A narrow notch or groove, as in a keyway in a lock or the slot for a coin in a vending machine. Also: A position in a group, series, or sequence.

Originally, casinos set up slot machines to divert the attention of bored or tired gamblers. The machines didn’t require any gambling experience or knowledge, and the minimum bet was very low. They quickly became the most popular and profitable games in town.

Charles Fey’s 1887 invention of the first modern slot machine allowed payouts without a attendant and used three reels, making it easier to win. The new machines featured symbols like hearts, horseshoes, spades, diamonds, and liberty bells. When three of these aligned on a pay line, you won. Today, most slots use a random number generator (RNG) to select the symbols stopped on each reel. The RNG generates a sequence of numbers, and the computer then uses an internal table to match them with the locations of the symbols on each reel.

The RNG system makes it impossible to predict which combination of symbols will appear on the reels. Even though some machines may appear to have a “hot” spot, it is important to know that there is no such thing as a machine “due” to hit. Each machine is programmed to go through thousands of combinations each minute, and the odds that you would have pressed the button in exactly the right one-hundredth of a second are astronomically small.