A person playing a slot machine purchases the right to play by inserting coins, cash, or in newer Ticket-In, Ticket-Out machines, a bar-coded paper ticket, into a designated slot on the machine. The machine is then activated by means of a lever or button, or on newer machines, by pressing a touchscreen on its face. The game itself may or may not involve skill on the player's part — or it may create the illusion of involving skill while only being a game of chance.
The object of the game is to win money from the machine. The game usually involves matching symbols, either on mechanical reels that spin and stop to reveal one or several symbols, or on a video screen. The symbols are usually brightly colored and easily recognizable, such as images of fruits, and simple shapes such as bells, diamonds, or hearts.
Most games have a variety of winning combinations of symbols, often posted on the face of the machine. If a player matches a combination according to the rules of the game, the slot machine pays the player cash or some other sort of value, such as extra games.
There are many different kinds of gambling slot machines in places such as Reno and Lake Tahoe. Some of the most popular are the video poker machines, in which players hope to obtain a set of symbols corresponding to a winning poker hand. Depending on the machine, players can play one, 100, or more hands at one time.
Becoming more popular now are the multi-line slots. These slots have more than one payline. Reel slots commonly have three or five paylines, while video slots have 9, 15, 25, or even 100 different paylines. Video slots are themed slots, with graphics and music based on popular entertainers or TV programs (The Addams Family, I Dream of Jeannie, etc.) with a bonus round. Most accept variable amounts of credit to play with 1 to 5 credits per line being typical. The higher the amount bet, the higher the payout will be. There are also standard 3 - 5 reel slot machines, of various types. These are the typical "one-armed bandits".
One of the main differences between video slots and reel slots is in the way payouts are calculated. With reel slots, the only way to win the maximum jackpot is to play the maximum number of coins (usually 3, sometimes 4, or even 5 coins per spin). With video slots, the fixed payout values are multiplied by the number of coins per line that is being bet. In other words: on a reel slot, it is to the player's advantage to play with the maximum number of coins available. On video slots, it is recommended to play as many individual lines as possible, but there is no benefit to the player in betting more than one credit per line with regards to calculating the payout amounts. There are some isolated cases where a video slot machine requires the maximum number of credits per spin to be inserted to win the largest payout, but those are the exception.
As an example, on the "Wheel of Fortune" reel slot, the player must play 3 coins per spin to be eligible to trigger the bonus round and possibly win the jackpot. On the Wheel of Fortune video slot, the chances of triggering the bonus round or winning the maximum jackpot are exactly the same regardless of the number of coins bet on each line.
Larger casinos offer slot machines with denominations from $.01 (penny slots) all the way up to $100.00 or more per credit. Large denomination slot machines are usually cordoned off from the rest of the casino into a "High Limit" area, often with a separate team of hosts to cater to the needs of the high-rollers who play there.
Slot machines common in casinos at this time are more complicated. Most allow players to accept their winnings as credits, which may be "spent" on additional spins.
Each machine has a table that lists the number of credits the player will receive if the symbols listed on the pay table line up on the pay line of the machine. Some symbols are wild and will pay if they are visible in any position, even if they are not on the pay line. Especially on older machines, the pay table is listed on the face of the machine, usually above and below the area containing the wheels. Most video machines display the pay table when the player presses a "pay table" button or touches "pay table" on the screen; some have the pay table listed on the cabinet as well.