Are Slots Really Random?

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Of all the casino games in the world, slots are arguably the first you’d think of. We bet that an image of Las Vegas has just popped up in your mind, with rows and rows of slot machines. Everyone there wants to know if the slots are hot or cold, if they’re on the verge of victory, or if they have a chance of winning.

The whole reason why randomness is important when playing slots is because of the premise that absolutely anyone can be a winner! Slots are the ultimate game of chance. They are what you see in all the movies — coins practically flooding out onto the winner’s lap. And we all have that one friend who knows a guy that knows another guy who gave up playing slots, only for the person who went in after him to win the money.

You just have to be there at the right time, and the loot is yours. That’s precisely why slots work like a charm and have remained so popular after all this time

Now, believe it or not, slots are a science, and so is making sure they’re actually random. If we’re talking about physical slot machines, physical mechanisms are used to assure fair gameplay. The online slot machines use software to ensure the very same thing.

We’re going to explain how slot machines work in the following passages, and hopefully leave no stone unturned. If you’re impatient to get started, check out our list of best online slots for real money to begin playing. If you’re still a bit apprehensive, read on to understand the most popular casino offer in the world better.

So How Do Slot Machines Work?

slots-randomSlot machines games have come a long way since the one-armed bandit days of yore. They work through different mechanisms, depending on whether the slot is a real or virtual.

Land-based casinos will still have actual slot machines, while virtual casinos will boast their digital versions. Online casinos have virtual slots that employ what’s known as a Random Number Generator, and a lot of them also have progressive jackpots.

But let’s start from the beginning.

From Land-Based Bandit-With-One-Arm to Online Star

The classic slot machine used to take up half the room and was an ornate, clunky thing. It had a lever sticking out, and the player would sit on the stool and pull it. But first, one had to feed the behemoth with coins to make it spin. At first, these machines had three reels with just a handful of symbols on them, and there was traditionally only one payline — 3 identical symbols aligned.

The game was so popular it seemed as though casinos were built around it! Of course, as technology developed, the love of slots remained steadfast, and people began making video slots. Suddenly, casinos all over the world had versions of video slots and video poker, and game machines that had a screen in general. The concept was more or less the same, but the machines themselves got smaller and more elegant.

Finally, all the world went online, and so did casinos and their favorite game — slots.

Online slots use, as we’ve mentioned, a generator that, well, generates random numbers. It is a piece of software that is absolutely necessary to assure unbiased gameplay. You then click on the virtual lever and hope and pray your symbols align.

Since everything is online, it frees casinos and slot manufacturers from all the land-based restraints, like the number of reels. There can be as many virtual reels as the software company likes. It’s really more of a design issue at this point. Likewise, the number of symbols on the reels is also potentially endless, since the virtual reels don’t actually spin — it’s merely a simulation.

This has also made the proliferation of slots possible, with most online casinos boasting hundreds of virtual slot options.

Virtual slot design is more sophisticated and the options more abundant, like ways of winning, for instance. Before, only the classic three cherries in the middle meant you got some cash, but now there are multiple ways to win. Virtual slots have also gotten a fun makeover by ways of in-game bonuses like Multipliers, as well as features like Scatters and Wilds. To quickly clarify, Scatters trigger in-game bonuses no matter where they’ve (obviously) scattered on the reels. And Wilds are like a Joker in a card game, meaning they can stand in for the symbol you’re missing to make a winning combo. An example of an in-game bonus would be spins you get for free or a Multiplier that will, logically, let you multiply the amount you’ve won.

The paylines have become more intricate and inclusive, and manufacturers can pretty much pick any alignment to be a winning one. From a single payline of the original one-armed bandits to maybe five with video slots, there are 243 or more paylines in a typical online slot today.

This is all a lot of jargon, so let’s break it down a bit more.

Some Typical Slot Jargon You Ought to Know

We’ve already strewn the text with some slang phrases, but we’ll really get into the nitty-gritty of them here. They can all help you understand how slots work and what the hallmarks of randomness are so you can keep a lookout for them.

So, we need to understand what RTP, RNG, and slot volatility is.


slotss jargon

RTP is something the prospective player really needs to understand because it’s directly linked to your bankroll. The letters stand for “Return to Player,” which refers to the money you can expect to get back over time. Many often refer to it as the payback percentage.

To make it crystal clear, we’ll give you a quick example. Say you choose a slot with a payback percentage of 80%. Technically, it means you’ll get $0.80 for every $1 invested, but it’s not exactly something to count on. For one, the calculation is made on the assumption the player will be at it a really long time, so it’s an elusive long-term potential return. And secondly, you’d be naive to ever choose a slot that offers an 80% payback because that’s a rip-off.

The RTP really ought to be above 92% for any gambling enthusiast to think it fair, and many have even higher standards. Some aficionados will only play if the slot promises a 96% or even 97% RTP, so do keep that in mind.

As a side note, you might want to keep one more thing in mind. Some manufacturers can make the program liable to alteration by the casino. This means that the casino may be allowed to set its own RTP, which isn’t fixed to the game. So keep an eye on that, too.

Understanding the Random Number Generator

This piece of technology is precisely what allows the game to get the combinations of symbols to randomly pop up on the wheels. The RNG, for short, is what keeps everything running smoothly and fairly. So, if you choose to play online, make sure that the casino you’re playing at is using this program, and that all their games run based on it.

Knowing that there’s a software that keeps things random doesn’t increase your odds of winning. It does, however, assure you that you’re getting to play a fair game.

The Volatility

The rule is that if the slot is highly volatile, it pays a lot but seldom. If the volatility is low, you’re paid out often, but it’s nothing to brag home about. Playing high-volatility slots can turn into an endurance challenge, and you’ll need to stockpile your cash before you set out on that venture. The low-volatility ones offer quick rewards and fewer hours playing.

Very often, slots with progressive jackpots are highly volatile, because the point is to get the money to add up before it’s cashed out. It’s just as random as a standard, random jackpot, but those are usually linked to low-volatility games.

How to Check if a Slot is Random?

Well, unless you’re a casino inspector or the slot is severely corrupted, you can’t exactly check that for yourself as a player. What you can do is to educate yourself on the concepts of RTP, volatility, and RNG to know that you’ve picked a safe slot.

Again, remember that nothing can increase your chances of winning, because slots are the ultimate game of chance. If the slot you’re playing is at a secure venue, you’ll know the machine is inspected and/or the program is not rigged.

And remember that slots are to be played in the long run, if you want to do it properly.

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