Types of Slots

There are basically two kinds of slot machines:

  • flat tops or straight slots, and
  • progressives

These slots are essentially the same, but for one feature. Flat tops pay the winner a predetermined amount; progressive slots have a jackpot that grows by a percentage of each coin played. You can identify progressive slots by their flashing electronic payoff signs.

There are many different types of slot machines and whether playing progressive or straight slots, players are faced with many choices. Machines vary on denomination of coins, the number of reels, how many coins to play, and single or multiple pay lines.

Since the quarter and dollar machines are most popular, they are found in many areas on the casino floor. A few nickel machines are also still found in the casino. For the high-roller, casinos offer $5, $25, and $100 machines in special VIP areas. These machines often require the use of custom coin tokens or cash bills.

The most common slot machines have three reels, but casinos also offer machines with four or five. When it comes to the odds of winning, what is most important are the number of reels a machine has and how many symbols are displayed on each reel. Jackpots are rarely hit in machines that have a greater number of reels and symbols. Therefore, most casinos offer higher jackpots on these machines to attract more players and thus generate enough money to pay off the jackpot and produce a profit for the casino. Most machines are set to pay out anywhere from 83 to 98 percent of the coins that are played in the course of a pay cycle.

On average, slots operate on a two or three coin maximum. When it comes to multiple coin playing machines, there are subtle variations. With some machines, the number of coins played is proportional to the payoff, and with others, the payoff is more than proportional. Some machines don't even pay a jackpot on one coin, and the three-coin jackpot often pays 150% of a two-coin win. In this case it is best to play the maximum number of coins.

Standard slots have one payline, but three paylines are not uncommon. For multi-lined paylines, a coin must be played for a specific payline in order for that payline to be eligible for a win.

When a player hits a smaller winning combination, he is paid automatically. The larger jackpots, however, are paid out by a casino employee who is notified by a light on the top of the machine.

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History of Slots

Enterprising American, Charles Fey, invented and began manufacturing slot machines in 1894 from his workshop in San Francisco. Fey pioneered many innovations of coin operated gaming devices including the original three reel, bell slot machine in 1898.

This "Liberty Bell" is considered to be the forerunner of all modern American slot machines as its basic design continues to be used in mechanical gaming devices today. These simple mechanical slot machines with three old-style reels holding 20 symbols have evolved into microprocessor-controlled machines with up to five spinning reels holding hundreds of symbols.

In the 1930s slot machines began to appear across America, and in the late 40s, Bugsy Siegel added slots to his Flamingo Hilton hotel in Las Vegas. Originally installed as a way to entertain the wives and girlfriends of high rollers, revenue from slot machines began supplanting that of the table games. By the mid-1980s the popularity of slot machines and table games were on par with each other, but by the 90s, slots had taken over and now account for over two-thirds of US casino revenue.

Slot machines gained their universal appeal in casinos because unlike other games, Slots are played at the players's pace and they don't require skill. Commonly referred to as one-armed bandits, the goal of the game is to spin the reels so that the symbols line up on the payline in a winning combination. When this occurs, the slot machine pays out according to the payoff table posted on its front. The payoff table tells players what the winning combinations of symbols are for that machine and what each combination pays based on the number of coins put in for the spin. Players have a much greater chance of hitting any of the lower-paying combinations.

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