Are Slot Machines Random?

When you start gambling, you may go in with high hopes and an unshakeable belief that you’re destined to become a lucky winner.

Are Slot Machines Random?

While it’s undoubtedly true that many people DO win big on the slot machines, these wins seem to be pretty few and far between.

This leads us to one important question – are slot machines random, or are they programmed to offer a certain amount of wins? 

Unfortunately, slot machines aren’t as random as you might think (see also “Are Keno Machines Random?“). We’re here to explain the ins and outs of slot machines, including how they’re programmed to work, and why you might stand a better chance of winning the big bucks elsewhere. 

What Are Slot Machines? 

Slot machines, sometimes called fruit or poker machines, are a type of gambling machine that gives its customers the chance to play games and win money.

Slot machines usually work via coins or tokens, which are placed into the machine, and give each player a certain amount of spins or ‘goes’ to try and win big. Slot machines can be found in casinos, bars, and other recreational centers. 

How Do Slot Machines Work? 

Slot machines work via an intricate series of levers and gears. You don’t need any gambling knowledge to use them, and they can be operated with incredibly small bets, making them one of the most popular (and accessible) gambling methods in the world.

In the United States alone, slot machines rack up more than 60% of the industry’s profits per year. 

Many classic slot machines (those that work with levers and gears), still exist today.

When you place your coin in the machine and pull the handle, an intricate series of mechanisms gets to work on the inside, and the three reels on the interface start spinning.

Each reel will eventually stop moving, one at a time, and if you win a matching set, you’ll receive a payout. 

As technology progressed, many of these classic slot machines were replaced with computer-generated alternatives that worked on a similar basis.

These electric slot machines have reels spun by motors, but the game still works in the same way. Electrical slot machines also have far more sophisticated payout systems (see also “Best Payout Slots“), and many of them feature flashy lights and enticing sound displays. 

Are Slot Machines Random? 

Unfortunately, slot machines aren’t exactly random (see also “Best Slot Machine Strategy“). (Depending on how you use the word). 

As technology has evolved, most slot machines are now electronically powered and computer generated. Each slot machine is designed and coded by humans to run according to algorithms – these algorithms make each game run ‘as it should’, but because each machine is coded, you could argue that it’s not exactly random.

Are Slot Machines Random?

Most electronic slot machines (and online slot machines) use random number generators to decide the outcome of each spin.

When you play on the slots, you’ll either win or lose, and this is down to the outcome of the random number generator. Old slot machines didn’t use these, but newer models do, and they’re an integral part of modern slot games. 

An RNG program will list a series of possible outcomes, run through each possible one, and then stop randomly when asked to by the computer. This will then give you the outcome you see on your reels, and determine whether you’re a winner or a loser. 

Are RNG Slots Random? 

Here’s where a lot of the confusion comes from. Random number generators are, by definition, completely random. However, the way their manufacturer USE them doesn’t create random results.

Each result in an RNG isn’t random, it’s programmed. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that slot machines are rigged, meaning that although the RNG is programmed with a series of possible outcomes, whatever outcome you DO get on the reels is completely random. 

Long-Term And Short-Term Randomness 

To understand the randomness of slot machines, we also need to look at the concepts of long-term and short-term randomness in RNGs. Here’s what we mean: 

In the short term, the results you get from the RNG will look like they’re random. However, you need to remember that most slot machines are designed to offer specific results over a long period, so each program will work the way the manufacturers want it to.

So, even if your slot machine has thousands of possible numbers in its number generator, in the long term, each outcome will appear on the machine an equal number of times.

So, if your short-term results look completely random, that’s only because you haven’t used the machine for long enough – the outcome on your reel is probably already destined to show up a certain amount of times thanks to the RNG, meaning your slot machine isn’t exactly random in the long term. 

Can You Use Strategy On A Slot Machine? 

Slot machines require no gambling knowledge, and you usually won’t be able to use any form of strategy on them. Although every outcome in the RNG is programmed, the reels in your machine run so fast that it’s impossible to predict what will come up.

Honestly, there is no real way to BEAT a slot machine. There’s no method to the madness, and whether or not you get a winning combo comes solely down to luck, and luck alone. 

The Bottom Line 

Slot machines are one of the most loved gambling machines in the world. Instantly recognizable the whole world over, you’ll find people of all ages and gambling abilities trying their luck on the slots. 

Unfortunately, slot machines aren’t as random as you might think. Because most modern slot machines run on a programmed RNG (see also “How Are Slot Machines Programmed?“), every possible outcome is already predetermined in the machine – not exactly random.

However, there’s no evidence to suggest that slot machines are rigged with an RNG, and whatever result you end up with is still the result of a random process.

Richie Thames
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