What are Slots?

Slots are gambling devices with mechanical reels, or digital onscreen representations of reels, that spin when activated. Typically there are 3 or 5 reels, and on each of the reels there are various symbols, and the slot machine pays off according to winning combinations when these symbols line up in specifically designated patterns on the reels when the reels stop spinning.

Slots are the most popular and most frequently played game at both land-based and online casinos. At land-based casinos, slots take up the largest percentage of floor space allocated for gaming machines and electronic gaming devices.

From the classic one-armed bandit slots found in frontier casinos to the modern slots found in online casinos, slot machines come in many different shapes and sizes, and there are hundreds of varieties, with more additions every day.

Slots Explained

When you play a slot machine, you insert money. Some slots have places to insert various denominations of currency. There is a currency validator where bills of currency slide into the machine, and once validated, you earn credits towards spins on the machine. The term ‘slot machine’ originates from the coin slots for inserting coins to play the slot machine.

Slot players in the UK refer to slot machines as ‘fruit machines‘ or ‘fruities.’ Australian slot players call them ‘pokies‘.

The external housing of a slot machine used to have a lever on the side that operated the slot spins. Most of these levers have been replaced by the ‘spin’ button on the front of the machine. There are some still in existence where the lever is still operational. Most are simply there for cosmetic purposes.

The lever combined with the ability of the slot machine to take a player’s money inspired the ‘one-armed bandit’ nickname.

Modern computer technology, along with today’s mobile technology, has evolved the slot machine concept, and has forever changed the gambling industry. In both land-based and online casinos, slot machines are the most popular form of gambling, and are the primary contributors (at approximately 70 percent) of the average casino profits.

For decades, the slot reels were large metal hoops inside electro-mechanical slot machines, but now that slot machines are powered by computers, they are images on a video screen representing those reels. Even in the case of electro-mechanical slot machines, the random number generator built inside the program is what determines the outcome of where the reels stop.

In slot machines, where the reels stop are known as ‘stops’, and these stops can occur on a symbol or a blank space between the symbols. In the earlier electro-mechanical slot machines, each symbol had an equal chance of coming up, however since modern technology and computer programs are running the show, these odds are much more complex. A cherry symbol might come up once every 5 or so spins, while an orange symbol may appear once every 5 spins. This is true for any combination you can imagine, and the odds vary depending on the slot machine played.

Slots traditionally consisted of symbols cherries, grapes, oranges, and bells, bars, and sevens. In today’s slots, the symbols can be just about anything. Many are based on themes, with symbols representing the theme, such as seaside symbols, pirates, wizards, or jungle animals. Many other slots are based on popular entertainment such as TV shows, cartoons, or video games.

Some of the most popular slots are based on blockbuster movies like Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Batman, and more.

Some symbols in slots are Scatter symbols, which can activate a bonus or award a payout when they appear anywhere on the reels, in no specific pattern. The name ‘Scatter’ is derived from the fact that they can be scattered on the reels to activate.

Other symbols may be the wild symbols that can substitute any other symbols on the reels to help form a winning combination. These are just a couple of examples for bonus symbols that slots may consist of, and bonus symbols are one of the exciting features offered on slots, because they increase the player’s chances of winning bigger amounts.

Our team of casino experts have put together this guide to the best casinos for slots and we recommend you check it out before spinning those reels.