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A slot machine is a gambling machine, or a gambling device. (Modern slot machines are often called "electronic gaming devices".) People around the world play slot machines, and they have lots of colloquial phrases they use to refer to these games:
But slot machines are an American invention, and the phrase itself is actually a shorter version of the original name for the games: "penny-in-the-slot machines". The games were (until recently) always activated by putting a coin or a token into a slot and pulling a lever.
Slot machines are a relatively recent American invention too. The original slot machine was invented by Charles Fey and was called the Liberty Bell. In fact, his family still maintain a slot machine museum called the Liberty Bell where interested hobbyists can see historical examples of slot machines that are close to 100 years old.
Slot Machines Are Popular
No form of casino gambling is more popular than slot machine gambling. In most modern casinos, 65% to 75% of the casino's action is generated from the one-armed bandits. For a casino game that's only about a century old, that's pretty impressive. Especially when you consider that originally slot machines were intended to be a distraction for the ladies while their husbands played real gambling games like blackjack, poker, craps, and roulette.
Will slots remain this popular? My guess is that for the foreseeable future, they will. A slot machine is basically a mechanical or computerized version of a lottery game, and lotteries have been perennially popular for centuries. Slot machines might look very different 100 years from now, but they'll almost certainly still exist.
On the other hand, gambling games' popularities can change dramatically over time, and they can vary dramatically from place to place too. In Europe, roulette is the most popular table game in a casino. In the USA, craps was the game of choice for decades, until blackjack saw a steep rise in popularity. So it's possible that some other choice besides the slot machine might usurp the slots' place as king of the casino game.
Mechanical Slot Machines
Slot machines were originally completely mechanical. A system of mechanical reels, stops, pulleys, and levers ran the entire mechanism. A slot machine reel would typically have 10 to 12 symbols on it. And a machine would have 3 reels.
Slot Machine Odds
The odds of getting 3 symbols to match were easily calculated. You just multiply the odds of each symbol's appearance times the odds of its appearance on the other reels.
So if you had 12 symbols on 3 reels, the odds of any given symbol matching would be 1/12 X 1/12 X 1/12, or 1 in 1728. It's easy to see how a casino or gambling hall could make a profit with a machine like this, since the odds are so easy to calculate. If a casino wanted to make a 10% profit on each and every bet long term, they'd merely need to pay out 1556 coins any time 3 symbols hit. This is called the casino's advantage.
Modern Slot Machines
Modern slot machines don't work like this though, so the information is almost trivial. But understanding the principle behind the mechanical machines is illustrative of what goes on inside of a modern video slot machine too. A modern slot machine determines each outcome via the use of a random number generator.
Random Number Generators
A random number generator is a computer program which constantly generates numbers. When the spin button or lever is pulled on a modern slot machine, the number that the program has generated at that instant is used to determine the outcome of the spinning reels. Symbols can now be programmed to come up with any probability.
Bigger Slot Machine Jackpots
Since the odds of hitting a jackpot can be "artificially inflated" in this way, bigger jackpots are possible and can lead to massive wins. And the machines stay profitable for the casino.
The old mechanical slot machines had physical limitations to how large a jackpot could be just by virtue of the machinery. Realistically, a mechanical slot machine couldn't get much bigger than 12 or so symbols, because it would become huge. And a slot machine which held 5 reels would again become physically quite large. And there's no obvious way that multiple mechanical slot machines could be linked together to form a progressive jackpot network.
Online Slot Machines
All online slot machines are video slot machines by default. Your computer's monitor doesn't have physical reels to spin, and as far as I know, no one has invented a webcam slot machine with physical reels. What would be the point?
Online Slot Machine Players
Slot machine players are interested in the dream of winning a big jackpot at an online casino with a relatively small initial investment. In that respect, casino slot machines have more in common with the lottery than they do with other online gambling games like craps or roulette. On a slot machine game, you might win $100,000 on a single $1 spin. The best you could hope to win on a single spin of the roulette wheel would be $38.
And like online lotteries, online slot machines are growing in popularity too. I don't know of any specific studies which have been done on the subject, but I suspect that slot machine revenue on the Internet is a greater percentage of a casino's revenue than it is in a land-based casino even. I'm guessing it might even get as high as 90% of a casino's revenue.
But again, my speculation about online slot machines' revenue generating potential is just guesswork. For all I know, blackjack makes up as much revenue as slot machines. I'm sure it varies from casino to casino anyway. Blackjack Ballroom probably generates more money from blackjack games than SuperSlots does from blackjack. And SuperSlots online casino probably generates almost all of its revenue from slot machines.
Online slot machines duplicate everything that a slot machine in a casino can provide except for the comp drinks. Online casinos offer slot clubs where a percentage of each bet goes back into the players' accounts in the form of rebates. And online slots can be networked with each other to form progressive jackpots, just like in an actual casino.
Online slot machines can be found in any shape and size too. If you like three reel slot machines with a single payline, you'll be able to easily find one online. On the other hand, if you like five reel slots with fifteen paylines and lots of bonus games, then those are easily found on the Internet too. Progressive jackpot games like Major Millions emulate traditional casino slot machine games like MegaMillions, and even Wheel of Fortune is imitated online by games like Vegas Technology's Wheel of Chance.
Play free slots and find more information about slot machines by using the Google search engine. Another great slots site for playing free online slots and reading slot machine reviews is online slots. At onlineslots.org you can play free slot games and download the best online casinos.
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