How Do Slot Machines Really Work in Casinos?

To a player, slot machines are the simplest of all games found in a casino. Interestingly, the mechanism behind slots is often the most complex. To debunk all myths and enhance your knowledge repository, we're here with a complete guide on how slot machines work at casinos.

In this guide, we'll go into the basic configuration of slot machines, how they decide symbols, and most importantly, how the match of randomness works.

How Does a Slot Machine Work: The Basics

Even if you've never been to a casino floor before, you know how to play a slot. You've seen it many times on TV and on the Internet.

The typical depiction of a slot machine is that a player stands or sits in front of it, enters coins into the coin hopper, and pulls the lever to initiate the spin. The reels then spin for a while before settling on a combination.

In older machines, these reels are purely mechanical. You can hear the clattering noise the reels make when they spin, especially on a machine that hasn't been serviced in a while. In modern machines, however, the reels are computer generated and graphical.

Using the latest technology to design slot machines has its own benefits. For example, digital reels are not limited in how many symbols they can host. Most mechanical machines cap out at 20 symbols per reel. This is one of the reasons you don't see older slots featuring 243 ways or more paylines. They simply don't have the capacity for it.

As for the symbol combinations, they're completely random. They're supposed to be free of any influence by previous wins, progressive jackpot amount, or the session duration. Randomness is one of the core characteristics of slot machines that set them apart from a game of skill. Poker, for example.

To achieve randomness in slots, slot manufacturers use RNGs. Back in the day, it was mechanical RNGs. Now, we have computer algorithms.

How do Slot Machines Work with RNGs?

To truly understand how do slots work, you first need to understand a random number of generators. These generators work based on a fixed equation. It can be something as simple as an addition.

But that's beyond the point. What sets an RNG apart from a regular equation is the use of a seed. RNG providers usually don't disclose what the seed value is. But gambling veterans often agree that the timestamp of when a player starts playing a game is commonly used as a seed.

So, when you multiply the seed with the equal, you get a random string of numbers. These numbers are then translated to reel positions.

In essence, an RNG is not completely random or unique. But it's surely unpredictable. Even if you know the exact seed value in milliseconds, you don't know what the equation is.

The bottom line here is that you can never really predict the outcomes of a slot machine unless you know the workings of the RNG.

How Does Online Slots Work?

Online slots are the latest evolution of slot machines. There is no way to deny that the advent of online slots has changed the online gambling industry forever. It made gambling accessible and surely helped to uproot the taboo surrounding gambling.

One of the main reasons online gambling blew up is the convenience it offers. Players don't have to drive to land-based casinos to play games anymore. They save on transport as well as on food expenses.

At their core, online slots and physical slots are no different. They're both games of chance. On the internet, every component of the games is virtual. This allows online casinos to house as many games as they want because there is no space limitation.

The RNG that keeps online slots random is also digital. It's a computer algorithm that uses the same formula as a mechanical RNG. But online RNGs are more reliable and accurate in keeping the outcomes completely random.

How Do Progressive Slot Machines Work?

Progressive slot machines have always been a cut above the regular slots. Of course, it's the massive prize potential that makes these games so appealing to players.

Generally, progressive slots are not very different from regular slots. But they have a separate component that keeps allocating money to the grand prize from player bets. On a random day, a random lucky player wins the whole pot.

Identical to regular game outcomes, jackpot winnings are random too. It's the same in-game RNG that controls the jackpot payout.

You may hear myths like a loose slot is more likely to pay a jackpot. Many players believe that a slot machine wiggle is a telltale sign that the machine is about to pay up. Some players even go far enough to believe there are specific times when a slot is most likely to pay!

Still, they're myths. The RNG argument itself is enough to blow out all of these theories that claim you can get an edge on slot machines. You can't.

How Do You Know if a Slot Machine Works Fair or Not?

Yes, the RNG is supposed to keep the game outcomes random. But how do you know it's happening the way it should? There is no way for players to test the randomness of an RNG algorithm.

Thankfully, there are some things you can keep in mind to protect yourself from biased or rigged RNG algorithms. Here are some pointers.

  • Casino License: We always recommend our readers play at licensed online casinos. There are valid reasons behind it. One of the primary purposes of a license is to ensure player safety. Keeping the RNG in check is one of the ways casinos assure fair gaming.
  • 3rd Party Audits: Besides the license, many casinos employ 3rd party audit agencies. Names like eCOGRA, GLI, iTech Labs, Merkur, etc, are well-known in iGaming for their strict audit approach. If you see a seal of approval from one of these auditors, you can expect a fair gaming experience.

Understanding How Slot Machines Work to Choose the Best One

Now that you have the answer to the "how does casino slot machines work" question, we believe you're ready to progress to the next stage. In this context, the next stage is choosing a slot machine and getting started.

In this time and age, the options are limitless. You can play typical classic slots or full-fledged video slots at land-based casinos. Then there are the infamous Quick Hit slots by Bally that have been entertaining gamblers for many years.

Your options are even more extravagant when you move to online slots. You also know how slot machines really work online.

So, let's arm you with the information you need to choose the perfect slot games.

Look into the Provider

How your slot machine experience plays out has a lot to do with slot machine manufacturers. For online slots, it's the software providers. If you're new to gambling, we highly recommend that you stick to reputable manufacturers. They have a proven record of providing fair slot machines.

Some of the notable providers for both land-based and online slots include:

  • Bally
  • IGT
  • Scientific Gaming
  • Microgaming
  • NetEnt
  • Play'n Go
  • Pragmatic Play
  • Playtech

Of course, there are lots of other providers that you'll get to know eventually. In the beginning, try to stick to these ones.

Do You Like the Theme?

The specifications, bonus features, and other technical details of slot machines come later in the pipeline. You first have to determine whether you like the theme or not. Because if you don't, there's no point in playing it.

Modern-day slot selection, especially online, is crazy. There are countless themes and even more games boasting those themes. From the American Wild West to the mysterious Ancient Egypt, you'll find all kinds of themes in between.

RTP, Volatility, and Hit Frequency

These are the 3 most important components of a slot machine.

RTP is the theoretical return you can expect from the game. Typically, slot machines have an RTP between 90% to 92% at brick-and-mortar casinos. At online casinos, it's often bumped up to 97%!

The volatility of a slot machine dictates how often it pays. A low volatility slot will frequently pay small amounts. A high-volatility machine, on the other hand, will pay less frequently but offer larger rewards.

Hit frequency is somewhat associated with volatility. In simple words, hit frequency depicts how often the reels on a slot machine will stop on a winning combination. As you'd expect, the higher the hit frequency is, the better it is for the players.

Wrapping Up

Understanding how does a slot machine work can help you on multiple fronts when you play. For starters, you don't develop unrealistic expectations from the game. When you understand the technical aspects of the machine, it becomes easier for you to implement helpful tips.

If you want a detailed guide on how to play slot machines, we've got you covered. For everything you ever need to know about slot machines, we've answered it on Slotsmentor.

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