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Slot machines, or 'slots', are electronic gambling machines that come in a huge variety of styles but typically involve the player taking an action to spin reels, and attempt to win money by achieving a certain combination of symbols in view when the reels stop.
Slots are hugely popular in U.S. casinos and account for more than half of the income made by them each year. Their appeal lies in their relative simplicity, along with the affordable nature of playing slots and the fact you can stay playing for a long time on a limited budget.
Slots are also extremely popular at online casinos, where physical slot machines are replaced with virtual ones. Each spin is generated randomly using special software and you'll find a quite staggering array of themed slot games to play at online casinos.
The odds of winning huge jackpots on slot machines are slim, but it does happen and represents one of the greatest possible returns on investment for players at both land-based and online casinos.
Here's a basic outline of how a typical slot machine works:
Slot machines are played with credits, either in the form of cash (coins or notes) or sometimes tickets. Online slots are played using credits from your online casino account.
Credits buy 'spins', which will vary in price depending on the stakes of the slot machine and how much you can win.
Spins are triggered by either pressing a physical button, pulling a lever, or touching a button on the screen. Online slots will often have a virtual representation of the button or lever.
The spin ends when the reels stop, at which point the player is hoping he or she has a desired combination of symbols showing to win a prize.
A winning combination might be three identical symbols in a row, or a particular combination as outlined by the slot machine.
A winning spin will pay out to the player, either automatically as cash, as a ticket to cash in later, or in the case of online slots, by placing funds in the player's online casino account.
There is such a wide variety of slot machines available these days it's impossible to cover every type of the market, but here are some popular examples:
Three-reel slot machines are the most popular you'll find. Machines of this type will have the criteria for winning listing on them.
Five-reel slot machines are also common.
Multi-line slot machines give players the chance to win across multiple lines when the reels stop. You might have nine symbols in view, and with multi-line machines you can not only win across the middle three symbols, but also in the rows above and below, and sometimes diagonally and vertically.
Progressive slot machines are a group of machines that are working in the same network to generate a potentially huge jackpot to one lucky winner. By pooling funds they can pay out the kind of sums that make the headlines.
Community slot machines are video slots that allow multiple players to interact during certain stages of play.
Video poker machines are also a form of slot machine. The idea with those is to achieve the best possible poker hand from the spinning reels.
Depending on the slots format you're playing, there may be actions you can take after each spin. Some symbols may trigger a 'bonus', for example, where the player gets to take certain actions in an attempt to up their chances of winning. You can also 'hold' reels on some slots machines, thus freezing certain symbols in an attempt to match them with the next spin.
Why are slots so popular?
You don't need a lot of experience, or a lot of money, to get started with slots. Complete beginner's will learn slots quickly and be enjoying the experience in no time at all. Big wins are possible and you don't have to break the bank trying to go after them. Little wonder slots are so popular all over the world.
In 2003, a man from Los Angeles won $39.7 million at a slots machine at the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas. His stake was just $100, and the odds of that jackpot were calculated to be one in 16.7 million.
How to get started with slots
If you're looking to get playing slots, online casinos are a great place to start. There's so much variety on offer it's hard to now which slots game to play first, but most importantly you need to pick the right online casino to play at. The best practice here is to reference a credible online slots portal for advice and guidance.