What Is a Slot?

A slot is a space on a motherboard into which an expansion card (or multiple cards) can be inserted. It may also refer to the opening on a computer that is used to install software, such as a graphic card or sound card. The word is also sometimes used as a noun meaning “a position in a game, particularly a gambling one.”

Charles Fey’s classic mechanical slot machine had three reels and nine symbols (card suits, horseshoes, diamonds, hearts, liberty bells, and stylized lucky sevens). He improved on Sittman and Pitt’s invention by adding a mechanism to read the payout when the handle was pulled, and by replacing poker symbols with ones that were easier to see.

Today’s slots use random number generators to select which combinations of symbols appear on each spin. These chips retain no memory, so the results of each spin cannot be predicted or influenced by the previous results. Those results, in turn, are independent of the slot’s speed, so players can’t “speed up” a machine or make it more likely to hit.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when playing slot machines is getting greedy during a winning streak or believing that a machine is “due to pay off.” Both ideas are wrong. It’s just as likely to lose your winnings if you keep playing after you’ve reached your maximum, and it’s always better to quit while you’re ahead than to gamble more than you can afford to lose.