How Do Slot Machines and Other Electronic Gambling Machines Actually Work?

Online Slot Machines

Slot machines and other Electronic Gambling Machines (EGMs) are gambling devices that offer a variety of games.

They are inexpensive to run, which makes it possible for casinos to offer low-stakes betting to a large number of players. As a result, they have become the most profitable form of gambling. EGMs are found at casinos, online casinos, on cruise boats, at racetracks, at local bars, and even at corner stores.

Slot machines and other EGMs seem to attract a lot of myths. This is partly because of a lack of accurate information on how the machines work and partly due to the design of the machines. In this article, we will discuss how slot machines really work.

Our goal is to demystify the machines in order to demystify the games. We will also discuss some of the myths about slot machines. This article is intended to serve as a resource for counselors and prevention workers in the field of problem gambling. It is also intended for people in the general public who wish to understand slot machines.

Slot machines and other electronic gambling machines (EGMs) are gambling devices that offer a variety of games. EGMs are found at casinos, online casinos, on cruise boats, at racetracks, and, in some provinces and states, in local bars and corner stores.

There are three main varieties of EGMs: slot machines, video slots, and video poker. These machines are inexpensive to run compared to roulette or blackjack games, which makes it possible for casinos to offer low-stakes betting to a large number of players. As a result, they have become the most profitable form of gambling for casinos and online casinos operators.

A recent report from Statistics Canada indicates that EGMs outside of casinos (e.g., Video Lottery Terminals –VLTs- in bars and slot machines at racetracks) took in a total of 40% of the total revenue from non-charity gambling in Canada. In addition, slots accounted for 80% of the revenue from casinos in 2020. The purpose of this article is to examine how EGMs work and to address some of the most common misunderstandings about these machines.

For the most part, very little accurate information is available from the gambling industry on how EGMs work. However, even it falls well short of full disclosure about the machines. Information is available from numerous “How to Gamble” books, videos, and Web sites. While some of these are remarkably accurate, others are filled with misinformation about gambling.

It is difficult for the consumer to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate information. In the absence of easily accessible and accurate information, people tend to create their own beliefs about how things work. When these ideas are shared, they take on a life of their own as myths. Eventually, these myths are written down in “how-to” books or Web sites. Once written, the myths seem to become fact. EGMs seem to attract a lot of these myths.

The mythification of slots may be due to the way the machines are designed. Mythification may be the basis of many of the great works of literature, but, in the case of gambling, it is the source of much misery. In this article, we will explain how slot machines really work, and we will discuss and debunk some of the related myths.

Slot Machines

The basic game of a slot machine involves setting three or more reels into motion. In many modern offline and online slot machines, the reels are simply computer-generated pictures of simulated reels, but the essential game is the same. Typically, if all three reels match when they stop moving, the player wins, but other combinations can also lead to a prize (e.g., one cherry).

Common symbols include lemons, cherries, lucky sevens, diamonds, etc. The amount of the win is inversely related to the probability of a symbol coming up on the pay line.

However, there is very little relationship between the number of pictures on the reel and the probability of a particular symbol landing on the pay line. The wins and the player’s remaining credits are displayed using a small LED screen (a matrix of little red dots) and in online slots, it will be on screen.

In bricks and mortar casinos, if the player has won more than the machine can payout, a light on top of the machine usually flashes, notifying the casino of a big win. The remainder of the win is paid by cheque.

The payout of the slot is determined by the mathematical structure of the game, not by how recently the machine has paid out. Game structures are very complex and, as a result, the odds against winning on most EGMs are hidden from the player.

In Ontario, most offline slot machines have actual reels. However, some casinos have video slots (also called VLTs) with simulated reels that appear on a video screen. The introduction of video slots allows the game manufacturer a much greater degree of freedom in the structure of the game. Many video slots have bonus features that come up if certain combinations occur.

Bonus features are not new. Reel slots have always had bonus features run either by a separate wheel or oversized dice located at the top of the machine or through a separate display screen that is activated when a bonus feature occurs. The advantage of video slots, however, is that upgrading the program or replacing it with a new game is easier. In my view, slot lineup games presented on a video screen and slots with reels are essentially the same, except that video slots offer a greater variety of wagers and bonus features.

Video poker

Video poker is a completely different game than slots. It is based on five-card-draw poker played against the machine. Players win if they get certain combinations of cards, such as three of a kind (e.g., 4-4-K-4-7) or a flush (e.g., five hearts).

Players press a deal button, select the cards they want to keep by pressing a hold button, and then press deal to replace the rest of the cards. Typically, players only get one draw per hand. Some versions include wildcards (e.g., the joker or deuce), which are worth any value needed to complete a hand. The computer calculates the highest hand present and pays credits that are inversely related to the odds of a particular hand coming up. A flush might pay five credits for every credit bet while a full house might pay eight.

Video poker is different from slots in two main respects. First, the probabilities of the game are based on a simulated deck of cards, so that players can actually compute the probability of winning based on their knowledge of the cards.

For example, if you have four hearts and one spade, you can estimate that the chance of getting a flush if you replace the spade is 19% (9/47).

Second, you have an option to choose which card to hold, which means that there is an element of skill in the game. For example, with Jacks or Better video poker, say a player has a pair of tens, but also has a flush draw (e.g., four hearts). Taking into account the probability and payout for various hands, the player would be better off throwing away the ten and drawing for a flush than throwing away the three hearts to draw for two pairs or three of a kind.

However, if the player has a pair of jacks, he or she is better off keeping the jacks and throwing away the flush draw.

While some of the rules of play seem self-evident, optimal play actually involves memorizing a fairly large number of conditional rules. Thus, players who study the game and make probability-based choices can improve their success.

However, skill in video poker does not usually allow players to overcome the house edge. Skilled players might lose at a rate of 1% per bet, whereas less skilled players might lose at a rate of perhaps 10% per bet. Exact figures for skilled and unskilled would depend on a player’s level of skill and the particular machine played.

Note that there are apparently video poker games where an optimal strategy would allow the player to break even or even beat the house. Evaluating the accuracy of this claim is beyond the scope of this article. However, on most video poker machines, even expert players are playing against a house edge.

Video lottery machines

There is a great deal of confusion about the nature of VLTs. People often use the term VLT when referring to video poker or video slots located in a casino.

There are four main differences between a VLT and a video slot machine.

First, in some jurisdictions, the outcome of the games on a VLT is determined by a central determination system rather than the individual machine. This is in fact why they are called video lottery “terminals.” This distinction might have important legal implications in terms of whether a VLT is classed as a slot machine or a lottery, but is irrelevant in terms of the gambler’s experience.

Second, VLTs in Canada are often multi-game platforms that offer slot games, video poker, and sometimes a variety of other games such as video blackjack or keno. The range of games offered means that VLTs may appeal to a broader range of players than single-game slot machines. Slot games played on a VLT are largely the same as video slots on a stand-alone machine. Video poker on a VLT is essentially the same as video poker on a dedicated video poker machine. As described above, slot lineup games and video poker are quite different. One is a game of pure chance, the other a game with some skill elements. When discussing machine gambling with a player, it may be important to know the type of game played. Telling a VLT player who only plays video poker on the VLT that the game involves no skill could interfere with therapy by undermining the credibility of the counselor (the focus with video poker should be on the limits of skill).

Third, VLTs are often located in bars and corner stores — areas that are more easily accessible. Single-game machines (slots or video poker) make up the majority of machines offered in casinos in Canada, but multigame platforms can be found in Las Vegas casinos. The multigame nature of VLTs is likely due to the pragmatic need to offer a variety of games in a setting with only a small number of machines.

Fourth, wins from VLTs in Canada are usually paid with vouchers, whereas slot wins are paid with coins. However, both accumulate credits until a “cash-out” button is pressed.

Global variations

Gambling is a multinational industry that is regulated locally. As a result, there are regional variations in the games that are available and the regulations that control them. Fruit machines in the United Kingdom, for example, are required by law to pay out a minimum percentage within a short period of time.

Apparently this regulation came into effect because the bar owners responsible for these machines were worried about potential losses due to the volatility of games. According to U.S. patent #6,666,765 (http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html):

[British] fruit machines generally use a form of “adaptive logic” wherein coin-in and coin-out is monitored over time and wherein odds/payouts of the fruit machine are proactively adjusted to achieve a target win percentage. Examples of adaptive logic fruit-machines in Great Britain are GB 2 185 612 A and GB 2 087 618 A …. In the United States, the casino game operated with a random number generator must, overall play of the casino game, provide a known player expected return (or house advantage) and the casino game cannot proactively monitor performance and correspondingly adjust play parameters.

As a result, some of the myths about slot machines in North America may, in fact, be true in the United Kingdom, however, recently told us that adaptive logic machines are being phased out as the United Kingdom moves toward adopting North American standards in order to permit larger prizes.

Top 10 Beginner’s Online Casino Guide

Beginners Guide

The world of online casinos can be both overwhelming and perplexing, especially for new players. Here’s our top 10 beginner’s guide to make it easy for someone new on online casino.

Since I began playing in 2001, my knowledge of gambling and mastering the online dimension have grown immensely. I would like to share my knowledge and experiences of playing online with you to make your introduction to the world of online casino an easier and more enjoyable process!

In the following guide, I have answered ten important questions I faced as I began playing at online casinos. I hope this top 10 guides will give you some tips and tricks in your journey to online casino.

The Top Ten Questions Beginners Ask on Online Casino Guide

  1. What is an online casino?
  2. Is it safe for me to play at online casinos?
  3. Is it legal for me to play in online casinos?
  4. Are online casinos fair?
  5. Can I really win?
  6. How do I withdraw my winnings?
  7. How do I deposit money in an online casino?
  8. Am I a compulsive gambler?
  9. How are the casinos rated and reviewed at johnniepoker.com?
  10. Which games and strategies are preferable?

After several years of online gambling, I continue to enjoy, play and succeed in online casinos. However, one big difference nowadays is that I am more selective of where I play. I enjoy smooth gameplay, realistic and aesthetic graphics, bonuses (extra money provided by the casino), great jackpots and fast payouts. That is why LasVegasUSA Casino stands as my favorite casino – offering all the best in the features that really enhance an online gambling experience.

1. What is an online casino?

An online casino is an internet-based mechanism of gambling that allows real people to play in a virtual environment. Although you do not necessarily have to gamble real money, you have the option to participate in real, live bets with other players and the online host. Most casinos offer the spectrum of classic games like BlackjackPoker, Roulette and Slots, but there is also an emerging area for alternative games. There are two types of casinos: The first are the Download Casinos which include the majority of online casinos. Download casinos require you to download and install a free software program before you can play. It usually takes no longer than 15 minutes to complete this process and it is worthwhile since these download casinos have the best flow, graphics, sounds, and features. The second types of casinos are No Download Casinos. They offer you instant play from any web browser because they use Flash or Java Technology.

2. Is it safe for me to play at online casinos?

When we began playing at online casinos, we were naive in terms of what casinos were safe to play in and which weren’t. However, with over 6 years of experience and having played at more than 300 online casinos, we can confidently say that online casinos are safe. In all of our experience, we have never experienced any kind of misuse of our credit cards or account information. A good indication of whether a casino is a reliable site is by which software they use. The biggest software providers (Boss Media, Cryptologic, Playtech and Microgaming) are quoted on the stock exchanges, and would not dare risk their reputation and place a priority on securing the money of their customers.

Most casinos use a 128-bit encryption which means that the possibility your information would end up in the hands of others is 1 to 340,282,366,920,939,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. With odds like those, it seems it is safer to play at an online casino than physically crossing the street to get to your local casino.

3. Is it legal for me to play in online casinos?

There is not one, overarching answer to this question. Different countries have different laws in regard to gambling and online gambling. If you have questions regarding the laws in your area, please contact your local authorities.

That being said, I have never heard of anyone being prosecuted for playing in an online casino. One thing to keep in mind is that when an online casino accepts your address in the registration form during the sign-up process, the casino absorbs all responsibility. The casino will be the one targeted if it is not legal for you to play online.

4. Are online casinos fair?

With more than 2,000 different online casinos on the web, casinos are highly competitive to win the gaming time of their customers. Online casinos recognize that if a customer is not satisfied, they are not more than a click away to switch to a different casino. Therefore, the major software providers make sure that the software they provide ensures the highest quality game with the best payouts. Additionally, the best online casinos also have accountants that manage their game payouts. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers gives monthly statements of all casinos using the Microgaming Software to all continual monitoring of their casinos’ activities. These statements can be viewed at the casino’s homepage.

Compared to traditional land-based casinos, the payout from online casinos is notably better (between 96-99%) which is due partly to lower expenses and higher competition between online casinos. Online casinos still, however, bring in enormous profits. Because they recognize they can still bring in grand revenues while offering great games and fair payouts, it is advantageous to them to offer honest, quality games in order to maintain both their reputation and their bottom-line.

In summary, I would definitely conclude that online casinos are fair.

5. Can I really win?

As in all casino play, gambling is a risk. There will be games you will win and games that you will lose. However, you can definitely improve your chances of winning and optimize your gambling experience by playing well and choosing the right strategy.

It is definitely possible to win big while online gambling! We have seen several examples from our very own JohnniePoker.com users with photos of their big wins and stories about winnings that exceed the thousands of dollars.

6. How do I withdraw my winnings?

There are usually several options to retrieving your winnings. Each website has its own specifics. Below are the four most common withdrawal options:

Cheque: You can choose to receive your winnings on a cheque. This will be sent to you via the postal mail and will take a few days to get to you. Some casinos might charge you $1 for the mail fee but usually, this service is for free. Also, remember that your bank might charge you a small fee to deposit the money into your bank account.

Cheque via Courier: For immediate delivery, you can have the cheque handled by quick companies like UPS or FedEx who will make sure that the check is in your hands within a few days. Depending on how much you’ve won, they will charge you about $30 for their service.

Wire transfer Wire Transfer: With wire transfer, you can have your winnings transferred to your bank account right away. It is quick and easy but usually, the casinos will charge you a fee for this service, so it is only recommendable if you win a lot.

NETELLER NETeller account: This company is quoted at the London Stock Exchange and provides secure transfer service of your money online. You can create an account for free at www.neteller.com and use it for deposits and withdrawals from all online casinos. You do not have to pay any fees and your winnings will be transferred to your account in a couple of days, making it a convenient option for your deposit/withdrawal needs.

7. How do I deposit money in an online casino?

There are several ways to make a deposit at an online casino:

Credit Cards Credit Card
You can deposit money right away at all online casinos with a credit- or debit card. Cards like Visa card, Mastercard, Diners Club, Eurocard, etc. are accepted at most online gaming sites.

NETELLER Neteller Account
In case your credit card has been denied due to bank restrictions or deposit limits, then NETeller is another option for you to make a deposit at an online casino. As mentioned above, you can create an account for free and use it to make deposits as well as withdrawals.

Wire transfer Wire Transfer
This method will transfer money from your bank account to an online casino. However, it does take some days for the transaction to be completed and is therefore only recommendable if you cannot make a deposit by credit card or if the deposit you wish to make is too big to be completed by credit card transaction.

PaySafeCard Paysafecard
This card can be purchased in your local shop and can be used for payments on several internet sites. You can find the nearest local seller at www.paysafecard.com. To use it you have to type in the PIN code and Password (these you will find on the Paysafecard) and the current amount you bought will be transferred to the casino accordingly.

8. Am I a compulsive gambler?

Although intended to be an exciting, entertaining and enjoyable experience, gambling can become an obsession. When one feels an uncontrollable obsession to win that consumes their life and distorts their judgment, they can be diagnosed as a compulsive gambler. People become addicted to gambling for several reasons–it allows them an escape from reality, offers them a bit of excitement and distracts them from life outside the game. Compulsive gambling can result in bankruptcy, debt, ruined relationships and a plethora of other problems. There is surely a blurred borderline to this phenomenon that makes it difficult to say precisely when you are obsessed about playing or just eager to win in a healthy way, but a golden rule is that you should never play with money you cannot afford to lose. Also, remember that gambling is meant to be fun.

If you might have a gambling problem then please consult your doctor or visit: www.gamblersanonymous.org

9. How are the casinos rated at JohnniePoker.com?

We put a great effort into carefully trying and testing casinos before we review and recommend them at JohnniePoker.com. Casinos are tested by either Jesper or me by making a deposit and playing at the casino to see if it works according to our standards of fair games, reliable payouts, and good support service. If so, we rate the casino upon the following criteria:

  • The quality and quantity of the signup bonus and other promotions
  • The quality and quantity of games, the software design used and other advantageous features
  • The quality and quantity of support – for example, if live help is offered and if they give precise and fast answers to our questions
  • The time it takes to complete payments

10. Which games and strategies are preferable?

In my opinion, Blackjack is the best game to play online due to both the high payout potential and the overall thrill the game incites. It is a game that requires both skill and strategy on how to play your hand — therefore I find it more exciting than games that only depend on pure luck.
It is always enjoyable to play other classic casino games. Games like Roulette, Video Poker and Slots always provide a great time. One of Jesper’s favorites is “Let it Ride Poker” because you get the chance of hitting the Jackpot with a nice Royal Flush.