A slot is an opening in which something can be inserted. Examples include a door’s slot for a key, the hole in a computer motherboard where the CPU is located, and an airport’s air traffic management slots, which give airlines time to operate at constrained times. The term is also used as a synonym for position or spot. In sports, a slot receiver is a smaller wide receiver who runs routes shorter than those of boundary receivers.
Slot machines have evolved a lot over the years, but the basics remain the same. You pull a handle to spin a series of reels that have pictures on them, and winning or losing is determined by which ones line up with the pay line — a central line in the center of the machine’s view window.
Conventional mechanical machines eventually gave way to electrical versions that work on similar principles, but they still need a system to read whether the machine has won or lost. That system uses a computer to send short digital pulses of electricity to the machine’s motors, which then move by set increments, or steps.
The computer also controls how often the machine pays out, which is sometimes referred to as its looseness or tightness. The computer can also adjust the odds of certain symbols appearing on the pay line by weighing them disproportionately against other symbols, or how frequently they appear on the physical reel. You can find information on a slot machine’s payout rules, symbols, and bonus features in its pay table. Usually, the pay table is presented in an easy-to-understand format that fits the theme of the game.