A narrow notch, groove, or opening, as in a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. Also: a position in a group, series, or sequence, as in He got the last slot at the party.

In a slot game, you bet on a number or symbols and hope that they line up to form a winning combination. Traditionally, slots have one horizontal payline, but many now have multiple lines. These paylines can be shown in different colours, making it easier to see what combinations are possible. Before you start playing, it’s important to read the pay table to understand how the slot works.

The word slot is derived from the Dutch noun slot, meaning “hole, slit, or opening.” It’s used to refer to a place where something can be fitted, like the gap in a door frame into which a bolt can be inserted. The English word slot is also used to mean a position in a schedule or program, such as the time reserved for a particular activity: She booked her trip at the travel agency’s slots for flights to London. The sense of an allocated, scheduled time and place for an aircraft to take off or land is a more recent development, first recorded in aviation in the 1940s.

To slot something in means to put it into a space in which it fits, as when you insert a CD into a CD player. The phrase can also be used figuratively: He slotted the books into the boxes.

Slot is a term in sports that refers to a defensive back’s responsibility for covering the wide receiver in a football team’s offense. A good slot corner is able to cover both press and off-man coverage, which requires fast feet and great athletic ability. A player in this position is often called a safety or free safety.

In modern slot machines, a computer chip determines the probability that any given symbol will appear on a reel. This is why a slot machine’s paytable can look so random—it’s all based on a complicated algorithm that makes thousands of mathematical calculations each second. In some cases, the same symbols will appear on multiple reels in a row, but they may not be in the same pattern. This is due to the fact that each reel has a slightly different probability of landing on a specific spot, and the odds change with each spin of the reels. Nevertheless, some patterns do tend to show up more frequently than others. For example, in a standard four-reel machine, the symbols usually appear in groups of three or five. This is because the odds of a specific combination are much higher than the odds of any individual symbol appearing on its own. In contrast, a six-symbol combination is almost impossible to hit on a single spin of the reels. This is why some people prefer to play five-symbol machines, which have better odds of hitting a jackpot.