What is a Slot?

A slit or other narrow opening, used to receive something, such as a coin or letter. Also: a position or assignment: The slot for chief copy editor at the Gazette is open.

A slot is also the name of a specific symbol within a slot machine, and can appear anywhere on the reels to trigger bonus games and other special features. The symbol’s appearance is determined by the slot game’s overall theme. Modern slot machines are often based on television shows, poker, craps and horse racing, among other things, so there are many variations of the classic game to choose from.

The first slots were invented in the 19th century by a New York company called Sittman and Pitt, which had five drums that could each hold 50 playing cards. Winning was achieved by lining up poker hands. Charles Fey improved upon the original invention, and in 1887 his three-reel Liberty Bell machine became a smash hit. The machine allowed automatic payouts, and instead of poker symbols it featured diamonds, spades, horseshoes, hearts and liberty bells – three aligned liberty bells being the highest win. The popularity of the machine led to the development of other types of slot games, and today there are more than 500 different variations available. The pay table is an important tool in understanding a slot game, as it displays how the regular paying symbols and their combinations have to land on the reels to trigger certain bonus features.