A narrow notch, groove, or opening in something, such as a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. Also used to describe a position in a group or sequence: He slotted into the role as chief copy editor. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 2010 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

When a player inserts cash or, in “ticket-in, ticket-out” machines, a paper ticket with a barcode, the machine activates reels that spin and stop to rearrange symbols. If a winning combination is displayed, the player earns credits based on the pay table. Depending on the theme, these symbols can include traditional fruit and bells, stylized lucky sevens, or a variety of other items and images.

While the technology behind slot machines has advanced dramatically over the years, many of the basic mechanics remain the same. A player pulls a handle or presses a button to rotate the reels, and the machine’s computer sets a number. If the pictures on the reels line up with the pay line (a single horizontal line in the center of a viewing window), the player wins.

When you play a slot and see someone else hit a jackpot, don’t fuss: The odds that you would have pressed the button at exactly the same split-second as the other player are astronomical. Getting greedy or betting more than you can afford to lose are the 2 biggest pitfalls while playing slots.