slot machines

Why are slot machines called one-armed bandits?

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Why are slot machines called one-armed bandits?

If you have ever visited a casino, you might have seen rows of machines with colorful symbols and spinning reels. These are slot machines, also known as fruit machines, poker machines, or pokies. But did you know that they have another name? Some people call them one-armed bandits, and there is a reason for that.

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Let’s read about why slot machines are called one-armed bandits.

The origin of slot machines:

Slot machines were invented in the late 19th century by two American mechanics, Sittman and Pitt, who based their machines on the game of poker. Their machine had five drums with 50 cards and no direct payout mechanism. Instead, players had to insert a coin and pull a lever to spin the drums and hope for a good poker hand. Depending on the hand, they could win prizes such as free drinks, cigars, or tokens from the bar or the establishment where the machine was located.

However, the odds of winning were not very favorable for the players, as the machine owners could cheat by removing some cards from the deck or rearranging the drums. Moreover, the machine could not distinguish between different coins or detect fake ones, so it was easy to trick it into spinning without paying.

The first real slot machine:

Another American mechanic, Charles Fey, invented the first slot machine that could pay out automatically in 1898. He called it the Liberty Bell, after the symbol of New York that appeared on one of the three reels, card suits, horseshoes, and stars. The machine had a coin-checking mechanism and a lever that triggered the reels to spin. The highest payout was 50 cents for three bells in a row.

Fey’s machine was a huge success, inspiring many other manufacturers to create similar machines with different themes and symbols. Some added more reels, paylines, or features such as bonus rounds or progressive jackpots. The popularity of slot machines spread across the world and became a staple of casinos and gambling venues.

Why one-armed bandits?

The term one-armed bandit is a slang expression that originated in the early days of slot machines when they were mostly found in saloons and gaming clubs. The term refers to the design of the machine, which had a large lever on one side that resembled an arm. The term also implies that the machine is a thief that robs the players of their money.

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The name is pejorative and reflects the frustration and anger of some players who lose money on these machines. Slot machines are designed to have a house edge, which means that they pay out less than they take in over time. They are also based on random number generators, meaning each spin is independent and unpredictable. Therefore, no strategy or skill can guarantee a win on these machines.

However, not all players see slot machines as one-armed bandits. Some enjoy them as a form of entertainment or relaxation. They appreciate the thrill of spinning the reels and hoping for a lucky outcome. They also like the variety and creativity of modern slot machines, which offer different themes, graphics, sounds, and features.


Slot machines are one of the most popular and oldest forms of gambling. They have evolved from simple mechanical devices to sophisticated digital machines, offering many options. They are also known as one-armed bandits because of their design and ability to take money from players. However, some people see them as fun and exciting games that can provide entertainment and rewards.