From a San Francisco mechanic’s tinkering to the mainstay of modern casinos and online gambling, slots have gone through many phases and incarnations. They’ve been business builders on shopkeepers’ counters, dispensing sticks of chewing gum or golf balls instead of cash; they’ve been low-tech devices that were programmed to dispense certain combinations of symbols. They’ve been high-tech marvels combining animation, film clips and Surround Sound. They’ve been based on famous movies, TV shows and songs. And they’ve been used to make dreams of winning big come true.

Whether you’re playing slot machines in-person or online, understanding how they work and how your odds vary between different games will help you maximize your wins and mitigate your losses. This article will break down the myths surrounding slot machines, explain how they function and give you a glimpse into their inner workings.

One of the most important things to understand when playing slot machines is that each spin is completely random. Unlike roulette, where the house edge is a known and predictable number, slot machine payouts are determined by a combination of factors, including the game’s volatility and the amount you bet per spin.

Payout percentages for slot games vary by country and casino, but they’re often posted on the rules or information pages for each game. If they aren’t, you can usually find them by searching for the game name and “payout percentage” or “return to player.” If all else fails, you can also contact the casino directly using their live chat or customer support tools.