What is a Slot?

Slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening, as a keyway in machinery or a slit for coins in a machine. Also: a position in a series, sequence, or succession; a place in a group, class, or set; an allotted or assigned space. (From Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.)

In the old days, slot machines were all-or-nothing affairs: you yanked the lever and either all the cherries or lucky 7s lined up to give you some money, or they didn’t. But then better computer technology allowed casinos to fine-tune odds and percentage paybacks, and the machines began to grow in popularity.

Some players swear they can tell when a winning combination is about to appear and hit the spin button at just the right moment. This is a dangerous game, however, as a second push on the spin button usually results in an empty spin.

Other players believe they can predict when a machine is about to hit a jackpot by looking at the amount of coins it’s currently holding. This approach, called “counting down,” is a form of gambling addiction. While the practice may help some people stay in control of their gambling, it’s important to remember that even successful gamblers can become addicted. And while a ban on video games is unlikely, it’s worth exploring ways to mitigate the worst addictive effects. The most effective prevention measure, Schull argues, is to make sure that slot machines are clearly labeled as games of chance.