Slot Slang: The Many Names of a Gambling Machine

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Slots Slots machine words and slang

The history of slot machines dates back to the 19th century. However, very few features from their early versions are still in use today. In fact, nowadays, a particular kind of certified slot manufacturing has been established in many parts of the world, along with the development of online prototypes. For example, each RTG slot machine can boast of a unique theme and involving gameplay which is the result of a thorough analysis of the old-school predecessors. Depending on the changes in these games that have occurred over the years and the cultural peculiarities of the various countries obsessed with them, a lot of alternative names of slots appeared.

The Origin

The initial version of the machine was derived from poker itself; and so it didn’t feature the special symbols the slots are mostly known for.

Poker Machine

History Poker slotAt the end of the 19th century, Americans were experiencing a poker boom; and this motivated Sittman and Pitt to invent an automated machine based on this card game. The devices they created in 1887 were installed in bars, saloons, and tobacco shops. One round cost a nickel, and the objective of the game was to collect a poker hand. Whenever they hit a winning combination, a person got drinks or cigars from the owner of the establishment. Initially, there were 50 cards; the machine lost two of them, in order to increase the house edge.

Nowadays, the term ‘poker machine’ may end up being confused with video poker. Modern video poker, first developed in 1970 by Dale Electronics, resembles the game by Sittman and Pitt (a player has to get the highest poker hand possible), but the word usage has changed, and “poker machine” now refers to slot games, rather than to video poker types.

Slot Machine

The traditional term “slot machine” was first used at the time poker machines were invented; apparently in 1891. In those days, the first devices that automatically paid out coins were introduced; as distinguished from the old system, where non-monetary rewards were carried out manually. Here, the word “slot” actually meant “opening in a machine to insert a coin.” Charles Fey was the first person to create such a machine. He replaced the five drums of a traditional poker machine with three reels. He also replaced the playing cards with five symbols.

The dictionary definition of a slot machine is “a machine whose operation is begun by dropping a coin into a slot.” Interestingly, vending machines were also named slot machines until the latter was established as an exclusively gambling-related term!

Coin Machine, Coin-Operated Machine

Since the games we refer to as slots required inserting a coin for activation, the earliest terminology used for these machines also related to coins.

Liberty BellOnline casino liberty bell

Liberty Bell was the name of the first mechanical machine created by Fey. It became so popular that somehow the name became a generic term for such games. Liberty Bell devices were copied by competitors in various American states, and successful manufacturing started all over the country!

Fruit Machine

The production of Liberty Bell-like games marked a whole new era of fruit machines. Most of the slots had bright fruit symbols (e.g., cherries) that soon became industry standard features. The British often call these games fruit machines, because of the association between the slots and these images of fruit.

These early slots paid out sweets or chewing gum. In 1907, Herbert Mills added another symbol that quickly became traditional: BAR. The Bell-Fruit Gum Company was the most famous manufacturer of such machines. Cherries, lemons, oranges, plums, liberty bells, and BARs were among the iconic images.

Chewing Gum Dispenser

Even though slot manufacturing was thriving, it was technically banned. Fruit symbols were implemented in order to avoid restrictions, and the games themselves were often named chewing gum dispensers as a way of disguising their true purpose.

RTG slot games One hand bandit One-Armed Bandit

Mechanical slot machines were operated by a side lever, next to the manual spinning of the reels. This is why the games were known informally as “one-armed bandit.” While this lever provides a good explanation for the ‘one arm’ part of the name, the bandit probably came from the idea of a machine that kept taking people’s money. This name was first used in 1934.

Big Bertha

During the 1960s, when manufacturers were looking for new approaches to the development of slot machines, the biggest device up to that point in history was created. The eight-reel Big Bertha is still the largest scale slot machine in existence. This being so, other massive gambling machines are often called by this name as well!

The Innovation

The first electromechanical slot, called Money Honey, was released by Bally in 1964. Players still could pull the handle, as they were already familiar with such a procedure; however, the reels were now electrically operated. A bottomless hopper integrated into the machine allowed automatic payouts of up to 500 coins!

Video Slot

The first slot with digital reels was released in 1976 by Fortune Coin in Las Vegas. After testing this machine several times, such slots were installed in numerous casinos; and over time, they got insanely popular. The video slots expanded the range of technical possibilities available, while usually featuring at least five reels.

Reel Spinner

To distinguish the old type of slots from the digital one, gamblers started calling mechanical machines reel spinners.

Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM)

In the 1980s, slot machines powered by electronic systems were generally named EGMs. The next impressive innovation they experienced is dated to 1996. This is the time when the first video slot with a bonus round on a separate screen was introduced: Reel ‘Em!

Progressive Slot Machine, Wide Area Progressive

Eventually, people invented a way for numerous slots of the electronic kind to be linked from different locations, in order to shape a super jackpot. These machines were called progressives. The first example of such game was Megabucks, which was made by IGT in 1986.

Nowadays, a slot that has a jackpot that is collected from fractions of every bet placed in it is called ‘progressive.’ Machines that are placed in different casinos, but that work together to build one mega jackpot, are referred to as wide area progressives.

Slot Slang From Around The World

Most important milestones in the development of slot machines took place in America; however, slots are popular all around the world. Not only has slot machine technology been transferred to other countries, but in addition, many local companies have started producing them. Taking into account the different language patterns existing in our world, it is clear that word usages do vary from place to place.


This is the name for slots in Australia and New Zealand. Since the word “pokie” is a derivative from “poker machine,” Australian slots can be named both ways.

There’s also a local slang to describe the process of the game: slap! To have a slap on the pokies means playing the slots.

History vintage slots machine


“Puggie” is the word from the Scottish English Slang, which has many gambling-related meanings. Apart from slots, puggies stand for kitty in some card games (additional cards dealt face down). Since “slot” means a hole for inserting coins, no wonder that “puggie” also means a cash dispenser.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT)

In the UK, fixed odds betting terminals are representing slot machines in everyday speech. This term is mostly related to sports betting units, but it can also stand for any slot game. The name suggests that every wager in a game has predefined odds.

Other Names

Depending on specific features, slot machines were overgrown with many names. Some American machines were called standups because they were played standing up. Games with only minimal coin values were, and still are, known as penny slots. At some stage in the development of poker machines, they were referred to as cardies.

In relation to the number of payout lines, a slot can be named a one liner, a two liner, a three liner, or a five liner. A machine that combines several slots in one is called a multi-game. Finally, any gambling machines that have been branded by a specific casino are signature slots.

Playing Slots Slang Expressions

Apart from numerous name variations, slot machines gambling has also generated some slang expressions:

  • Hammer a machine: play for a long time.
  • Hit and run: play a slot with maximum bets for a few spins, then switch to another one quickly.
  • Onesies: gamblers who play one credit at a time.
  • Slot talk: trading gambling advice.
  • Sound of rain: the sound of coins being cashed out.
  • Streaky slots: machines that are believed to have hot and cold moments.
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