What Is a Slot?

A narrow notch, groove or opening, as in a machine’s slot for a coin or a slit in a door. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition.

A slot is a slot machine in which you place coins or paper tickets with barcodes and then spin the reels to win credits based on the symbols that line up when the reels stop. Some machines have multiple pay lines and can be played with different denominations of currency. Unlike mechanical slots, most modern video slot machines use a random number generator to determine results.

In the old days, when people pulled a lever and won or lost, it felt like they were getting closer to a jackpot. But today, people can bet on up to 200 individual lines on a video slot machine. Each of those lines has a different probability of winning, but the machine’s software creates hundreds of numbers per second that could determine whether you’re a winner or loser.

One study cited by proponents of the near-miss effect found that when feedback for a loss approximates a win, gambling persistence increases. But a number of concerns undermine the validity of this finding. Most importantly, the putative conditional reinforcement that would be evoked by this kind of feedback does not exist in typical slot machines, where each win is 75% as likely to occur as any other trial. This fact, combined with a variety of other experimental problems, renders the near-miss effect irrelevant to the behavior of real-world slot players.