• An algorithm is a procedure for solving a certain problem or performing some sort of computation – including slots.

  • Each spin of a slot is dependent on an algorithm.

  • Computer software now operate modern slots – not mechanical reels and inner workings.

  • All slot machine results are completely random thanks to the random number generator (RNG).

  • Algorithms assign a number to each symbol on the reels to determine spin results.

Most slot machine players simply take a seat at a game, insert some cash, and give those reels a spin. But there is much more to the results of those spins that involve plenty of advanced computer technology. Modern slots feature advanced software utilizing algorithms to determine random outcomes including losing spins, marginal wins, and even gigantic jackpots on occasion.

These software systems use a Random Number Generator (RNG), essentially a computer tool that picks numbers randomly, making sure every spin is unpredictable. Because of the RNG, slot machines provide lots of fun ways to win, keeping the game fair and exciting.

Keep reading to learn all about slot machine algorithms and their importance to the gaming experience.

Algorithms explained

Technology and computer software have made much of what we do simpler. From using cell phones to Internet searches to driving a car, high-tech wizardry makes most people’s lives better. Algorithms can play a huge part in this new technological frontier.

But what actually is an algorithm? Simply put, an algorithm is a procedure for solving a certain problem or performing some sort of computation. Programmers use algorithms that offer a list of instructions for very specific actions. These can include actions on both hardware and software.

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“Algorithms are widely used throughout all areas of IT (information technology),” notes. “In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm usually refers to a small procedure that solves a recurrent problem. Algorithms are also used as specifications for performing data processing and play a major role in automated systems.”

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Many of the daily routines that most people take for granted involve the use of algorithms to some extent. This can range from simple tasks like sorting numbers or more broad actions like making recommendations for users on an Internet site or streaming platform.

If you’ve ever seen a recommendation on Netflix for a show or movie that might interest you, then you’ve seen an algorithm in action. There are numerous types of algorithms and just a few of those include:

  1. Search engine algorithms – These make use of data and keywords in searches for web pages and other relevant results.

  2. Encryption algorithm – These computations are used to protect sensitive data by encrypting and decrypting data. “As long as the algorithm is sufficiently sophisticated, no one lacking the key can decrypt the data,” TechTarget notes.

  3. Dynamic programming algorithms – This helps solve problems by dividing them into smaller problems. This method can help solve certain problems as well as store these types of issues for correcting in future instances.

These are just a few of the algorithms that IT experts can make use of in varying capacities. These systems can also “learn” how to solve future problems based on the algorithms within a machine’s coding. Algorithms have become key aspects of modern computing and technology – and that certainly goes for the world of slot machines.

slot machine
slot machine

What is the role of algorithms in a slot machine?

Whether playing in a live casino or online, slot players should know that the result of each spin of the reels is heavily reliant on the algorithm within the slot machine and its software.

Slots use a random number generator (RNG) to determine the outcome of a round on a slot as soon as a player hits the “spin” button. Purely mechanical actions, as seen in traditional mechanical slot machines, are no longer required to spin the reels of a slot, and the technology within the game determines the result of the spin instead.

The RNG is an algorithm generated by the computer within the actual slot machine or at a central location when it comes to an online slot. The slot algorithm generates a sequence of numbers, each of which corresponds to a symbol on the reels.

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“The software sets up the algorithm with a seed value,” notes. “This is only natural because for something to execute repeatedly, there has to be a beginning: that is the seed value. The seed value is derived from any of a number of repetitive actions or operations in the computer. It could process that are running, the specific pattern to a mouse click, a specific set of keystrokes, or even the computer’s clock.”

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These procedures make it impossible to predict a certain result or “time” for a spin of the reels at a certain time that the machine will pay out. A winning spin can come at any time – in complete randomness.

Online slots: the digital algorithm behind every spin

Switching from the physical world of brick-and-mortar casinos to the virtual realm of online slots brings about new dynamics, but the foundational principle remains consistent. While online slots don't have mechanical reels to spin, they rely on a similar algorithm powered by RNG, ensuring that every click to "spin" results in a fair and unpredictable outcome. Online casino operators prioritize this integrity to retain player trust in the digital sphere. Just as in physical casinos, attempting to decode or predict the online slots algorithm is a tall order. The digital nature might be different, but the thrill of randomness is ever-present.

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How do slot machine algorithms determine slot machine wins and losses?

As noted above, the algorithm predetermines the result of every spin of the reels. So how does the casino algorithm itself match up to the symbols on a slot reel that represents the predetermined outcome reflecting the algorithm and RNG?

A number is assigned to each symbol on the reels and when the reels are spun, the RNG algorithm begins running through these unique numbers at a rapid pace – to the tune of hundreds of numbers per second. The overall process is instantaneous.

These numbers determine which symbols will be displayed on the front of the slot machine and where on those paylines. Remember, the reels’ ultimate positioning isn’t based on the mechanics of the game itself but on the algorithm RNG itself.

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“The arrangement of the symbols on the reels, determined by the numbers they are represented by, determine whether you won, and by how much,” notes. “That is how random the whole exercise is. There is another factor to consider: each symbol is weighted uniquely. This means in a game with 24 symbols per reel the chances of a symbol landing on a particular reel are effectively 1 in 24 and completely random.”

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What are the benefits of a slot using RNG algorithms? Here’s a look at a few:

  • Completely random results

  • More slot gaming options

  • A more intuitive machine

  • Speedy results

  • More dynamic slot games

Slot machine algorithm: Can you hack it?

Whenever slot machines are discussed, a lingering question emerges: Can their algorithms be hacked? The straightforward answer is no. Today's slot machines are fortified with top-notch software systems that, bolstered by layers of encryption and security protocols, ensure tampering or predicting outcomes is an almost insurmountable task. Casinos invest heavily in the integrity and security of their machines, not only to maintain player trust but also to protect their operations. So, even if tales of circumventing the system circulate in whispers, successfully hacking into these machines remains a feat that's more of legend than reality.

Slot machine algorithm apps: Do they really work?

Following this, there's the burgeoning world of slot machine algorithm apps. These digital tools, available at the tap of a screen, claim to offer insights or even predictions into the slot machine's next result. However, as tempting as these apps might sound, players should tread with caution. Established and licensed casinos use intricate software and rigorous RNG systems that undergo regular audits. External apps claiming to influence or predict these outcomes are not just dubious but could flirt with illegality. Remember, the magic of slot machines lies in their unpredictability, and it's always best to play with that in mind.

Is it still possible to win on a slot machine?

As with most casino games, slot machines hold a house edge when it comes to slot gaming. This goes for real-money online slot gameplay as well. No matter how much you play or feel that it's going to be a lucky night, the casino always has an edge on all players.

winning at slot machine
winning at slot machine

However, just as in a game of blackjack or craps, players can have a nice night and record smaller wins all the way up to some major jackpots. Casinos give a certain amount of all the coin-in to their machines back out to players, and this entire amount paid back out is known as payout percentage.

Some casinos pay out as much as 97% and any amount in the 90% range or higher offers a player a better chance of winning. There are many online sources that offer this type of information. Some payout percentages are also available based on states, locations, and other jurisdictions.

These percentages are also often available on individual machines, with many manufacturers offering this information right on their own websites. Players making use of this type of information give themselves a better chance of winning when heading to the casinos.

However, it’s important to realize that slots are a form of entertainment, and expecting to win in every session isn’t reasonable. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose and have a good time. Hopefully, a few wins come your way in the process.

5 – Frequently asked questions

What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is a procedure for solving a certain problem or performing some sort of computation. Computer programmers and software developers use algorithms that offer a list of instructions for very specific actions and can be incorporated into hardware and software.

These are used in numerous everyday functions such as utilizing search engines, online shopping, streaming media, and much more.

How is an algorithm used as part of a slot machine?

Algorithms are a critical part of a slot machine’s function (as well as online slots). They help determine random results on the machine, which then is represented by symbols on the reels. Each symbol is given a certain number and the algorithm runs hundreds of numbers per second to help reach a completely random result. The use of algorithms has been a major addition to the technological advances in the slot machine industry over the last two decades.

What is an RNG in a slot machine?

RNG stands for “random number generator” and is used to ensure a completely random spin on a slot machine. Players will find that there is no slot machine that is “due” to pay off. Players can’t “time it right” based on arbitrary feelings about a machine.

Some people believe that a machine that hasn’t paid off in a while is due to pay off. That thinking implies that a machine that recently paid off won’t be paying off any time soon. This type of thinking is a myth and the RNG ensures that all spins are random and every spin is independent of another, meaning a machine can pay off at any time.

Sean Chaffin
Sean Chaffin

Sean Chaffin is a longtime freelance writer, editor, and former high school journalism teacher. He has covered the poker and gaming industry for many years.