Understanding the mechanics of slot machines 

Slot machines have long been a staple in both physical and online casinos. Understanding the mechanics behind these games and how they’ve evolved over time can help you stay safe and make the most of gameplay.  

Whether you choose to play online Slots Virgin Bet or try your chances at a land-based casino, read on to understand the mechanics behind slot machines first.  

Photo by Ays Be on Unsplash

The earliest slot mechanics 

The first slot machine to allow automated payouts was created in 1894 by Charles Fey in San Francisco. Known as the Liberty Bell, this machine featured three reels and worked using a spring and lever mechanism. This means that as the lever was pulled, the spring would be stretched, causing the reels to spin. As the spring recoiled, a random combination of symbols would appear on the reels.  

The evolution of slot machine mechanics 

As the popularity of the games of chance grew, Fey couldn’t produce them quickly enough. Despite this, he refused to sell the manufacturing rights, leaving Herbert Mills, a Chicago-based manufacturer of arcade machines, to create his own version – the Operator Bell.  

Slot machines worked through the use of the spring and lever mechanism until 1975, when the first electronic slot machine was developed.  

Next came the evolution of video Slots, and as technology continued to evolve, the Internet started to gain traction. More households got access to a computer, and smartphones brought about a higher demand for greater bandwidth and faster internet speeds.  

With this, and the birth of online casino sites between 1994 and 1996, slot games made their way onto our screens.  

The advancements in technology enabled gaming developers to create different themes and add features like cascading reels and multipliers to their games. But without a lever and spring mechanism, electronic and video Slots are kept fair and unpredictable in another way.  

By pressing a button or with a tap on your screen, you can activate the reels to spin. Behind the scenes, a Random Number Generator (RNG) creates unpredictable combinations of numbers and symbols. With no memory, this computer software keeps the games chance-based.  

The basics of slot machines 

The games of chance have many other features and mechanics working behind the scenes. Here’s a breakdown of the main components and mechanics: 

  1. Reels and symbols: Traditional slot machines typically feature three or more reels that spin when a button is pressed. Each reel displays several symbols, and the combination of symbols that land on the payline(s) determines the outcome of the game. 
  1. Paylines: Paylines are the specific lines on which a winning combination must appear. Modern slot machines often have multiple paylines, which can form in various patterns across the reels. 
  1. Random Number Generator (RNG): The heart of every slot machine is the RNG, a computer program that generates thousands of numbers per second. Each number corresponds to a different combination of symbols on the reels. When you press the spin button, the RNG selects a number that determines the position of the reels. 
  1. Return to Player (RTP): RTP is the percentage of all wagered money that a slot machine will pay back to players over time. This doesn’t guarantee returns for any specific session but gives an idea of the machine’s long-term payout potential. 
  1. Volatility: Slot machines also have different levels of volatility. High volatility Slots offer larger but less frequent payouts, while low volatility Slots provide smaller, more regular wins. The choice between high and low volatility depends on your playing style and risk tolerance. 


Slot machines are, ultimately, games of chance. But understanding the mechanics of the inner workings can help to enhance your knowledge and help you find the right game for you. 

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