In the not too distant past, slot-machine players were second-class citizens of casino customers. Jackpots were small, payout percentages were horrendous and slot players didn’t deserve the kind of lavish bonuses – free rooms, shows, meals – usually offered to table players. But in the last few years the face of the casino industry has changed. Sports betting and online games are growing rapidly and are becoming a large part of the casino’s revenue. But they are still not like slot machines. Although commercial casino gaming revenue declined in the US in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, 63 percent of that revenue came from electronic gaming devices and in many regions, that number reached 80 percent. (The American Gambling Association considers slot machines to be “electronic gaming devices” and includes video poker, speed racing, and similar platforms in the category.)
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Slot machines are more popular than table games for a reason. It’s easy – just drop the coins into the slot and press the button or pull the handle. Newcomers may experience personal interaction with dealers or other players at the table which is intimidating – slot players avoid that. And besides, the biggest, life-changing casino jackpots are offered in slots.
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The following article will tell you everything you need to know about slots, from the basics to different strategies. We’ll start at square one, with a primer on how slot machines work.
In the early days of slot machines, all games used machine reels. But now, most slot machines display the reels on video screens, and often accept and dispense payments with bills, vouchers, and tickets rather than coins or tokens. Slot machines offer several denominations, where the denomination is the value of each credit played. There are games in penny, 2-cent, nickel, 10-cent, quarter, dollar, and $100 denominations, and some machines allow players to choose the denomination they want to use. Once you pay the machine, your money is converted into credits. Slots can take 45, 90, and even 500 credits at a time.
Once the payment is deposited at the cashier, an equal amount of credit is displayed on the meter. For reel-spinning slots, press the button labeled “play one credit” until you reach the number of coins you wish to play. Then hit the “spin reels” button, or pull the handle on the few slots that still have handles, or click the button labeled “play max credits” or “bet max,” which will play the maximum credits allowed per spin on this machine. .
For video slots, click one button for the number of paylines you want to activate, and a second button for the number of credits bet per line. One standard configuration has nine paylines on which you can bet 1 to 5 credits. Video slots are also available with 5, 15, 20, 25, and even 50 or more paylines, accepting up to 25 credits per line.
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Symbols that stop on a payline determine whether the player wins. The classic symbols are cherries, bars, double bars (two bars stacked on top of each other), three bars, and sevens. But there are many others, such as fruits, playing card symbols, and images based on the theme of the game.
One cherry on the pay line, for example, can pay two credits; player to get 10 credits for any three bars (a mixture of bars, double bars, and triple bars), 30 bars three single, 60 bars double double, 120 bars three three, and jackpot for three seven. However, most of the stops on each reel will be empty, and combinations that include spaces pay nothing. Similarly, a seven is not any bar, so a combination like bar-seven-double bar pays nothing.
Video slots usually feature five reels spinning on the video screen, but there are slots with multiple reels. Paylines are not only straight across the reels but also run through V’s, upside down V’s, zigs and zags, and other adjustments on the screen. – In addition, video slots often have bonus rounds and “scatter payouts.” The selected symbols trigger a scatter payout if two, three, or more appear on the screen, even if they are not on the same pay line.
Similarly, special symbols will trigger a bonus event. For example, the bonus can take the form of free spins, pick-a-prize interactions, or mystery bonuses. A player can be given a “second screen” bonus. For example, the second bonus screen comes from the long-time popular WMS Gaming Slot “Jackpot Party.” If three noisemakers appear on video reels, the reels are replaced on screen with a grid of packages in gift wrapping. Players touch the screen to open the package and collect the bonus payment. They can keep touching packages to get more bonuses until one package finally reveals a “pooper,” ending the cycle. These bonus rounds helped video slots grow in popularity, but they are not common today, as game developers experiment with the format.
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When you hit a winning combination, the winnings will be added credit meters. If you wish to collect the credits displayed at the meter, press the button labeled “Cash Out,” and at most machines, a barcoded ticket will be printed out that can be purchased for cash. In a few older machines, coins still fall into the tray.
Many slot players pump money into two or more nearby machines at a time, but if the casino is full and some are having trouble finding slots, limit them to one machine. As a practical matter, even for a small crowd, it’s wise not to play more machines than you can easily handle. Play too hard and you might find yourself facing a lady who has been working up and down a row of six slots. He was dropping coins into machine number six while number one, in the aisle, was paying the jackpot. There was nothing he could do when a passer-by took out coins from the first tray.
Sometimes players taking a break in the lounge will ride a chair on the machine, leave a coat on the chair, or leave some other sign that they will be back. Watch out for these signs. Confrontation may ensue if you play a machine that has already been hacked.
Payout percentages, or the percentage of bettors returned to players as winnings, have increased since casinos found it more profitable to hold a 5 percent dollar than an 8 percent quarter or 10 percent nickel. In most parts of the country, slot players can account for about 93 percent of the payout, although payouts in Nevada run higher. — Keep in mind that these are long-term measures that will hold more than a sample of 100, 000 to 300, 000 pulls.
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In the short term, anything can happen. It’s not unusual to go 20 or 50 or more spins without a single payout in a reel-spinning slot, although payouts are common in video slots. And it is not unusual for a machine to pay 150 percent or more for several donkeys. But in the long run, strategic percentages will stick.
Since the previous slot machines were mechanical, if you knew the number of stops – symbols or empty spaces that could stop on the pay line – on each reel, you could calculate the chances of hitting the jackpot. If the machine had three reels, each with ten stops, and one symbol on each reel was for the jackpot, then three jackpot symbols would line up, on average, once every 10, 310, 310, or 1,000 draws.
In those machines, the big payouts were $50 or $100 – nothing like the big numbers slot players expect today. In the systems that connect the machines electronically to several gambling sites, the progressive jackpots reach millions of dollars.
The microprocessors that run today’s machines are programmed with random number generators that control the winning combination. It no longer matters how many stops there are on each reel. If we were installing an old three-reel, single-stop machine with a microprocessor, we could put ten jackpot symbols on the first reel, ten on the second, and nine on the third, and still program the random number generator to make three. jackpot symbols in a line only once 1, 000 times, or 10, 000 times. And in video slots, the reel strips can be programmed to be as long as needed to make the odds of the game hitting the desired percentage. They are not constrained by the visual reel.
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Each possible combination is given a number, or numbers. When the number-generator receives a signal – anything from a button being pressed to a handle being pulled – it sets a number, and the reels stop in the corresponding combination.
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