On this page you'll find a comprehensive overview of slots machines, the original land-based games that went onto to inspire a virtual gaming - and gambling - revolution in the form of the thousands of slots games we all know and love. If you're new to the exciting world of slots gaming this is the perfect place to start! We'll be touching on the history of slot machines, showing you how slots machines work, taking an in-depth look at slot machine payouts and even debunking some slots machines myths.
So what exactly is a "Slot machine"? Well at its very basic a slot machine is simply a "one armed bandit" type of machine where a player puts a coin in the slot and pulls the lever (or "arm"), or in the modern era simply presses a "Spin" button to trigger reel spins. When the reels stop spinning the player may or may not win a prize depending on what particular symbols are showing.
Modern slots machines (also know as Pokies in Australia) can be found in casinos, bars etc all over the world. They're now a very well established and incredibly popular form of easy to play game and a multi-billion dollar industry in their own right.
The History of Slots Machines
The history and development of slot machines is a fascinating subject in it's own right and while we don't have the space here to give you chapter and verse, it's well worth highlighting a few key moments starting with what's considered to be the invention of the first of what we would recognise as a slot machine when In 1887 Charles Fey built his "Liberty Slots" machine complete with 3 spinning reels and 5 game symbols (diamonds, hearts, horseshoes, spades and the Liberty Bell). Fey probably couldn't have predicted the impact his machine would have, nor could he have guessed that his inspired choice of symbols would stand the test of time and remain in use in today's games well over 100 years later!
Fun fact: the Liberty Bell was the first ever jackpot symbol and 3 of these in a row was the highest payout for Fey's Liberty Bell game with a top jackpot of fifty cents!
Fey's gaming machine proved incredibly popular and variants on the basic soon followed including the mighty Operator Bell machine and games that awarded Fruit flavoured gums as prizes (a response to strict anti-gambling laws which were brought in response to the growing popularity of slots machines and prevented cash prizes and in some regions including San Francisco, Nevada and California there were outright bans) and so the fruit symbols we know today such as cherry and melon appeared on the slots and were joined by the famous BAR symbol (which was based on the logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company).
In 1963 Bally Technologies Inc developed Money Honey which is considered the world's first "electromechanical slot machine". Instead of operating solely via mechanical components, modern electrical components were used in the design of the machine to give players something new and exciting as well as breathe new life into what was in the early 1960s something of a moribund & declining industry. Across the United States, casinos were actually reluctant to remove older stock to make way for Bally's new machine however any initial reluctance soon fell away as operators saw their takings per machine increase by as much as 400% with the electro-mechanical slots and by 1968, Bally was producing 94% of all the slot machines sold in the state of Nevada alone!
The first video slot made its debut in the mid 1970s in the form of Walt Fraley's Fortune Coin game and while it looked impressive (by 1970s standards), players were initially sceptical of such a game due to the simulated reels and random number generators - everyone understood that such machines could be programmed to favour the house. IGT (International Game Technology) purchased the rights to Fortune Coin and turned out the multiple pay-line version in 1980 and IGT are still in the business of slots to this day. Helped no doubt by increased consumer interest in home computer and arcade games, the electronic type of slots games rapidly went from strength and strength and soon came to dominate the sector leaving the older electro-mechanical style slot machines in the dust (quite literally in many cases!)
How a Slot Machine Works
Typically players will play a slot machine game with 3 reels or 5 reels. Players insert coins, starting from one Penny or Cent and determine how much to wager and then press the "Spin" button. Animation on the screen will show the reels (or actual reels will spin round in the case of older slots games).
At the heart of every modern slot machine is the random number generator, special software code that determines the outcome of your spins. The software that powers modern slots machines must meet strict legal and regulatory testing to ensure fairness but, ultimately, the house always has the edge as they say.
Once the reels have stopped spinning, the games software will determine if and what the player has won with wins usually accompanied by suitable sound FX and flashing lights or animations (in the case of video slots).
Different slots machines have different themes, prizes, symbols and features of course. In fact, there are thousands of variations of slot machines out there with new games developed and released on a regular basis. Machines generally come in two types, either a "Classic" slot with 3 reels or a more advanced and feature rich "Video" Slot with 5 reels.
Slot Machine Parts
As you are no doubt aware, today's slot machines come in both virtual (eg online browser based games) and real world land-based games the likes of which you can find in casinos. In this section we'll take a look at the common parts of both types of games.
First up we have the reels which are obviously the most important part of any slot game! The reels are where you'll find the symbols for the games, of course. In modern virtual slot games the reels are "fake" in that you are seeing an animated simulation of real reels! Ultimately, in these games, a random number generator determines the nature of the finished spin. Typically you get to see 3 symbols per reel so if you are playing a 5 reel game you would be able to see 15 symbols at any one time.
All slots games have a minimum of 3 reels while the vast majority of slots games nowadays have 5 reels. You can find a few games with 7 reels such as the WGS technology powered Farming Futures slot game (and we even have our own 7 reel slot game) and there are also games with 9 and 12 reels.
Next up we have the Paytable which is where you'll find all the key information about a slots games payouts and rewards. At its very basic, such as on classic slots, a paytable simply provides an easy to understand table of winning symbol combinations (eg 3 cherries) with the winning credit amount next to it - very easy to understand.
As a slot game become more complex, with more features and paylines, so inevitably does the paytable but hopefully the designers will have done their job properly and all the key information you need to understand the game will be available on easy to understand screens. In video slots game you'll typically find a paytable screen that tells you about any special symbols such as scatters, wilds and multipliers, a screen that provides a detailed table of possible wins and then a screen that shows you all the possible paylines (eg if you are playing a 25 payline game you will see 25 different coloured grids).
It's important to have some basic knowledge of a slot machine game's unique paytable, just so that you know what you're doing and also so that you can choose a slot game with the type of features you prefer, eg games with bonus round, free spins etc.
As a general rule you should spin a slot game in free play or demo mode, and get a quick overview of the game's paytable before investing real money on a slot although we admit there are times when a slot game's theme or the discovery of a new slot game tempts you to just "dive in" with a few real wagers and the hope that you'll be lucky!
Underneath the reels you'll typically find all the key buttons you need to play your chosen slot game. The buttons you'll find on slots tend to be:
1. The Spin Button: This needs no introduction! Pressing the spin button will kick off the action and set things in motion.
2. Paylines Button(s): You use the payline button(s) to determine how many paylines you wish to play. There will be either one payline button to let you cycle through the available possibilities or Plus and Minus buttons.
3. Coins or Bets Button(s): players use the Coins/Bets button to determine how many coins they wish to wager on the next spin.
4. Bet Max Button: This is a handy way to quickly bet the maximum number of counts and paylines. Be warned: the Bet Max button might save you time selecting paylines and coins, but repeated use of the Bet Max button is the quickest way to "eat up" all your available credit.
5. Auto Spins button: Some games have an auto spin button which lets you play a game without even having to press the spin button.
You can set up your wager (coins * paylines) then set how many spins you want to automatically happen. Some slots players prefer to use the Auto Spins button and then sit back and watch what happens, while other players prefer to press the spin button each time themselves - psychologists would probably have something interesting to say about each type of player!
On the British pub fruity style games you'll also find Hold buttons which let you lock a reel in place for one or more subsequent spins, and Nudge buttons which let players shift symbols up or down the reels so, for example, a player might be able to shift a cherry symbol down two places to create a winning payline. You can see these buttons and features in our very own exclusive Fruit Machine games
Slot Machine Payouts
One reason that slot machines are incredibly popular, and can even be addictive, is that the game developers/casinos have carefully calibrated their games to ensure players experience some degree of good luck and success.
Slots games have a payout rate which is typically set up between 82% to 98% of the money that is wagered by players.This is known as the "theoretical payout percentage" or RTP, "return to player". (The minimum theoretical payout percentage varies among gambling jurisdictions).
At first glance, a slot machine that claims to pay out 98% might sound too good to true, however you should be aware that, as always, the house always has the edge and this 98% covers all wagers (not just your wagers!) across the expected lifespan of a machine. The casinos operate their machines on the theory that each machine will make only a small profit from most players, but because the numbers of players can be huge (over a decade, for example), the profits per machine can really stack up.
Obviously online virtual slots games mean casinos in effect have an infinite number of slots taking up no floor space and only requiring tiny amounts of data storage on a server and there is no longer the problem of slots machines breaking down and needing repair/replacing - online casino operators don't even need to employ someone to empty the coins out of the machines!
Overall then, you shouldn't see a claim that a game has a payout rate of, say, 98% as a guarantee that you will win 98% of the spins that you play - if you only have money for four spins, it is quite possible for you to spin all four times without winning.
Slot Machine Myths
It's easy to find so-called experts who are convinced they know all there is to know about slots machines (and how to beat them) but the truth is slots machines are simply a game of chance and should always be viewed as games of fun in which you might just get lucky one day - approaching a slot with the conviction you're definitely going to win or with the belief that you're an expert player with the brains to beat the system isn't actually going to tip the odds in your favour!
Of course slots games do actually pay out and many players have been lucky to win life changing sums of cash by triggering progressive jackpots or hitting rare features such as getting huge numbers of free spins, however, don't forget that these lucky players are the exception.
Slots machines are bound by law to pay out (if a slot game never paid out it'd be a con) and the developers of slots will let you know how much a slot game payouts.
Ultimately you must never forget that all legal and genuine slot machine games are built around true Random Number Generators - there are no patterns nor favourable or unfavourable times to play (although if you're thinking of playing progressive jackpots it makes sense to look for a game with a big jackpot that has been building for months).
Now you're fully up to speed with slots, why not check out our very own selection of slots games and get spinning? We've got every base covered with multi-payline slots, 3 reel slots, 3D slots, bonus slots, Mobile slots games and many more free slots games - an exclusive and expanding collection of games that you won't find anywhere else and all free to play too!