A slit or narrow opening, especially one in which something can be fitted. Originally, the phrase meant “a position in a group, series, or sequence”; it later came to refer to “a specific job or assignment.”
The earliest use cited by Merriam-Webster is from 1520s: “to cut slots into, make a slot.” Its sense as “opening into which coins can be dropped” is attested from 1888 (slot machine); that of “position on a copy desk in a newspaper” is from 1917. Other senses include “a particular position in a list or schedule” (1942) and the seat on an airplane or spacecraft (c. 1962). The term is also used in sports to describe the area in front of the face-off circles on an ice hockey rink.
When you play a slot, each spin is decided by random number software that generates dozens of numbers per second. When the random-number software receives a signal, from anything from a button being pressed to a handle being pulled, it sets a combination; then the reels stop on that exact spot. The same process occurs every time the game is turned on, even between signal intervals. This eliminates the possibility of following superstitions or ideologies that might lead to a winning streak.
Many people pump their money into more than one machine at a time, believing that the next spin will be the lucky one. However, this is not a smart strategy for playing slots. If the casino is crowded, it’s best to stick with one machine so you can keep an eye on other players and other machines. If you do have to leave a machine, get a TITO ticket, which has your cash value on it and can be used on other machines or cashed out.