The funniest and perhaps truest thing I’ve ever read about slot machines is that they were like the Beatles—more popular than Jesus. (That’s paraphrasing John Lennon, but that’s okay.) If you visit a modern casino in the United States, you’ll find that 2/3 or more of the casino’s floor space is made up of slot machines. The purpose of this page is to provide an introduction to slot machines for people who don’t know much about them. I’ve included information about the history of slots, how to play, and how to win.
Unlike most of the casino games I’ve written about on this site, slot machines are a relatively recent invention (although not as recent as video poker). Charles Fey invented the first such gambling device in the late 19th century, but opinions differ about what year it was exactly. This first slot machine was called the Liberty Bell.
Other inventors of the time invented similar gambling machines, all of which can be considered direct ancestors to our modern slot machine games. Some of them used cards instead of spinning reels, and at one time, when gambling for money was illegal, they paid off in candy and chewing gum instead of in coins.
Slot machines were considered a “woman’s game” until their popularity started rising after the rise of video slot machines in the late 20th century. These new games used computer chips instead of spinning mechanical reels to provide payouts, and without the physical limitations imposed by the machines, they were able to start offering larger payouts and more features.
Some of these features include more symbols, more reels, more paylines, and bonus games that have more to do with video game play than anything Charles Fey would have recognized as a slot machine game. Today, slot machines are the most popular casino game in any United States casino, but they’re also enjoying a surge in popularity throughout the world. Some countries have different names for slot machines—in England, they’re called “fruit machines,” and in Australia, they’re called “pokies”—but no matter what name they’re called, slot machines are a force to be reckoned with in the casino world.
Other articles relating to slots
Slot machines are one game where you don’t need to do any kind of studying or take any kind of classes to understand how to play. You insert your money, pull a lever (or press a button), then wait to see what the outcome is. It’s more fun if you understand how the paylines work, but there’s no skill involved to most slot machines. You don’t have to make any decisions. You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sounds and sights.
Like anything else, slot machine gaming is more fun if you understand the intricacies of it. There are multiple types of games, and some of them are more suited for some players than others. For example, you might be happy with a low frequency payout game that has a higher jackpot, like a progressive, but someone else might prefer to get paid off more often, even if it means the top prize is lower.
You might not understand how the paylines work on a multi-line, multi-reel slot machine, so it might be better for you to play a traditional 3-reel, single payline game, or vice versa.
You’ll find occasional articles and even books about how to win at slot machines. They’re all ludicrously misinformed and inaccurate. Many of them are peddles as expensive ebooks supposedly written by former casino employees or slot machine “technicians.” These tend to be the worst of all.
The only winning strategy for the vast majority of slot machine games can be summed up in two words: “Get lucky.”
One of my favorite books about slot machine strategy was written John Patrick. It’s titled, appropriately enough, John Patrick on Slots. In this book, he describes multiple “systems” for playing slot machines, but they all involve arbitrary money management techniques, like setting a win goal or a loss limit.
A win goal is an amount of winnings that determines when you quit. A loss limit is an amount that you’re willing to lose that determines when you quit. If you only plan to play slot machines once in your life, this type of money management technique might make some sort of sense. But it doesn’t give you any kind of advantage over anyone else who just plays whimsically, deciding when to start and stop based on their mood.
The only kind of slot machine where you used to be able to gain an advantage on were called “banking” slot machines, and winning on them involved keeping an eye on how big the “bank” got on the machines, and only playing when there was enough money in the bank to make it a profitable long-term play. I haven’t seen a slot machine like “Piggy Bankin’” in years, though, so it’s hardly worth mentioning.
If you want to play a game similar to slots where strategy matters, try video poker. Usually the payback percentage on video poker is much higher than any slot machine game in the place, even if you don’t play well.
Mostly it depends on what your goals are as a gambler. If you’re looking to just have fun without doing too much thinking, and you want a shot at a big jackpot, then a slot machine game is just the ticket. But if you’re looking for a game you can beat with a strategy, look elsewhere.