Slot machines are among the most popular and widespread games ever to be played in a casino. Whether their alluring colours and sounds entertain players on the casino floors, or their astounding graphics and animations attract players to online casinos, the appeal slot machines have is undeniable. However, while they are no-doubt a fun game to play, they are also a very lucrative business for casinos, and one reason for this lies in the way slot machines work. To understand the inner workings of slots, we’ll go into some of the details of how a slot machine actually works.
Game of chance vs game of skill
Whether you play slots online or in a casino, you should first know that slot machines are a game of chance. Unlike blackjack, which is regarded as a game of skill, the outcome of a slots game is dictated purely by chance. To be more exact, it’s dictated by a computerised random number generator that, as its name suggests, randomly determines at which symbols the reels stop. There is no cyclical mechanism and jackpots don’t become due, just as a slot machine cannot be hot or cold. In fact, these are some of the most common myths associated with slots.
The odds are the same with every spin. Your chance of winning a jackpot is the same, irrespective of when the jackpot was last won. It’s important to understand and to treat each spin on a slot as an individual event, unrelated to the previous one, thus, it will be easier to comprehend the mechanism behind how a slot machine works. While they may give the impression of having an element of predictability, in fact, slots are listed among the casino games with the highest volatility and highest house edge.
Reels and stops
In modern slot games, the reels are the images with multiple symbols that spin. As the reels reach to a stop, a certain combination of symbols emerges, and if you line up the winning combinations, you’ll win money. The amount of the pay-out is higher the less likely it is to line up a given combination of symbols. The metal hoops that used to make up these reels have been taken over by images on a video screen. Traditionally, slots used to have only 3 reels, but 5-reel slots are also becoming increasingly popular. Reels can stop on different kinds of symbols with a different frequency. When computers didn’t run the show, each symbol had an equal chance of coming up, but the rules have changed and today, on average, some symbols may come up only once in 50 spins, others can come up only once in 5 spins, or at other frequencies and combinations.
Slot machines used to have only 10 stops per reel, but this number has increased today and some virtual slot machine can have even 256 stops per reel. With 16,777,216 resulting positions, the manufacturer can confidently offer a huge jackpot even from a bet as small as $1, knowing that the chances of a player ever winning, over a long period, are one in 16.8 million plays. You have better chances of being struck by lightning twice in your lifetime.
The term payback percentage or return to player percentage is the amount of money programmed to be paid out to players as winnings. For example, a 95% return to player percentage would mean that for every $1 spent at a slot machine, 5 cents is the casino’s house edge, while 95 cents is returned to the player. This, however, is calculated on average, over millions of spins, and not over a 30-minute playing session. The RTP is different from game to game, and on the long-term, it’s best to choose a game or a casino with a higher RTP percentage.
Even though slots are one of the least rewarding games, at least from a monetary perspective, true gamblers understand that the essence and beauty of gambling lies in having fun, (and slots certainly fare well in the entertainment department) and maybe, if luck permits, even win some money back.