Components of the Slot Machine

videoslots-logoTypically, the devise itself consists of several important parts that could be found on every slot machine worldwide. These include the reels, the paylines and the paytable, among others. We shall discuss each of these elements and review the basics along with the specific features of the slots. However, it is important to remember that although the majority of slots are standardized, there are more complex machines that would require additional observation, in order to fully comprehend how they work.

The reels are an essential part of the slot machine as they are the mechanism that makes the symbols rotate and the player’s heart pumping with excitement. These are technically known as stepper reels and slot machines have at least three of them with the potential to add more. The most popular slot machines are those with three or five reels, but there are some machines equipped with as much as ten reels, which are often referred to as Big Berthas, just like the World War I super-heavy mortar.

Each reel has a number of steps or stops to mark the place where it could stop when it is spun. These stops have symbols on them like cards, fruits or diamonds, but they can contain basically anything. They could even be blank.

At the dawn of the slot industry, reels had only ten symbols on them but with the development of technologies, the number has increased drastically. Manufacturers wanted to add more symbols for more possible combinations, which in turn allowed them to offer bigger winnings and, thus, to attract more players.

Let us look at an example and calculate how many possible combinations a three-reel slot machine with 10 symbols on each wheel has.

Combinations = 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000

This means the chances of hitting the rarest combination are 0.1%, which translates into smaller maximum winnings for the player because the machines are designed to be profitable for the company that operates them.

Later on, the typical slot machine consisted of three reels with 20 symbols on each of them, which translates into 8,000 combinations. An improvement, which nevertheless restricted slot machine operators from paying out major jackpots.

However, with the advancement of the electronic age and the implementation of microprocessors, the possible combinations have grown substantially. For example, a digital reel may have 256 symbols on it for more than 16 million possible combinations.

Those calculations only apply to three-reel slot machines, but as we mentioned before, the one-armed bandits could have up to ten reels, for a total number of combinations of 1,20892582×10²⁴!

It is important to note that the number of symbols does not reflect the player’s chances of winning, but simply increases the number of possible combinations. This provides additional flexibility for manufacturers.

The chances of a payout are determined by the frequency of hitting winning combinations. If a winning combination has a relatively high chance of being displayed, the payout amount would be relatively small and vice versa. Having more combinations allows players to win millions with a $1 bet.

The hit frequency and the payouts are set by the manufacturers in line with the casino operator’s specifications. Additionally, these metrics can be readjusted anytime by simply changing the computer chip.

Screenshot of slot machine in casino

The Payline

The horizontal line located at the center of the slot machine’s screen is called a payline. In order for a spin to win, the winning symbols must align on the payline.

While slot machines first emerged, they had only one payline, positioned right in the middle of the screen. Eventually, the number increased to three, five and more. Some five-reel machines have 25 paylines or more. However, to activate all paylines, the player must place separate bets on each one of them. In most cases, one credit is staked per active line but some machines accept several coins per payline.

The Paytable

This is where all the winning combinations are displayed along with how much they pay according to the placed bet. Special combinations are also listed there.
The paytable will, in addition, indicate whether or not the machine is progressive and if it is, it will show the total jackpot to be won.

If you are not familiar with progressive slot machines, you will find them covered in another article. For the time being, let us just say that progressive machines are linked together to the same jackpot pools, which causes the prize to escalate quickly.

The Coin Tray

This must be the favorite component of the slot machine of every gambler as it is the part the coins come out from. The coin tray is located at the bottom of the machine facing the player and starts pouring winnings once the “Cash out” button is pressed.

Screenshot of a single payline slot game

The Slots Lever

This is the lever, which makes the reels spin. It is located on the left side of every slot machine and in modern times, it is there for authenticity rather than out of necessity. While it is true that before the lever was mechanically setting the reels in motion, all it does now is trigger the software which enables the reels to spin.

The Play Buttons

Now, let us go over the buttons that are most commonly found on slot machines. Note that exact names may vary for different models and different manufacturers, but in general, the functions remain the same.

Spin Reels

This is the button that starts the action. Once pressed, it sets the reels in motion.

Play Max Credits/Bet Max Coins

Regardless of its more specific name, by hitting this button, you will bet the maximum number of credits allowed on the particular machine. For example, if the slot machine accepts a maximum bet of five coins and a player presses the button, the machine will deduct five coins from the player’s credits and automatically spin the reels.

Note that this button is only active if a player has inserted credits into the machine. If this is not the case, more coins need to be inserted before the button becomes active.

Play Two Credits, Play Three Credits

These buttons will usually indicate that the specific slot machine accepts only two or three credits as a maximum bet. If a player presses that button, the result will be the same as if they have pushed the play max credits/bet max coins button.

Play One Credit

This button enables players to bet only one credit per spin. The button is generally found on every slot machine ensuring players with different budgets can engage in the games. It is important to note that unlike the Bet Max Credits button, this one would not set the reels in motion and nothing will happen until the player pulls the lever or presses the Spin Reels button.

Additionally, if a player presses the button twice, the machine will add an extra credit to the next spin and so on.

The Cash Out Button

Basically, this button tells the machine the player has finished betting and wants to either move to another slot or stop playing altogether. When this button was pressed on older machines, the one-armed bandit would start paying out the remaining credits in the form of coins. However, the newer machines will simply issue a ticket that the player can later use at the cashier’ cage to claim their winnings.

The Change Button

This button is located on the far left of the button display and is used to power up the red light at the top of the machine, which in turn signals all casino employees the player requires change.

Screenshot of slot machine buttons

The Displays

Every machine has several displays located on the front and while different manufacturers may choose different locations, the important thing is that the basic information will always be clearly visible to the player.

Credits Played or Coins Played

A player should always pay attention to the exact number of credits they are betting on each spin at their slot of choice. For example, if the display shows the number 3, this means three credits are bet on the spin.

Credits

This display shows how many remaining credits a player has. When the indicator shows zero, this means the player must deposit additional coins in order to continue playing. The credit count may be increased either by winning spins or by inserting extra money into the machine. Each credit will reflect the denomination played. For example, if a player sits on a $0.25 machine and deposits a $10 bill, the credit display will show that 40 credits have been loaded. Additionally, if a player places 3 credits on their next spin, the display will read 37, while if they win ten credits, the display will show 47.

As we pointed out, the display does not show the money a player has deposited, but rather the number of credits they bought. If that $10 bill was inserted into a $1 slot machine, the display would read 10, while if it was deposited on a $0.05 machine, the display would show 200 credits.

Pressing the Play One Credit button will automatically deduct one credit from a player’s remaining credits, while the Play Max Credits button deducts the maximum amount of credits allowed per spin on a particular machine.

A player can use their credits only in two ways, by playing and losing them all or by pressing the Cash Out button, which will cause the machine to issue a ticket. The ticket represents the actual amount of money a player can redeem at the cashier’s cage.

Winner Paid

This display shows the number of credits won on the last spin that would be added to the player’s credit display.

Insert Coin

This display indicates the slot is not currently in play and that anyone can start a game by inserting coins or bills into the machine.

Error Code

This message will only be displayed if the machine has malfunctioned and needs the attention of a technician. The display will show a series of numbers or a code that will suggest the nature of the problem so that the staff member in charge of fixing the machine could repair the device as quickly as possible.

Screenshot a single playline classic slot machine

The Symbols

Although technology has completely transformed most slots, some iconic symbols have persisted through time and can still be seen on machines today. For example, the liberty bell symbol, which was on the first slot machine built in 1899, is often used on popular slots. Other classic symbols include cherries, lemons and lucky sevens.

The bar symbol has also survived the test of time and nowadays is often modified to double bars, triple bars and so on.

Despite the preservation of many classic symbols, plenty more have been birthed by the imagination of slot-machine developers, ranging from fruits, numbers, cars, logos, letters, animals and many more. Practically, anything can be used as a symbol.

Wild Symbols

The wild has become very popular in modern slots and can be used to substitute any other symbol in order to create a winning combination. For example, if a player hits two identical symbols, say cherries, and a wild appears on the same payline, the slot will credit the player with a payout corresponding to the combination of three cherries.
On some machines, the wild may also function as a multiplier. For example, if a player gets two cherries and a wild, the machine will pay out the amount corresponding to three cherry matches but if the wild is also a multiplier, the payout may be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

Any Bar

This is another popular symbol inherent to classic three-reel slots. There are single, double and triple bars the Any Bar symbols can combine with to form winning combos.

Blanks

Slot machines will often show blank symbols, which have no winning potential whatsoever.

Screenshot 5 scatters on a slot machine display

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