Today we’re going to take a look at Pokies in more detail and find out exactly How Slot Machines Work – and in the process we’re going to lay waste to nearly every gambling myth, every winning pokie tip and every theory/urban myth regarding winning on pokies and all the other ridiculous slot machine tips that keep being repeated again and again, circling the online gambling world like an unflushed turd in a public toilet.

Let’s ask the question ‘How DO Slot Machines Work?’ and Flush away the crap once and for all

How Slot Machines & Pokies Work

Before I start confusing you with the inner workings of pokies and start referencing weighting, stops, algorithmic near misses and other confusing stuff here’s the ‘Abridged version’ of how pokies work – complete with a diagram and everything!

how do slot machines work - inside pokies

Getting Familiar With ‘RNG’ – Our Computer Algorithm Friend

The Random Number Generator is the algorithm or program within the slot machine that determines where the reels will stop each time.

  • The Random Number Generator works independently of any progressive or linked jackpots and is unaware of the overall odds of each ‘stop position’
  • All the Random Number Generator does is wait until someone presses the button or pull the handle – at which point the computer algorithm runs and generates the requisite amount of numbers (3 or 5 depending on how many reels you are playing) and determines where this is on the ‘reel’.
  • This happens in a microsecond and the results are fed to the machine which stops the reel at the corresponding spots. The Slot machine then pays whatever is displayed on the resulting lines.
  • The RNG is set at the factory where the Pokies and Slot Machines are manufactured and cannot be tampered with in any way by anyone other than the original manufacturer.
  • Any attempts to play with the algorithm inside a pokie will deem it useless – Jailbreak your phone, not your slot machine

The Random Number Generator in action - How Pokies Work

The Random Number Generator in action – How Pokies Work[/caption]

In terms of odds, keep in mind that although the RNG works independently of it, the fact that the odds are predetermined based on number of reels, stops and symbols in proportion to the pay lines means that even the RNG cannot influence it. All The Random Number Generator is told is what the RTP or Return To Player rate is – because as long as it pays out at the same rate it is doing it’s job

But What’s the Return To Player Rate?!….. I’m glad you asked actually…

 How Slot Machines Work – Understanding the Return-To-Player Rate

One final term you should understand is ‘Return To Player’ Rate or RTP. This is the legal requirement and return rate at which slot machines must “pay back” or return to the player over an infinite number of spins. For example, if a machine is programmed to have a 87% RTP Rate, then the average should come close to winning $87 out of every $100 put into the machine. Casinos distinguish between the theoretical payback percentage and the actual return on the machine, but the fact remains that slot machines are one of the most profitable forms of gambling for online and real world casinos alike.

Return To Player Rate for Australia

The return to player (RTP)rate is determined by legislation and is different for every state and territory. Right now, the percentages look like this

  • aussie pokies return rateACT – 87%
  • NSW – 85%
  • NT – 85% for clubs, 88% for casinos
  • QLD – 85/92% for clubs/pubs, 90% for casinos
  • SA – 85% for games installed before 1/10/01, 87.5% for games installed after 1/10/01
  • TAS – 85%
  • VIC – 87%
  • WA – 90% (casino only)


Slot Machine Reels and Stops – How Slots Work

Pokies and slot machines usually come in 3 or 5 Reel formats – the reel of course being the images you see scrolling past when the button is pressed. It has multiple symbols on it, and if you line up certain combinations of symbols, you win money. The less likely it is to line up a particular set of symbols, the higher the payout on that particular combination.

For decades, these reels were literally large metal hoops, but now that slot machines and pokies are powered by computers, they’re more often just images on a video screen – although it is important to note that regardless of the format of these reels – the place where these reels ‘Stop’ is determined by a Random Number Generator – the computer side of the slot machine. But we’ll get to that shortly.

The Significance of ‘Stops’ within Slot Machines is quite high. Reels can stop on a symbol or on a blank space between those symbols. On early slot machine games, each symbol would have an equal chance of coming up, but now that computers are running the show, the odds can be convoluted. You might have a cherry on a reel that comes up on average once every 50 spins, while an orange might come up on average once every 5 spins, or any other combination you can think of – again this is all determined by weighting – and again we’ll touch on that shortly

Early slot machines might have only had 10 stops per reel, but now it’s common to have between 30 and 50 stops per reel. The more stops you have on a reel, the easier it is to offer really large jackpots. For example, if you have a game with 10 stops on each reel, with an equal chance of landing on each stop, then your chances of winning on any standard 5 Reel Slot Machine are 1/10 X 1/10 X 1/10 X 1/10 X 1/10 or 1/100.000.

The Casino could technically offer a $50,000 Jackpot on that combination and still guarantee to double their money – yet the players think this is an incredible opportunity and will happily gamble away their hard earned money for a chance at 50k in cold hard cash!

Slot Machines and Pokies Are Designed with Addiction in Mind

The final thing to keep in mind when getting your head around how pokies work and finding for yourself the answers to questions like How do slot machines work? and “What are my odds really like?’ is that these insidious machines have been designed from the ground up to get you addicted. Every beep, sound, colour, light, flash and symbol has been carefully crafted to heighten your experience and distract the player from seeing what is actually going on.

And if you don’t believe me, take one look at this brain scan showing how the human brain reacts to Cocaine addiction vs. addiction to pokies and slot machines:

how slot machines work and pokies designed to encourage addiction

Learn more about how pokies are designed to cause addiction and get some insight into how factors like speed of play, stop button placements, clustering, bonus features and near misses are all part and parcel of the design – a design thats primary focus is to encourage addiction and keep the player pumping their hard earned money through.

This and other highly relevant and interesting points were brought up by Kevin Harrigan and Mike Dixon as part of their study on PAR Sheets, Probabilities and Slot Machines – Understanding the pyschology of addiction. Read more about this study and what impact (if any) these findings had on slot machine usage and licensing in America (where the report was based) by following –> THIS LINK HERE

gambling addiction - so long as you keep your head

Further Reading and Resources:

  • Learn more about how slots work and specifically what the Return To Player and Payout rates are for slot machines and other casino games at www Free Slots  – How Slot Machines Work
  • Get a better understanding of the games involved and more importantly, the etiquette associated with playing the slots – online and in real world casinos – How To Play Slot Machines and Casino Slot Games
  • Finally – use your smarts to increase your odds and improve your gameplay on any slot machine you pick  – check out our genuinely useful Pokie and Slot Machine Tips and how to win on the pokies more often – or at least stack the odds slightly back in your favour 😉
  • Choice Not Change is New Zealand’s Gambling Support service and apart from providing a wealth of information and free confidential support, they also have an excellent resource on How Pokies Work
  • have published this pdf titled  The Pokies: Before you Press the Button, Know the Facts.