Types of Slot Machines: A Practical Guide

Slot machines have been the staple of many casinos and gambling establishments for more than a century. Over that time, they have provided a huge chunk of revenue for their owners, sometimes reaching 70% of the entire casino’s income. Over time, various types of slots have been developed and each had a loyal following. From simple poker machines and Liberty Bells of the 19th century to modern online slots, they have always attracted players from all over the world.

The History


The first slot machine was designed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, a Brooklyn-based company. It contained five reels with 10 symbols each. The symbols were based on poker cards, as well as the winning hands. For a nickel, players would play a spin, hoping for a winning poker combination. Since the machines didn’t have a direct payment mechanism, the prizes were given out by the bar owners, where most of the machines were located. For a simple pair, you could get a free beer. A royal flush would get you dinner and drinks. Each establishment offered prizes based on what they could offer. The popularity of these first slots was so great that there was hardly a bar in New York that didn’t operate at least one of them.

The number of combinations was so big that it was almost impossible to devise a machine that could handle direct payments. Realizing the problem, Charles Fey of San Francisco came up with a much simpler design in 1895. Fey’s machine had only three reels, each with five symbols. Many modern manufacturers still use these slot machine symbols, although fruit symbols are also widely popular. They were horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts, and a Liberty Bell, for which the machines were named. The ease of use created massive popularity and even after they were banned in California a few years later, Fey had trouble meeting the demand.

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Traditional Slot Machines

For a long time, traditional slots based on Fey’s design were the only type available to the players. It is hard to imagine any famous Las Vegas casino without rows of them lining its halls. Even the Las Vegas Airport, the McCarran International, has hundreds of slots installed in their passenger areas. While the design of mechanical slots evolved over time, the basic principle remained the same. In the 1960s, the first electromechanical slots appeared. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that the first major change was introduced. The development of electronics has allowed the designers to create the first video slot, called Fortune Coin. It featured a 19-inch Sony display, originally used on a TV model. As soon as it was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission, hundreds of them were made for casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

Online Slot Machines

The One-hand Bandit, as traditional slot machines came to be known, due to their distinctive lever, dominated the market for decades. Then came the age of the Internet. Online slot machines were made possible by the development of original video slots. It was only a matter of time before the developers saw the potential computers offered and started integrating them into video slots. From there, it was only one step to abolish machines altogether and host them online. In 1996 the first online casino was opened, called Intercasino. Among other games, it featured several online slots that prove to be as popular as their physical cousins. The differences between online and traditional slot machines weren’t that drastic, allowing players to easily transition from one type to another. Those first slots were a far cry from the modern ones we have today, but still, players flock to them. Over time, various types of online slots were developed.

Progressive Slots

The main difference between progressive and traditional slots is the jackpot. Traditional slots have a fixed amount they will pay out to the lucky winner. Progressive ones, on the other hand, have a changing jackpot which increases with every spin. Each time a bet is placed, a percentage of it goes to the jackpot fund. The percentage varies from one slot to another, with some setting aside as much as 15% for the jackpot. This way, it is possible to reach truly astounding figures, provided nobody has won it for a long time. Progressive slots come in three flavors. Standalone variety only calculates its own bets for the jackpot and provides the smallest winnings. The second type is in-house slots, meaning all slots in one casino are linked together. Finally, there are wide-area slots, which create a huge network of slots all contribute to a single, massive jackpot.

Multiplier Online Slots

Multiplier slots got their name from their ability to multiply your winnings. Depending on the machine, that multiplier can be x2, x3, or even x100. After you have got a winning combination, you will be offered a chance to increase it in a bonus round. Sometimes the prizes are small, like free spins, but they can also be quite valuable. The possibility to double or triple your initial winning is a temptation not many players can resist, but keep in mind that you can also lose the bonus round and your prize with it.

Video Slots

As we mentioned, the original video slots appeared in the 1970s. since then, they have evolved tremendously, keeping in step with the development of their core technology, the graphic display. Today, modern video slots have graphics that rival those of the most demanding video games, offering their players a rich experience.