The longer I play, the better chance I have of winning.” In reality, slots don’t loosen up and allow you to win after some time. As we said, the central computer uses a random number generator, so every time you pull the handle, you have the same chances of winning the Jackpot.

Slot variations
When you hit the slots in a casino, you will have several gaming options. You will find slots with different numbers of reels and multiple pay lines.

Slots with multiple pay lines offer you to choose how many lines you want to play. For instance, for a minimum bet, you can only play the single line running across the reels. On the other hand, if you want to put more money in, you can play the horizontal lines above and under the main pay-line, and even diagonal lines that run across the reels.

Modern slot machines have several payout schemes. Standard flat top and straight slot machines have a set payout amount that always stays the same. However, progressive jackpots have a jackpot payout that increases as players put more money into it. At one point someone wins it all, and the jackpot is reset to a starting value.

The purpose of this article is to help you better understand the basic principle of slots, and what to expect when you hit the casinos. The game itself provides a great adrenaline rush, and it can be a lot of fun if played responsibly.

Good luck!

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