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An Intro to Slot Machine Gaming

All slot machines have a slot for inserting coins, a handle to pull (or button to push) to activate the machine, a visual display where you can see the reels spin and stop on each play, and a coin tray that you hope some winnings will drop into.

While most slot machines have three reels, some have as many as eight. Each reel will have some number of "stops," positions where the reel can come to rest. Reels with 20, 25, or 32 stops are the most common. On each reel at each stop or resting position is a single slot symbol, a cherry, a plum, an orange, etc. What you hope will happen when the reels stop spinning is that three of the same symbol will line up on the pay line. If this happens, you win.

In addition to three of the same symbol on a line, many machines will pay for single cherries in the far left or far right position, two cherries together side by side, or two bells or two oranges side by side with a bar on the end.

With the old slot machines things were pretty simple. There was one coin slot, one handle to pull, and a display with one pay line. Symbols either lined up on that line or they didn't. Modern machines are much more complex. Almost all modern machines accept more than one coin per play, usually three to five. No matter how many coins that machine will take, it only requires one to play.

If you put in additional coins or bet more, you will buy one of the following benefits.

1. Payoff schedules. On a certain type of machine, two, three, four, or five different payoff schedules are posted on the front of the machine above the reel display. If you study these schedules you will notice that by adding coins you can increase your profit if you win. Usually the increase is straightforward. If you put two coins, you can win twice as much as if you put one coin and so on. Some machines, however, have a jackpot that will pay off only if you have played the required number of coins. If you hit the jackpot but have not played the required number of coins, you will not win. Always read the payoff schedule for a machine before you play and make sure you understand it. If you do not, ask an attendant or find a simpler machine.

Though most casino slot machines are kept in good working order, watch to make sure a section of the payoff schedule lights up for every coin you play. If you are playing a machine with four payoff schedules, the schedules should light up, one at a time, as you put in your coins. On machines where the payoff schedules do not illuminate, there will ordinarily be a light or lights above or below the reel display that will verify that the machine has accepted your coins. If you put in a number coins without the proper lights coming on, do not play until you check things out with an attendant.

2. Multiple pay lines. When you play your first coin, you buy the usual pay line, right in the center of the display. By playing more coins, you can buy additional pay lines.

Each pay line you purchase gives you another way of winning. Instead of being limited to the center line, the machines will pay off on the top, center, or bottom lines, and five-coin machines will pay winners on diagonal lines. If you play machines with multiple pay lines, make sure that each pay line you buy is acknowledged by a light before you pull the handle.

An irritating feature of many multiple-line machines are "blanks" or "ghosts." A blank is nothing more than an empty stop on the reel, a place where you would expect a symbol to be but where there is nothing. As you have probably surmised, you cannot hit a winner by lining up blanks.