A History of Slot Machines

Slot machines are informally known as One Armed Bandits to many people. I do not know who originally coined the phrase but it is appropriate since pulling the lever (arm) on these machines can and do rob a person penniless. Even so, they are the most popular form of gambling in casinos and they make up about 70% of a casino's income, according to most of the articles that I have read.

The slot machine industry started on the West Coast and according to a book written by Avery Cardoza, a best-selling author of gambling books and strategy guides, the person credited for inventing the first slot machine to payoff in cash was Charles Fey in San Francisco in 1887. I think it is interesting to note that before Fey's machines, pay outs were made in the form of cigars, free drinks, gum or candy. Slot machines that dispensed gum as a payout displayed symbols representative of various flavors of gum; lemon, orange, cherry and plum for example. Today's slot machines still use these fruit symbols and the original picture of a stick of gum on the reel has evolved into the familiar "bar" symbol that we see on machines today. It is said that the lemon symbols on slot machines is actually how people started to refer to a junk car as being a "lemon"!

While some of the original symbols and components of slot machines can still be seen on the machines of today, they have come a long way from Fey's days. The slots of today have flashing lights, music, ringing bells, promises of possible enormous payouts and other attention-getting gadgets to entice you. They now have buttons (in addition to the handle) for a more rapid way to play. I still prefer using the slower old fashioned method of pulling the handle. It makes me feel like I held onto my money for a second or two longer even though I know it makes no difference if you pull the handle or push the button, your chances of winning or losing remain the same either way. No matter how you play the slots and no matter what expert's strategy you think might improve your chances, the odds are still going to be against you in the end. And the longer you stay at a casino, dropping your money or giving back the poultry winnings that the casino gave you, the larger the probability of losing becomes. I think this is why you will not see a clock in a casino. They don't want you to realize how long you have been there trying to beat the odds.

Even knowing that the odds are in the casino's favor, I still enjoy playing the slots tremendously and I will continue to go as long as I can still keep it in the perspective that I have always had,and that's viewing it as a form of fun and entertainment only. If I ever spend more than I can afford to or start getting anxiety attacks over losing, I will STOP – and you can make bet on that!