A slot machine, known variously as a fruit machine, puggy, the slots, poker machine/pokies, fruities or slots , is a gambling machine that creates a game of chance for its customers. Slot machines are also known pejoratively as one-armed bandits because of the large mechanical levers affixed to the sides of early mechanical machines and the games’ ability to empty players’ pockets and wallets as thieves would.
A slot machine’s standard layout features a screen displaying three or more reels that “spin” when the game is activated. Some modern slot machines still include a lever as a skeuomorphic design trait to trigger play. However, the mechanics of early machines have been superseded by random number generators, and most are now operated using buttons and touchscreens.
Slot machines include one or more currency detectors that validate the form of payment, whether coin, cash, voucher, or token. The machine pays out according to the pattern of symbols displayed when the reels stop “spinning”. Slot machines are the most popular gambling method in casinos and constitute about 70% of the average U.S. casino’s income.
Digital technology has resulted in variations on the original slot machine concept. As the player is essentially playing a video game, manufacturers are able to offer more interactive elements, such as advanced bonus rounds and more varied video graphics.
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Slot Machine Terminology
A bonus is a special feature of the particular game theme, which is activated when certain symbols appear in a winning combination. Bonuses and the number of bonus features vary depending upon the game. Some bonus rounds are a special session of free spins (the number of which is often based on the winning combination that triggers the bonus), often with a different or modified set of winning combinations as the main game and/or other multipliers or increased frequencies of symbols, or a “hold and re-spin” mechanic in which specific symbols (usually marked with values of credits or other prizes) are collected and locked in place over a finite number of spins.
In other bonus rounds, the player is presented with several items on a screen from which to choose. As the player chooses items, a number of credits is revealed and awarded. Some bonuses use a mechanical device, such as a spinning wheel, that works in conjunction with the bonus to display the amount won.
A candle is a light on top of the slot machine. It flashes to alert the operator that change is needed, hand pay is requested or a potential problem with the machine. It can be lit by the player by pressing the “service” or “help” button.
Carousel refers to a grouping of slot machines, usually in a circle or oval formation.
A coin hopper is a container where the coins that are immediately available for payouts are held. The hopper is a mechanical device that rotates coins into the coin tray when a player collects credits/coins (by pressing a “Cash Out” button). When a certain preset coin capacity is reached, a coin diverter automatically redirects, or “drops”, excess coins into a “drop bucket” or “drop box”. (Unused coin hoppers can still be found even on games that exclusively employ Ticket-In, Ticket-Out technology, as a vestige.)
The credit meter is a display of the amount of money or number of credits on the machine. On mechanical slot machines, this is usually a seven-segment display, but video slot machines typically use stylized text that suits the game’s theme and user interface.
The drop bucket or drop box is a container located in a slot machine’s base where excess coins are diverted from the hopper. Typically, a drop bucket is used for low-denomination slot machines and a drop box is used for high-denomination slot machines. A drop box contains a hinged lid with one or more locks whereas a drop bucket does not contain a lid. The contents of drop buckets and drop boxes are collected and counted by the casino on a scheduled basis.
EGM is short for “Electronic Gaming Machine”.
Free spins are a common form of bonus, where a series of spins are automatically played at no charge at the player’s current wager. Free spins are usually triggered via a scatter of at least three designated symbols (with the number of spins dependent on the number of symbols that land). Some games allow the free spins bonus to “retrigger”, which adds additional spins on top of those already awarded. There is no theoretical limit to the number of free spins obtainable. Some games may have other features that can also trigger over the course of free spins.
A hand pay refers to a payout made by an attendant or at an exchange point (“cage”), rather than by the slot machine itself. A hand pay occurs when the amount of the payout exceeds the maximum amount that was preset by the slot machine’s operator. Usually, the maximum amount is set at the level where the operator must begin to deduct taxes. A hand pay could also be necessary as a result of a short pay.
Hopper fill slip is a document used to record the replenishment of the coin in the coin hopper after it becomes depleted as a result of making payouts to players. The slip indicates the amount of coin placed into the hoppers, as well as the signatures of the employees involved in the transaction, the slot machine number and the location and the date.
MEAL book (Machine entry authorization log) is a log of the employee’s entries into the machine.
Low-level or slant-top slot machines include a stool so the player may sit down. Stand-up or upright slot machines are played while standing.
Optimal play is a payback percentage based on a gambler using the optimal strategy in a skill-based slot machine game.
Payline is a line that crosses through one symbol on each reel, along which a winning combination is evaluated. Classic spinning reel machines usually have up to nine paylines, while video slot machines may have as many as one hundred. Paylines could be of various shapes (horizontal, vertical, oblique, triangular, zigzag, etc.)
Persistent state refers to passive features on some slot machines, some of which able to trigger bonus payouts or other special features if certain conditions are met over time by players on that machine.
Roll-up is the process of dramatizing a win by playing sounds while the meters count up to the amount that has been won.
Short pay refers to a partial payout made by a slot machine, which is less than the amount due to the player. This occurs if the coin hopper has been depleted as a result of making earlier payouts to players. The remaining amount due to the player is either paid as a hand pay or an attendant will come and refill the machine.
A scatter is a pay combination based on occurrences of a designated symbol landing anywhere on the reels, rather than falling in sequence on the same payline. A scatter pay usually requires a minimum of three symbols to land, and the machine may offer increased prizes or jackpots depending on the number that land. Scatters are frequently used to trigger bonus games, such as free spins (with the number of spins multiplying based on the number of scatter symbols that land). The scatter symbol usually cannot be matched using wilds, and some games may require the scatter symbols to appear on consecutive reels in order to pay. On some multiway games, scatter symbols still pay in unused areas.
Taste is a reference to the small amount often paid out to keep a player seated and continuously betting. Only rarely will machines fail to pay even the minimum out over the course of several pulls.Display screen of a slot machine in tilt mode
Tilt is a term derived from electromechanical slot machines’ “tilt switches”, which would make or break a circuit when they were tilted or otherwise tampered with that triggered an alarm. While modern machines no longer have tilt switches, any kind of technical fault (door switch in the wrong state, reel motor failure, out of paper, etc.) is still called a “tilt”.
A theoretical hold worksheet is a document provided by the manufacturer for every slot machine that indicates the theoretical percentage the machine should hold based on the amount paid in. The worksheet also indicates the reel strip settings, number of coins that may be played, the payout schedule, the number of reels and other information descriptive of the particular type of slot machine.
Volatility or variance refers to the measure of risk associated with playing a slot machine. A low-volatility slot machine has regular but smaller wins, while a high-variance slot machine has fewer but bigger wins.
Weight count is an American term referring to the total value of coins or tokens removed from a slot machine’s drop bucket or drop box for counting by the casino’s hard count team through the use of a weigh scale.
Wild symbols substitute for most other symbols in the game (similarly to a joker card), usually excluding scatter and jackpot symbols (or offering a lower prize on non-natural combinations that include wilds). How jokers behave are dependent on the specific game and whether the player is in a bonus or free games mode. Sometimes wild symbols may only appear on certain reels, or have a chance to “stack” across the entire reel.