There are a lot of different slot machines out there. Each one has a unique theme and set of rules. But the core gameplay is the same: you pull a handle to rotate a series of reels (typically three) that have pictures printed on them. The winning combinations of these symbols determine how much money you earn. You can also win extra by landing certain special symbols. These are usually displayed on the pay table, which is listed above or below the reels in older mechanical games and inside help menus in video slots.
But what really determines whether or not you win or lose is a series of random numbers generated in the exact moment that you activate each spin. This is completely independent of any previous or future spins, and it makes each play a new, separate event. This is why it’s impossible to know in advance if you will hit the jackpot or lose everything.
The word slot has its roots in probability theory, which is the study of how things happen. For example, if you roll a six-sided die, there is an equal chance that it will land on any side. And if you play enough slots, it is equally likely that you’ll hit the top jackpot or nothing at all.