When you play a slot, you’re wagering credits based on the symbols and payouts displayed on the game’s pay table. The original pay tables appeared directly on the machines, but now that games are more complex and feature giant HD computer monitors, they are generally embedded in their help screens.
Most slots have multiple reels and rows of symbols that can be seen at any time during a spin. These symbols can be anything from fruits and bells to stylized lucky sevens. In addition, many slot games have special symbols that can award a payout without appearing on a pay line or adjacent to other symbols. These symbols are called scatters and they can also trigger bonus features.
Slots work by using random-number generator software to create combinations of numbers each millisecond. When a machine receives a signal — anything from the button being pressed to the handle being pulled — the RNG sets a combination of numbers and the reels stop on that configuration.
This is how you win or lose. However, the randomness of each spin means that if you’re playing for real money, you could win several times in a row or never hit the jackpot at all. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy and stick to it. For example, you should always set a budget before you start playing and decide how much you’re willing to spend. It’s also a good idea to set a stop-loss point that signals to you that it’s time to quit, whether you’re ahead or behind.