It is called the fruit machine in England, Australians call it the poker machine and in America they are know as slot machines, and the games are usually played in a casino. They have sensors built in so that they can tell what type of currency has been inserted in order to play. Once the money has been inserted, a lever on the side of the machine is pulled and three or more reels spin. This game of chance has also been called a one-armed bandit because of its looks and also because it has the tendency to “rob” players of all their money.
In 1891, there was a machine invented for gambling that was a forerunner to the slot machine of today. It held 50 face cards and was based loosely on poker. It was very popular and soon people began to play slot machines in many bars across New York.
People would insert a coin and pull the lever, which in turn would cause the drums to spin as well as the cards that were on them, and the person playing the slot would naturally be hoping for a winning hand of poker. A pair of aces may have earned you a beer, but a royal flush might have paid out in drinks or cigars.
Because there were so many different winning combinations, it was impossible to develop an automatic pay out device for the original slot machines. They needed to reduce the complexity of reading a win so the five drums were replaced with three reels and the cards were replaced with five symbols; hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a Liberty Bell. This made it possible to design a machine with automatic pay outs.
The Liberty Bell, as this new machine was called, was a big success, with three bells producing the biggest payoff, ten nickels. It was the beginning of the mechanical gaming industry that continues to thrive today. Another slot machine game gave out fruit flavored gum as the winning gum, if it matched the reels symbols.
The ever popular melon and cherry symbols were derived from that slot machine game. The BAR symbol that is now common on the slot games was modeled after a logo that was used by the Bell-Fruit Company.
In 1964, the first slot machines that were electromechanical were introduced and went by the name of Money Honey. They were the first ones with a hopper that was bottomless and paid-out up to 500 coins automatically, without any outside help. These slots machines are pretty much the “bread and butter” for the casinos, as it is still a wildly popular game.
By Mike Selvon
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