How Slot Machines Work


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If you have ever wondered exactly how slot machines work, I have put together a short explanation below. There are basically two kinds of slot machines; reel slot machines and video slot machines. The third section below deals with progressive jackpot slot machines, which can be either reel or video slot machines.

How Reel Slot Machines Work

When I answer the question of how reel slot machines work, I am talking about slot machines with actual reels, not just graphics or pictures of reels on a screen.

When the slot machine handle is pulled or the slot machine spin button is pushed, the reels start turning. Each reel has a certain number of stops. In the old slot machines, the odds were completely controlled by the number of each symbol per reel. For example, a 3 reel slot machine with a top payout for 3 gold stars would only have one gold star per reel, but may have 4 or 5 spaces per reel for lower paying or non paying symbols.

The odds of hitting the top payout on these machines were easy to figure if you knew the total number of stops per reel. If there were 20 stops per reel and only one symbol per reel, the odds were 20 X 20 X 20 = 8000 to 1. You simply multiply the number of stops times itself for each reel. The same machine with 40 stops would give the odds of 40 X 40 X 40 = 64000. This greatly limited the top payout amounts available on these types of machine, because to have enough stops per reel to make large payouts possible, the reels became too big.

The newer versions of reel slot machines work around this by using computer software in combination with the reels and random number generating software. By using random numbers to match pre-assigned winning and losing combinations, simple 3 reel and 5 reel slot machines can now offer top payouts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. This really makes them much closer to the way video slot machines work than the old fashioned reel slot machines.

How Video Slot Machines Work

Video slot machines look like they have reels in them, or at least almost all of them look this way, but are controlled by computer chips using random number generators (RNG) within the computer software. How video slot machines work is the random number generator constantly generates numbers, some RNG's do thousands of numbers per second, and each number is assigned a place for the virtual reel to stop. When you pull the slot machine handle or push the button, the computer reads the current number on the RNG and tells the reels where to stop. Actually, since there are no actual reels in video slot machines, it tells the graphics program where to stop the picture of a spinning reel.

This can be accomplished one of two ways. Either each virtual reel can be stopped by a separate random number or each possible combination of the reels can be assigned a number. It does not make any difference whatsoever which way a video slot machine operates, as the programmed payout will be the same over the long run either way.

How Progressive Jackpot Slot Machines Work

How progressive jackpot slot machines work is the same way as video slot machines were explained above. The only difference is that one of the combinations assigned for the random number tables is a progressive jackpot.

The important thing to remember about all of this is the slot machines are programmed / designed to pay back a certain percentage of the total amount wagered over time and to keep a certain percentage for the casino. Each spin has the same chance of a large payout as the spin before and the spin after. It all depends on where the random number generator is when you spin the reels, and there is no way to humanly rig this or guess, because we are talking at least hundreds of random numbers per second, often more. So the moral of the story is that it doesn't really matter how slot machines work. Just find a slot machine you like in a safe and fun environment and good luck!

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