The History of Slot Machines
How slot machines work – and why you should think twice before playing themHow Slot Machines Work | HowStuffWorks
How Slot Machines Work
The first coin-paying gambling machine saw inserted coins fall onto a balance scale. Gamblers would be paid if their coin caused the scale to. After the first two hits you're holding your breath for the third reel, but in reality your odds are poorer for getting that third jackpot symbol than they were. In the first ones, inserted coins fell onto an internal balance scale, where they might cause it to tip and spill other coins out; among later devices were ones.
How slot machines work – and why you should think twice before playing them
how did the first slot machine works
Most online casinos insult you with popups and spam, and they give you the hard sell even if you just want to try their free-play games. Fortunately there's Bovada , which is the opposite. That's the primary reason they're the only online casino I accept advertising from. No registration required. Most casinos let you play for free with fake money, but there's a catch: They make you register an account first. That's not just a hassle: after you register you can expect them to badger you by email trying to get you to deposit real money. But Bovada lets you play right away without forcing you to register an account. Just close any registration boxes that appear, and then you can play without registering. Here, try it. Plays right in your browser. If you'd rather not download the casino software to your hard disk, you don't have to. The games play right in your web browser. Works on Macs. The play-in-browser games are MacOS compatible! Before Bovada, Mac users were pretty much out of luck for gambling online, even for free-play. Not any more. Bovada's not perfect , but there's no better site serving most of the U. The domain name GamblingAds. Many Native American casinos instead use "Class II" slots based on bingo or the lottery because local laws don't allow regular slots. Class II machines look pretty much the same on the outside as regular slots, and you still get a random result, the machine just arrives at that random result a bit differently from what's described below. The new skill-based slots are covered on a separate page. Play this slot machine with play money or real money at Bovada. No popups, no download, no registration, no B. One click and you're in. Before you see how slots work, you simply have to understand that the outcome of each spin is random. This is a pretty easy concept, but many people just refuse to believe it. If you're not convinced that slots are random, then see my article on how slot machines are random first, then come back here. Don't worry, I'll wait. On a slot machine, a random number generator RNG picks a random number for each reel, which each number matching a stop on its reel. Then the machine directs the reels to stop on the spots selected by the RNG. Note that by the time the reels are spinning, the game is already over. The RNG has already selected the stops, and the reels spin sort of as a courtesy to the player. Slot machines don't even need visible reels—you could just put your money in and the machine could tell you whether you how much if any you won. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. The presence of the visible reels makes no difference in the game—they're just there to show you what the computer already picked. A typical non-progressive video slot has dozens of stops per reel. An electro- mechanical slot uses an invisible "virtual reel" of 64 to stops, which are mapped to the 22 stops on the physical reel. The physical reel isn't big enough to hold all the stops that are needed, so it's the big one that's used in the computer program. If you saw a worker open up an electro-mechanical slot machine you might see a reel like the one on the right , if it were unfolded. There are various symbols spread across 22 stops. Yes, the blanks count as stops. But it doesn't work that way, because we're not really working with a stop reel. We're really working with an invisible reel of like or so stops, controlled by the computer. The computer will pick a number from , each of which is mapped to a specific symbol. Here's a hypothetical map for the reel shown at right:. Say the computer picks That's a blank, and it tells the reel to stop on a blank. If it picks 75, then it tells the reel to stop on a cherry. If it picks , then the reel tops on the jackpot symbol. Most of the numbers are for the lower-paying symbols, so that's what's more likely to get chosen. That's what we mean when we say the reel is weighted. Some symbols are more likely to be chosen than others, even if they appear the same number of times on the physical reel. So you don't really have a 1 in 22 chance of hitting the jackpot symbol on this reel. Your odds are actually 2 in , or 1 in And of course, the most likely symbol is a blank. Speaking of blanks, when the computer picks a blank, it actually picks a specific blank. Same for the other symbols that appear on the reel multiple times, like cherries and certain bars. The table above was simplified to make things easier to understand, but now that we've come this far, let's now look at how every single position on the reel might be weighted. The fourth column Number of Chances shows the weighting. We've got a 2 in chance of landing on the first stop a cherry , and an 8 in chance of hitting stop 5, the Red 7. Notice how the blanks surrounding the Jackpot symbol, 20 and 22, are heavily weighted. They're more likely to be selected, resulting in the "near-miss" effect. You think you just almost got the jackpot symbol, but it's really an illusion. You weren't close at all. It's like the blanks above and below the jackpot have little magnets on them. So far we've talked about only one reel, though most slots have three or five, and each reel is actually weighted differently. As you go from reel to reel the weighting gets heavier, so you're more likely to hit higher paying symbols early on. By the third reel the higher-paying symbols are even less likely. After the first two hits you're holding your breath for the third reel, but in reality your odds are poorer for getting that third jackpot symbol than they were for getting either of the first two symbols. However, for the rest of this discussion, we're going to assume that each reel is in fact identical in order to make the math easier. So now that we know the weighting of the reels, we can answer that elusive question: What are the odds of hitting the jackpot? Here's the answer. If you played fast at spins for 8 hours a day, you'd hit the jackpot on average once every 41 days. See more on jackpot odds. Now that we know the weighting of the reels, we can calculate the payback for this machine , which the percentage of money the machine would pay back over an infinite number of spins. Of course you can't play for an infinite amount of time, but the point is, the longer you play, the closer your return will come to what the payback suggests. To find the payback of the machine, we multiply the probability of each winning hit times the payout for that hit, then add them all up, as shown in the following table. I included a "How Calculated" column if you're interested in seeing how I derived the probabilities. The numbers I use there came from the first table, above "Total no. So this is a Of course you can't play it forever, and in the short-term anything can happen, but the longer you player, closer your return will come to Of interest is that the small payouts account for most of the payback. The single cherry alone provides nearly a third of all the money you get back from the machine. The RNG is always working, even when you're not playing, picking hundreds of random numbers per second. So if someone hits a jackpot on a machine you were just playing, relax, you wouldn't have gotten it had you kept playing, because you would have hit SPIN at a slightly different time than they did. Every fraction of a second you delay in hitting the SPIN button results in a different combination. The reason the machine constantly picks numbers is so that no one can discern any pattern in the number-picking process and therefore predict a winner. It's extremely unlikely that anyone could do so even if the RNG didn't keep picking random numbers all the time, because the number of random numbers in a complete cycle is astronomical, but having the RNG pick numbers all the time removes even the fantastically remote possibility that anyone could predict the outcome. Slot makers create a "Par sheet" for each slot which lists the reel symbols and the paytable. From this the payback can be calculated, and a programmer can write the computer code for the slot. This data is similar to the tables I provided above for my fictional slot. I have a separate page about par sheets , along with several actual examples. Earlier we saw how the symbols on electromechanical slots are weighted. There are only 11 blanks on the physical reel, but chances the RNG will pick a blank is much higher than 1 in In fact, it will favor the blanks immediately above and below the jackpot symbol. Hitting these blanks gives players the illusion that they almost landed the jackpot symbol, because the jackpot symbol is physically close to the payline. But it's not mathematically close. In reality, the player wasn't close to landing the jackpot symbol on the payline at all. As you might expect, research shows that the near-miss effect keeps players playing longer. Journal of Gambling Studies. The Wizard of Odds cites an unnamed source who said that Nevada regulations say that a stop on a reel can't be weighted more than six times more than either stop next to it. Video slots show the actual reels rather than virtual reels. As such, the kind of near-miss described above won't artificially appear on video slots. In theory, there might be some video slots that use virtual reels, but I haven't seen any evidence of this. However, video slots use another method to make a near-miss effect: they put fewer jackpot symbols on the 4th and 5th reels vs. When players line up the symbol on the first three reels they'll feel they were close to getting a 4th and maybe 5th symbol, but the reality is that it's much harder to get those right-hand symbols. In , it was discovered that certain machines were using a different, illegal kind of near-miss technology. The slot would first choose the stops randomly, and if it was a losing combination, rather than showing the actual combination selected, it would choose another combination to display, which was more likely to show jackpot symbols just above or below the payline. In a bonus round where you can pick from multiple boxes which reveal a prize, players often wonder, "Does it matter which box I pick? Are the various prizes truly scattered among the boxes, or am I gonna get say 10 credits no matter which box I picked? For the answer to that we turn to the authority on these kinds of questions, the Wizard of Odds, who says: "Based on seeing par sheets and speaking to industry insiders I can confidently say that if the alternative choices are shown at the conclusion of a bonus round then the game is honest about them. In other words the prizes were randomly determined and what you see at the end is truly how they were hidden. However in games where the alternative choices are not shown the odds are likely similar to a prize wheel, with lower probabilities for the higher wins. I suggest you play something other than slots because the slot odds are so bad. You could also play online with fake money, because then it doesn't matter if you lose. A good casino for free-play is Bovada , since it requires no download and no registration. If you see a registration box, you can close it and continue without registering. You can play with real money too, though I hope you won't or at least won't bet more than you can comfortably afford to lose. Best thing about Bovada: Play for free with no hassles. Visit Bovada. Play these. Gambling problem? Call the hotline or get online help See these horror stories. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling. Total no. Bluejay Bonanza Slot Machine paytable. Bluejay Bonanza Slot Machine. NOT 3rd reel; then multiply all by 3, to account for the 2 cherries appearing in any of 3 different positions -- 1,2 or 2,3 or 1,3. NOT 2nd reel x prob. NOT 3rd reel; then multiply all by 3, to account for our single cherry appearing on any one of the three reels.