Currently, Online Slots are the most popular casino games. The basic rules have not changed since 1899, when Charles Fay created the first one. The player places their bet and spins a set of reels with symbols. Each reel stops at a random position. If when standing they form a line of the same symbol, the player wins. The value of the win varies depending on the winning symbol. There is a pay table to determine the amount of each winning combination.

Today, the randomness of mechanical reels has been replaced by random computer generated numbers; however, the principle remains the same. This principle of randomness is respected by all licensed game providers. The randomness of slots has very interesting consequences that every smart player should be aware of.

"The principle of randomness is respected by all licensed game providers."

How slots work

Most online slots still use reels to represent the outcome of each spin. Even though the reels are computer generated, the math of the game still offers 3-5 sets of symbols (virtual reels) that stop at random positions. Why change something that has been working well for years?

Modern online slots offer a host of new features that mechanical reels could not, such as wild expansions, scatters, free spins, bonus rounds and more.

Random number generator (RNG)

There is one thing that all fair slots have in common: the outcome of each round is based solely on a random number provided by a Random Number Generator (RNG). The random number generated by the RNG "commands" the reels where to stop and thus decides the outcome of the spin. This means that the same play with the same random number must always give the same result.

How do casinos make money?

You might be wondering: If slots aren't rigged, how do casinos win?

The answer is simple: Slots are designed in such a way that, in the long run, they pay out less than players bet.

Imagine this simple game: you give me $1 and I let you flip a coin. If heads, I pay you $1.50. If tails come up, you lose. Obviously, I have everything to win. If you play just a few rounds and are lucky, you could come out on top, but in the long run I clearly have the advantage. The randomness of the game is fair, but the long-term winning odds are not.

Slots are similar, but their system is much more complicated. The mathematics of a slot machine is defined as follows:

  • symbol sets on virtual reels
  • pay table with winning amounts
  • rules and odds for all bonus features
  • settings of all bonus features

The combination of game math and fair random numbers gives the casino a long-term advantage over players. And this is how casinos make money.

"The combination of the math of the game and fair random numbers gives the casino a long-term advantage over players."

Myths about slot machines

Now that I have explained how fair slots work, it is time to talk about some myths related to slots.

Myth 1: "Slots have cycles of winning combinations. You can win by watching those cycles and playing during the winning part of the cycle."
This is nothing more than a myth, as slots are actually based on random numbers. The advantage of the casino lies in the mathematics of the game, so there is no need to complicate the whole system with cycles.

In reality, what one observes are good and bad streaks. However, streaks are not predictable, but rather the result of natural randomness.

Myth 2: "Slots are programmed to offer no payout after a big win and to pay out more when loaded with money."
This myth probably comes from the days of independent slot machines, which paid out prizes at the time. But both then and now, it is nothing more than a myth. Before, if you won more money than the machine could pay out, the casino staff would take care of paying you the rest of the prize.

Modern slots are connected to a central server and all prizes are paid out by casino staff, so the machine does not need to store a predetermined amount of money. Random numbers work fine and the myth is invalid.

Myths 3 and 4: "Autoplay features pay less than pressing the spin button manually" and "Operating a slot arm offers a better chance of winning than pressing the spin button."
None of these myths make sense to those of us who know how online slots work. The math of the game is the same and the random numbers remain fair whether you're autoplaying, hitting the spin button or swinging your arm.

How slot machines are programmed

This is my favorite part as I have developed software solutions for game providers myself in the past. :)

Running a Mobile casino and creating good games requires different skills. Also, players like to always play the same games. These are probably the reasons why companies specializing in casino games were created. And it's also the reason that Starburst can be played in so many casinos. NetEnt (the creators of Starburst) is an independent company.

This is how it works in a nutshell:

  1. The casino starts your game session.Your browser communicates with the servers of the game provider (and not with the casino).
  2. The random number and the result of the round are also generated by an independent company (the game provider).
  3. The casino only confirms bets and is informed of any winnings by the game provider.
  4. This has a very important implication: if you lose a lot of money playing a game from a reputable provider, it's just bad luck. Even if you play your favorite game at an unknown casino, you can be sure that the game is fair (although not that you will collect your money - check out our casino reviews to find reputable casinos that pay out prizes, even if they are big). I myself have had gaming sessions with a player gain below 50%.

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