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Beginnings of Slot Machines

The slot machine has come a long way, from the manually operated reels to the computer-generated spins. Let's take a look at the humble beginnings of the now modern and high-tech slot machines that we know today.

In 1891, some men from Brooklyn, New York---Sittman and Pitt---conceptualized and invented a gambling machine similar to the slot machine that we know. Inspired by the table game poker, it held 5 drums with 50 card faces. It became the city's most in-demand game and soon, all the bars had it in their bar-sides.

To operate the machine, the player would drop a nickel and pull a lever. The slot machine would then spin the 5 drums and reveal the card faces. Prizes would vary from a beer for a pair of Knights, cigars and drinks for a Royal Flush; the only limit depended on what the bar was willing to give away as prizes. Some local establishments would resort to removing 2 cards from the deck---the 10 of Spades and the Jack of Hearts---just to lessen the odds of winning the Royal Flush by 50%. In addition, they could also manipulate the drums to make it difficult for the player to win.

Because of the inability to have a consistent form of payouts for winnings on the slot machine, Charles Fey of San Francisco, California devised a simpler machine which he called the Liberty Bell in 1887. His slot machine had 3 spinning reels compared to the prototype's 5 drums and each reel had five symbols: diamonds, horseshoes, spades, hearts and of course, a liberty bell.

Because of the lessened number of reels and symbols, it was so much easier to claim a win than before. This enabled Fey to have an effective payout mechanism---3 bells in a row would yield to the biggest payout, 10 nickels. The Liberty Bell ultimately opened the doors for the mechanical gaming industry. Ironically though, gambling devices were prohibited from his home state but because of his ingenuity, Fey had ultimately brought the slot machine to its current place in society today.

One interesting version of the slot machine paid out fruit-flavored chewing gums to the winning players who hit a good combination of the pictures of the flavors which included the cherry, melon and the "BAR" symbols (from a Bell-Fruit Gum Company logo) on the reels which we still see up to this day. By the year 1964, "Money Honey" was introduced into the gaming industry as the first and completely electromechanical slot machine invented by a certain "Bally".

The slot machine has evolved over time, thanks to the bright minds working to bring some fun to those who love this simple and yet endearing game of chance. The slot machine continues to develop and today, has even been made available in cyberspace. It will continue to advance for as long as there is continued patronage by the people.

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