How do slot machines work?

A random number generator is the key element in a pokie machine. The random number generator (RNG) picks random numbers which are linked to the symbols on the reels.  On three reel machines, the reels are usually independent. This means that the RNG selects three different random numbers, one for each reel. Five reel pokie machines usually operate so that the reels are dependent. This means that the machines chooses one set of five random numbers at once.

The RNG selects the numbers after the player hits the button – this means that by the time the reels are spinning, their finishing positions have been chosen – the game is over.  The reels are unnecessary and exist for two primary reasons – one to mimic the original level pull slot machines from the beginning on of the 20th century. And secondly, for entertainment –if the player just put money in and the machine informed him whether he won or lost, that would be pretty boring!

So the RNG is choosing random numbers, but this doesn’t mean you have equal chances of getting all the symbols, as you know from experience.  This is because there is a large internal computerised reel of let’s say 128 numbers. The numbers correspond to different symbols. The reel is weighted, and you have greater or smaller chances of getting certain symbols, despite the fact that those symbols may appear the same number of times on the reels that you can see. Here is a hypothetical map for how the reel might correspond to the symbols:

Selected Symbol Total no.
of symbols
1-73 Blank 73
74-78 Banana 5
79-94 Cherry 16
95-107 Silver Coin 13
108-118 Gold Coin 11
119-126 Purple star 8
127-128 Jackpot 2

As you can see, you have a much greater chance of spinning a blank than anything else (57%), and the smallest chance of getting the jackpot (only 1 in 64).Keep in mind that the chances of getting the jackpot remain the same for every spin. It does not matter if the machine has been played for months or even years without hitting the jackpot – the next time you spin, your chances remain exactly the same as the first time. No machine is ever “due” to hit the jackpot, it just doesn’t work like that. There’s another thing to keep in mind. The NRG chooses its random numbers every millisecond – even when the machine is not being played. This means that if you stop playing a machine, and someone else plays and wins the jackpot, you would not have won that jackpot if you had been playing the machine. You would have hit the play button a fraction of a second sooner or later and thus the numbers chosen would have been different.

The pokies you play online operate basically according to the same principles, just with all manual features removed. The same rules apply, including weighted reels, jackpot chances and multiple number sequences chosen every second by the RNG. This means that you cannot predict when the machine will pay out, no matter what you do.