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How do slot machines usually work?

How do slot machines usually work?


Without question, the most distinctive casino games are the slot machines. No sound is more distinctive than the thud that the slot machine makes as the lever is pulled and the whirring as the dials lets loose.

However, behind this seemingly simple piece of machinery, there is a highly complex performance unfolding, and you might be surprised at how technical slot machines are. This is no different in the digital age, and virtual slot machines have a lot of complicated computing going on beneath the brightly coloured surface. If you want to know what goes on behind those distinctive dials, then read on and find out!

Keeping it old school: how do physical slot machines work?

Before we go on to discuss the virtual slot machines that are proving so popular among online casino players these days, we should first talk a little bit about how physical slot machines work. The operation of physical slot machines is pretty simple: just pull the lever to rotate a series of reels – usually three, but often more. Winning is determined based on what sequence these land on when they stop spinning. But how do they ensure that the spinning of these wheels is random enough to guarantee a fair state of play for players?

Beneath the distinctive reels, there is a complex configuration of gears and levers, the central element being a metal shaft that supports them. These are connected to the handle, which gets them moving once pulled. A braking system inside stops the reels after a certain amount of time, which in newer physical slot machine models is connected to sensors that communicate with the braking system. This braking system is programmed to randomly stop, which makes the symbols show in sequence. In the newer video slot machines, these processes are all controlled by microchips, which do the calculations behind the scene.

Taking things into the digital age: virtual slot machines

With the advent of the digital age, the basic mechanics of slot machines haven’t changed much. Essentially, virtual slot machines use highly complex random number generator software with a flashy overlay displaying the image of a slot machine. This might sound simple, but random number generator software is incredibly complex!

Random generator software: can we replicate “randomness”?

Random number generator software, or RNG as it is commonly known, is essentially a computer program that tries to mimic as closely as it can “random” number selection. This is somewhat of a misnomer, as given that it is a pre-programmed piece of software, its random selection can’t be entirely “random” in the true sense of the word.

However, it is selected through a complex system that tries to mimic it. Given the massive number of possible combinations that can be landed on, this is just about as close to random as you can get! We should also remember that on virtual slot machines, there is no memory or previous history that keeps track of what combinations have been selected – a new sequence is generated from scratch each time. This ensures that each spin is independent, and therefore as close to “random” as possible. Both online and land-based casinos have to submit their RNG software to be independently tested by regulatory bodies such as TST or eCOGRA, which puts the algorithms powering the games through a series of rigorous tests.

Are virtual slot machines better or worse for players?

Although you might think that having your essentially random chances of winning determined by a physical machine would be better than a piece of software – given that software can be programmed with biases – this is actually not the case. In fact, being determined by an RNG program, which is not truly random, is far better for the player. Most of this is to do with the predictability of the program that’s generating the numbers. If you know in advance how the game is programmed, and what percentage the house edge is, you can make better choices about what machines to play on.

House edge and return to player: what impact do they have?

The house edge, which is usually expressed as a percentage, essentially refers to the advantage that the house has over players based on the odds generated by the software. Unlike physical games of slots or roulette, all casino games using RNG software will have a built-in house edge just based on how they generate “random” numbers. This will skew minutely towards the house, meaning that over time, they will win slightly more games than the player.

These stats are closely guarded, but with a bit of digging, you can usually find them and use them to make better choices about what games are worth sinking time and money into. Return to player (or RTP), on the other hand, refers to the rate at which a particular slot game will “return” – or pay out – to the player. This is usually expressed as a percentage. Knowing both the house edge and the RTP will allow you to make significantly better informed choices about which games you should play.

Get gaming!

If you enjoyed learning about the differences between the old-school, physical slot machines and the virtual ones that are proving so popular today, why not head over to Bitcasino and check them out? Although the physical machines have a distinctive charm, when it comes to strategising and maximising your chances of winning, virtual slot machines come out on top every time! If you want to explore your interests in a low-risk environment that mimics the conditions of a real-life game, then try out Bitcasino’s “play for fun” facility, which lets users sign up for a free account and get playing without putting any cash on the line. With that said, don’t hesitate any longer – head over to Bitcasino today!

Words: Sean McNulty

Images: Shutterstock


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