Slot machines are easily the most popular form of gaming today. Today, slot machines are big in casinos, both online as well as brick and mortar ones. They rake in almost 60% of the profits a casino generates. However, this was not the case when slot machines first came into the picture. Casinos first introduced slot machines to provide gamers with a diversion from the regular gambling games.
The first slot machines were built in the late 1880s and were basic models. Charles Fey of San Francisco built the first machine with three reels in 1887. There were a total of five symbols on the reels and the machine was a great success with Fey working hard to keep the economic equation of demand and supply well balanced.
So what draws a casino visitor to slot machines? The first attraction a slot machine provides is ease of play. The second attraction is the short time span for each game; each game takes a very short time to complete. The third attraction is that players do not require special skills or knowledge of gambling, just the ability to make a bet, a small one at that.
While the early slot machines used a mechanical design, the machines of today are based on computer chips. However, whatever the base, the elementary rules of the game have not changed; only the technology has. Technological advances have contributed to the growing popularity of the game. From the early days till today, the primary objective of playing the slots has been to win money from the machine.
To play the game the player inserts coins into the slot and activates the machine by pulling on a lever/button, in the case of the earlier machines. In the case of the latest machines, the player presses a symbol on the touchscreen. The lever or the symbol sets the reels in motion. The lineup of the images painted on the reels, and on the screens in case of the modern machines, decides the outcome.
The machine gives the illusion of skill being required; actually it is simply a game of chance. If the images in the pay line match, the player wins. If they do not match, the player loses. Sometimes, a player may win on the basis of single images; however, that depends on the pay-table being used. While the general principle behind a slot game remains the same there are several variations to the game.
Video poker is one variation of slot machines that is extremely popular today. It is based on poker where the objective is to have a set of symbols appear on screen that correspond to a winning poker hand. Played on a video console, this game has become very popular with gamers worldwide.
In video poker, a player starts the game by inserting coins into the machine and hitting the Deal button. This allows him to draw cards. The player can either retain these cards or discard them and draw new cards from the virtual deck. At this point the machine evaluates the hand and the player gets a payout based on the pay table.
Another variation of slot machines is the progressive slot machine. A progressive slot is essentially a set of machines linked to each other over a network. The jackpot continues to grow as more people join the game across interconnected computers and the person who hits the winning combination hits the jackpot. The jackpot in these machines is usually big, as a percentage of the money that is played on each machine goes into it.
In progressive slots, while the jackpot is large, the payout percentage is usually lower than in other slot machines because of the added cost of operating machines in multiple locations.
There are other variations where the player can play either the machine or the other players. There are also slot games that offer bonuses for certain combinations or allow players to qualify for larger stakes when they win. Widespread access to the Internet also means an increase in the number of PC-based slot machine games that allow players to play from the comforts of home, without coming to a casino or a gaming parlor.
The slot machine has come a long way from its humble beginnings and continues to grow in many ways while being a source of genuine fun.