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How Slot Machines Work

Understanding RNG's and Why a Slot Machine is Random

Slot machines are one of the most popular and entertaining games in both live and online casinos around the world and many players wonder how these machines operate when played.  The basic premise of a slot machine is quite simple - the reels spin and if they land on a pre-determined payout reel, the player wins the corresponding prize.  While the actually game play from the players point of view is quite straightforward and easy to understand, the actually way that slot machines work are an entirely different matter and are really quite complex in design.  Below is an overview of how slot machines work in casinos.

Random Number Generators

Before we look at how an actual spin of the slot machine works, we first need to understand what a Random Number Generator (RNG) is and how it works.  A random number generator is basically a computer program that generates a series of numbers constantly without stopping.  The range of these numbers goes anywhere from 0 to several billion and this information is an integral part of determining the outcome of slot machines.  The idea is that using a random number generator provides a tool whereby results are completely randomized and there are no predictable outcomes from the machine.  If you could imagine a program generating billions of numbers every millisecond it’s easy to see how these piece of software can create a series of random outcomes in a game.

From Spin To Win…..or Lose

Now that we know what an RNG is, let’s take a look at how the actual play of a slot machine works.  The setup of slot machines is rather simple and is basically down by creating a the reels in the game along with an associated payout table.  The payout table determines which symbols pay out what prizes and when a winning combination lands on the payout line the player will win the prize associated with those symbols.  The payout lines on a machine are different depending on whether you are playing a 3-reel, 5-reel or video slot machine however the basic premise of winning the game is the same across the board.

Modern slot machines are entirely computerized and have come a long way from the old mechanical reel slots in the early days.  These days the entire process is run through computer chips from the moment the player spins the reels to the actual outcome of the game.  Each reel within the machine has a series of stopping points for various symbols on the reel as well as blank points with no symbols.  When the player presses the spin button or pulls the lever, the slot machine uses a series of information to decide where the reels will stop the second the player has initiated the game.

Right after the spin begins, the machine will take three separate values from the random number generator which correspond to each of the reels on the machine.  These numbers are them put through a formula which ultimately determines where the reels will land for that particular session of play.  To get a further understanding let’s take a look at an example of how this would work in a typical slot game.

Play beings once the player has inserted their bets into the machine and pressed the spin button.  Next three values are taken from the RNG say for example 115, 732 and 632.  Each of these numbers corresponds to one reel on the machine from the first reel to the third reel and each will be used to determine the outcome of that particular reel.

Next the computer will divide the RNG generated values by multiplied values of 32 up to 512 for each number selected.  The resulting value will be some fraction of the value with a remainder which doesn’t divide equally into the assigned number.  Using this information the machine will assign a stop point for each reel but since there are always less positions on the actual reels than the computerized ones, stopping points on the actual reel may be assigned to more than one number.  By using this method of determining slot machine results, operators ensure that slot machines will be completely random to the player and can be set to give mathematically precise payouts and profits over time.

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