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The science behind online slot games

Here’s everything you need to know.


While online slots are made to be as user-friendly and intuitive as possible so that new players and veterans alike can dive in and enjoy themselves, there is actually a surprising amount of complexity whirring away behind the scenes in even the simplest of games.

If you are interested in learning more about what makes online slots tick, here is an introduction to the science behind the best slot sites for New Jersey players from

The art of randomness

Randomness is essential to every slot game ever designed, from the earliest one-armed bandits to the latest online equivalents. It is so important, in fact, that there are lots of regulations that exist to both govern and enforce it in this context.

This may come as a surprise to plenty of people, because there is a widespread false belief that slot games are ‘fixed’ in some way, specifically centering on how they handle pay-outs. This is a fundamental misunderstanding at the randomness which sits at the heart of every machine, and achieving this is important for players and site operators alike.

The use of RNG

Whenever a player clicks to initiate the spinning of the wheels, a random number generator (RNG) kicks in to scramble the reels using complex algorithms that are designed to deliver a completely random result with every spin.

While it is possible to reverse-engineer certain RNG algorithms and use these to predict the outcome of spins, as some have proven, the point is that you should have no way of being able to do this without having access to the source code of the slot game itself. So for all intents and purposes, every spin is random and unpredictable.

The reason that this is so significant is that it means that the company which designs and hosts the online slot game has no control over when payouts are made, at least on one level. In theory, a player could get incredibly lucky and spin a winning combination twice in a row on their first two times using the game, or spend years spinning over and over without ever getting a match.

There is no set payout time or a number of spins after which a machine is programmed to pay out; indeed such orchestration is illegal because this would put players at a massive disadvantage.

Instead, the likelihood of winning a slot is controlled by the number of reels it has, the number of symbols on each real, and the number of pay lines that are available to place bets on. The more variables involved, the lower the chances a player has of getting a winning combination on a given spin.

Because of this, simpler slots will pay out more often, but to counteract this they will also usually be equipped with far smaller jackpots to account for this. Without such a system in place, operators would lose money hosting games.

Meanwhile, the higher variance slots offer slimmer hope to players, but coax them in with the promise of a huge payout.

There are other factors to consider here as well, such as the use of minimum bet and payline requirements. For example, slot games with progressive jackpots often only provide a top-level payout if every requirement is met, hence why they can often result in multi-million dollar wins. They may not quite match leading esports prize pools, but they come close.

The relevance of RTP

Often an online slot will be marketed based on its RTP, which stands for ‘return to player’. This is a value, expressed as a percentage, that determines how much cash you can expect to get back from a game over a fixed time span.

The percentage can vary from 75% to 90% or more, but will never hit 100%. This is where operators make their money because on average a player who spends $100 on a game with an RTP of 92% will only ever make $92 back, leaving the remaining slice as revenue for the business.

Of course, the whole point of slot games is that some players will get lucky and walk away with much more than they put in, but since this is a rarity determined by RNG algorithms, the majority will finish with less and the house can continue winning.

The psychological aspect

Now that you understand how online slot games work, it is sensible to look at the way they are designed to appeal to players and cater to their needs.

Low variance, high RTP slots are built to get newcomers familiar with the ins and outs of play, while more complex games with bigger jackpots, higher minimum bet requirements, and added bonus features such as wilds cater to more experienced players. Lots of other games rely on impacting player psychology, and it is certainly interesting to see how this applies to slots.

Of course, just reading about online slot games is no substitute for experiencing the real thing in action, so check them out for yourself to see how all of these scientific principles apply in practice.

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