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How Does A Slot Machine Work KnowTechie VideoGaming Machines: Facts and Myths
Step motors are driven by short digital pulses of electricity controlled by the computer, rather than the fluctuating electrical current that drives an ordinary electric motor.
These pulses move the motor a set increment, or step, with great precision see Introduction To Step Motor Systems to find out more.
But even though the computer tells the reels where to stop, the games are not pre-programmed to pay out at a certain time.
A random number generator at the heart of the computer ensures that each pull has an equal shot at hitting the jackpot. Whenever the slot machine is turned on, the random number generator is spitting out whole numbers typically between 1 and several billion hundreds of times a second.
The instant you pull the arm back or press the button , the computer records the next few numbers from the random number generator.
Then it feeds these numbers through a simple program to determine where the reels should stop. Computer systems have made slot machines a lot more adaptable.
For example, players can now bet money straight from a credit account, rather than dropping coins in for every pull.
Players can also keep track of their wins and losses more easily, as can the casinos. The operation is also simpler in modern machines -- if they want to, players can simply press a button to play a game, rather than pull the handle.
One of the main advantages of the computer system for machine manufacturers is that they can easily configure how often the machine pays out how loose or tight it is.
In the next section, we'll see how the computer program can be configured to change the slot machine's odds of hitting the jackpot.
In a modern slot machine, the odds of hitting a particular symbol or combination of symbols depends on how the virtual reel is set up.
As we saw in the last section, each stop on the actual reel may correspond to more than one stop on the virtual reel. Simply put, the odds of hitting a particular image on the actual reel depend on how many virtual stops correspond to the actual stop.
In a typical weighted slot machine, the top jackpot stop the one with the highest-paying jackpot image for each reel corresponds to only one virtual stop.
This means that the chance of hitting the jackpot image on one reel is 1 in If all of the reels are set up the same way, the chances of hitting the jackpot image on all three reels is 1 in 64 3 , or , For machines with a bigger jackpot, the virtual reel may have many more stops.
This decreases the odds of winning that jackpot considerably. The losing blank stops above and below the jackpot image may correspond to more virtual stops than other images.
Consequently, a player is most likely to hit the blank stops right next to the winning stop. This creates the impression that they "just missed" the jackpot, which encourages them to keep gambling, even though the proximity of the actual stops is inconsequential.
A machine's program is carefully designed and tested to achieve a certain payback percentage. The payback percentage is the percentage of the money that is put in that is eventually paid out to the player.
With a payback percentage of 90, for example, the casino would take about 10 percent of all money put into the slot machine and give away the other 90 percent.
With any payback percentage under a and they're all under , the casino wins over time. In most gambling jurisdictions, the law requires that payback percentages be above a certain level usually somewhere around 75 percent.
The payback percentage in most casino machines is much higher than the minimum -- often in the to percent range.
Casinos don't want their machines to be a lot tighter than their competitors' machines or the players will take their business elsewhere.
The odds for a particular slot machine are built into the program on the machine's computer chip. In most cases, the casino cannot change the odds on a machine without replacing this chip.
Despite popular opinion, there is no way for the casino to instantly "tighten up" a machine. Machines don't loosen up on their own either.
That is, they aren't more likely to pay the longer you play. Since the computer always pulls up new random numbers, you have exactly the same chance of hitting the jackpot every single time you pull the handle.
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 general, traditional slot machines are made up of six parts. When you insert your money, these parts work together to activate the mechanism:.
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. Slots usually have three reels but sometimes also have five reels.
The reel is the image that spins in the front of the machine. It has multiple symbols on it, and if you line up certain combinations of symbols, you win money.
The less likely it is to line up a particular set of symbols, the higher the payout on that particular combination.
Even in the case of slot machines with actual reels, the outcome is determined by the random number generator inside the computer. Reels can stop on a symbol or on a blank space between those symbols.
On early slot machine games, each symbol would have an equal chance of coming up, but now that computers are running the show, the odds can be convoluted.
You might have a cherry on a reel that comes up on average once every 50 spins, while an orange might come up on average once every 5 spins, or any other combination you can think of.
The more stops you have on a reel, the easier it is to offer really large jackpots. The weighting is what determines how likely a particular stop is to be picked.
Suppose you have a slot machine game with 10 symbols, but one of those symbols is special and only comes up once every spins.
Casinos love that kind of action, and so do players. The par sheet determines the odds. Some even feature as many as 8 reels, and each reel has 20 symbols!
These machines are typically located near the entrance of a casino, to draw in attention. A multi-game slot machine allows the player to switch between various games without having to sit at a different machine.
For example, one multi-game machine might offer slots, blackjack , and video poker. In addition to this, multi-game machines will usually support many different currency denominations.
Hit frequency refers to how often a winning combination will land on the reels. If a machine has a high hit frequency, this means that winning combos will land more often.
Conversely, slot machines that have a low hit frequency will usually have a pretty significant payout rate. The payback rate, also known as payback percentage, refers to the amount of money that gamblers win, compared to how much they wager.
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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.
NV Gaming Regulations, Technical Standards, 1. 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.
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.