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How do slot machines actually work?

In this article, we’ll be explaining how slot machines actually work – and why these games of chance are even harder than you thought! 

Image: Unsplash

Slot machines are one of the most popular parts of a casino. Whether you’re a professional or a gambling newbie, slots are the perfect opportunity to try your luck, promising fast-paced thrills with no skill involved. But have you ever wondered how these well-loved machines work? 

The roaring success of online slots is a testament to how much we enjoy the slot machines in our bars and casinos. The technology may have finally made the shift into the digital world, however, this is simply the latest development in the long history of slot machines. 

If you want to find out more, read on. In this article, we’ll be explaining how slot machines actually work – and why these games of chance are even harder than you thought! 

How many parts does a slot machine have?

In general, traditional slot machines are made up of six parts. When you insert your money, these parts work together to activate the mechanism: 

  1. The coin slot. Modern slot machines also usually have an in-built card machine. 
  2. The lever. On early machines, pulling the lever would physically trigger the reels to spin, but this is now motorized.
  3. The reels. Slot machines contain three reels, each one notched so that it can spin around a metal shaft (and eventually stop at the desired position). 
  4. The brakes. The braking mechanism causes the reels to stop one at a time. 
  5. Payout trigger. These are a series of metal pins that can ‘read’ the depth of the notches on the reels in order to work out the required payout amount. 
  6. Winning line. This is the combination of symbols that you’ll need to get to win the jackpot.

What happens when you pull the lever? 

When you insert your money, the lever is unlocked so you can start to play. Once you pull the lever, a motor automatically causes the reels to spin (on some old-fashioned machines, the lever itself spins the reels). 

A braking system brings each reel to a stop, one at a time. At this point, the metal payout trigger pins are used to detect the depth of the notches on each reel. This means the machine is able to identify the reels which the player has spun, triggering the correct payout. (The notch that signifies the jackpot is often a lot deeper than the other notches). 

What are computerized slot machines?

Today, most new slot machines use a computerized system, rather than the motorized mechanism which drove more traditional machines. 

These computerized slots rely on a random number generator, which means that each spin has a truly equal chance of hitting the jackpot. As soon as the machine is switched on, this generator is constantly cycling through a wide range of numbers. When you pull the lever, it stops suddenly and ‘remembers’ the last three numbers it cycled through. 

These numbers will determine the position of the reels, with each number divided by a set amount in order to reach a value which corresponds to one of the notches on the reel. 

This technology means your chance of hitting the jackpot is staggeringly small – but if games of chance are how you get your thrills, this should only add to the fun!

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