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Understanding Slot Machines

Slot machines have evolved so much since the first prototypes in the 1870s that there are now few similarities between today's modern slot machines and the old mechanical models. Modern slot machines still look like their predecessors but the way they operate is different.

Modern slot machines are controlled by a centralized computer system instead of mechanical gears and wheels of old slot machines. The computer controls the motion of each reel by sending out short electrical pulses. These digital pulses drive the motor that turns and stops the reels at a point determined by the computer.

The computer in each slot machine has a random number generator (RNG) that sends out numbers several hundreds of times per second. The random number generator makes sure that each and every play on that machine has the same chance of hitting the jackpot. When a player pulls the lever or presses the button, the next few numbers are recorded by the computer, which then sends these numbers to a program that decides when the reels will stop turning.

The numbers that the computers generate have already been selected by the time you pulled the lever, so in modern slot machines the spinning reels exist only for entertainment purposes. In actuality, there is no need to have reels in slot machines and the machine can simply inform the player whether he won or not.

The numbers that the slot machine computer generates correspond to the positions of the reels in a slot machine. The first number corresponds to the first reel, the second number to the third reel, and so on and so forth. For example, if the first number is 987,654,321, this number is divided by 64 which is the odds of hitting the jackpot. The remainder of the quotient, which is 49, is recorded by the computer and corresponds to the position of the first reel.

Since the divisor is 64, the remainder of the quotient cannot exceed this number. The 64 possible values correspond to the stops in a slot machine reel. Since there are only 22 stops, each stop actually corresponds to more than one number.

As each reel of the slot machine is differently weighed, some symbols are more likely to appear on the screen than the others. To demonstrate your chances of hitting the jackpot, suppose that a wheel has 22 stops of 11 symbols and 11 blanks each. If you haven't studied probability in school, you might think that you have a 1-in-22 chance of hitting the jackpot. But actually, your odds of hitting the jackpot are only 1-in-64. Also, the first and second reels are more likely to hit the jackpot symbols than the third reel, mainly to add thrill and suspense to slot playing. Casinos don't advertise these facts so as not to discourage paying customers.

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