How Does a Slot Work?

A slot is a position on the reels where a symbol can land. The number of symbols on a slot’s paylines determines if and how much the player wins. The number of symbols is typically limited, but many slots also feature wilds that can substitute for other symbols to create winning combinations. Most online slot games have a pay table that explains how much you can win when you match certain symbols on a pay line. Pay tables can be displayed as small tables or in a pop-up window that’s easy to read.

Most newer slot machines look and work like old mechanical ones, but they’re actually run by a computer. When you press spin, a microprocessor records a sequence of numbers and then uses a mathematical algorithm to decide whether you’ll win or lose. The computer also tells the digital reels how many times to stop, which symbols to display and what payout amounts to award if you win.

In the old days, a machine’s reels were fixed, so a single symbol could only appear once per rotation. In modern machines, each symbol occupies a different space on multiple reels at the same time. The computer’s software assigns different probabilities to each location on a reel, so a single symbol may appear more often than another one. This is why you see so many variations in slot payouts, from the outer-space cluster payoffs in NetEnt’s Starburst to mystery chases through the Crime Zone in Betsoft’s Cash Noire.