How Slot Machines Work - Learn How Slots Work

Modern slot machines have more lights and gadgets than slots from previous eras, but form a player's perspective the operation of the game hasn't changed much. This appearance is intentional and is international and thoroughly misleading. What you see does not represent what is actually happening. The reels and the handel are only props in an elaborate show that simulates the experience of a classic mechanical slot. Disappointed? Don't be. Modern slots can be much more generous than their venerable predecessors. You just have to understand where to show stops and the truth starts. That requires letting go of a lot of old notions. Let's take a brief look to see what those notions are.

The way it used to be:

The earliest "nickel in the slots" were build in America during the 1880's and were common by the turn of the century. They featured many designs, but the most popular was a machine created by Charles August Fey in San Francisco. It was called the liberty bell and it had three reels. Each reel had ten sections, or stops with a symbol at each stop. The symbols included horses, card suits, and bells. A player put a coin into the slot, pulled the handel, and the reels spun. If the reels stopped with identical symbols in a line, the player would win. The operation was strictly mechanical and (assuming the machine wasn't rigged) the probability of hitting any single three-symbol combination was 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000, or 1 in 1000.

The machine payout was a paltry twenty-two coins. Many gamblers didn't understand the odds and were surprised when they lost money. That's how slots developed and the nickname one-arm bandits.

Yet it was all exactly as it appeared. The handel was directly connected to the mechanism, so pulling it in different ways could affect the spin of the reels. By the 1960's the handel had been separated from direct contact with the rest of the mechanism and the average reel size had been expanded to twenty or more symbols, but the mechanics of winning were basically the same. The reels spun and they stopped where they stopped. You could figure your chances of winning simply by knowing how many symbols appears on each reel. The reel decided everything.

That was the old way. You can take all the truths connected to that and put them on the shelf. Absolutely none of it applies to modern slot machines.

The way it is now:

The hard of a modern slot machine is a computer device called a Random Number Generator; or RNG. The RNG randomly selects numbers in a particular range, usually zero to a few billion. Each number in the range corresponds to a unique combination of symbols on the slots's reel. The RNG never stops working. Every millisecond a new number is selected, one after another, as long as electricity is supplied to the machine.

When you put a coin in the slot and push the spin button (or pull the handel), the number that happens to be on the RNG at that particular moment is delivered to a mechanism that controls the reels. They spin and give the impression that the contest has yet to be decided, but in fact it's all over. The symbols that appear simply reflect the number selected by the RNG. The handel, the reels, and everything else is just for show.

Not very romantic, huh?

Here's the good news. This advanced technology makes it possible to have identical machines with different rates of return. Casinos use loose and tight machines in complex placement strategies to maximize profits. you can take advantage of those strategies to win more money.

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