Random Number Generator (RNG) for a Slot Machine: What Is It?

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Generic slot machine

Most players as they get to know slot machines eventually run into the term “Random Number Generator,” or RNG. Inevitably they hope to understand better what it means, such as this question we received from a player:

What does RNG stand for? Please and thank you!

Christine N.

RNG stands for Random Number Generator, and is a key element of what makes a Vegas-style slot machine function. With a Vegas-style slot, all elements of the game are self contained. This includes determining whether a spin is a winning one or not.

This is unlike, say, Bingo machines or Historic Horse Racing machines, where the outcome occurs outside the machine and the reels on those “slots” are just showing the outcome, and are therefore “for entertainment purposes only.”

So what does the random number generator do? It shuffles through numbers hundreds or thousands of times per second. When you hit the spin button on a slot machine, that exact instant the number or numbers (we’ll get there in a second) that the RNG are on at that exact moment are locked in, the outcome looked up, and the slot reels come to a stop.

Now, an RNG can be one single RNG per spin. Or it could be multiple RNGs, such as one per reel (with each RNG determining which space on a given reel the slot will stop at). Ultimately though, the RNG is used to determine the outcome. 

This is how slot games ensure their randomness. The slots ultimately have some maximum number of outcomes, and the RNG generates numbers that leads to unique outcomes. Each outcome is equally likely to come up at any given time, and that’s how, over time, a slot can approach its expected overall payback.

So as you can see, the RNG plays a critical role in the design of a slot machine. And now you can understand why Brian says “It’s all about timing” – it really is that split second you hit the button, and what the RNG delivers at that moment!


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