Slot Machine Jackpot Symbols

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Slot machines are more fun when you understand what’s going on with the game. If you don’t know what the slot machine symbols mean, and if you don’t know what it takes to get a winning combination, you might as well just play rocks scissors and paper with some stranger.

The purpose of this post is to take a detailed look at some of the inner workings of slot machines, especially as it relates to the slot machine symbols most commonly in use.

The traditions behind why slot machines use bar and fruit symbols are decades old, and the history of slot machines is fascinating all by itself.

In this post, I explain what the different slot machine icons mean and why it matters to the average player.

1-What Does the Bar Symbol Mean on a Slot Machine?

Slot machines have been around since the 1890s. You’d find these early slot machine games in bars and taverns in cities like New York and San Francisco. When gambling became illegal, these businesses started giving away candy and chewing gum instead of money.

Imagine going into a bar today and putting money into a slot machine with the opportunity to win a free drink or a cigar.

That’s what gambling in a tavern was like in the 1890s.

Slot Machine Jackpot Images

What does the bar symbol mean?

Think about what it looks like.

It’s a rectangle, right?

My first guess would be that the bar symbol on a slot machine symbolized a candy bar, but that would be too big. After all, keep in mind that the idea was to have prizes that were small, like coins.

The bar symbols on slot machines represent sticks of chewing gum — specifically, BAR chewing gum. (It was a popular brand of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company at the time.) They were in color in those days, and different colors meant different flavors of gum.

Slot machine makers still use bar symbols out of tradition, even though I’ve never seen a slot machine game that offers gum as a prize.

2- What Do the Fruit Symbols Mean on a Slot Machine?

Just as the bar symbol meant you were going to win chewing gum, the various flavors of fruit-inspired candy were prizes you could win. Cherry symbols meant winning cherry-flavored candy.

Apples meant winning apple-flavored candy. Oranges and plums, well… They meant you won dragonfruit and huckleberry flavored candy.

How To Win Slot Machine Jackpot

Just kidding.

Obviously, the picture of the fruit in question represented the flavor of candy you won.

And, again, the reason these symbols are still in use have more to do with tradition than anything else. People are just used to seeing these symbols on these games.

3- How Many Different Symbols Are There on a Slot Machine?

An average slot machine game might have about 20 symbols on each reel. This does NOT imply that each symbol has a 1/20 probability of coming up on a spin, though.

Modern slot machines use a random number generator to determine their results. These are actually random — they’re not fixed or rigged in any way.

The casino makes its money because the prize schedule for a slot machine game pays prizes in such a way that the game is inherently profitable.

Think about it this way:

Suppose you played a casino game where you had a 1 in 600 probability of winning, but when you won, you only got a payout of 500 to 1.

Do you see how that would be profitable for the casino?

You’d lose $1 on 599 spins, but you’d win $500 on the one spin, for a net loss of $99.

Such a game would have a house edge of around 17%, on average.

The payouts on a slot machine game are more complicated than that, but it’s the same principle.

Slot Machine Jackpot Symbols

4- What Are the Odds of Winning on a Slot Machine?

Here’s the thing about slot machines:

You don’t know what the odds of winning are.

And, to an extent, the odds of winning are irrelevant. What you’re really concerned about is the payback percentage.

That’s a ratio that compares the odds of winning with the amount you win. Over time, it represents the long-term average of how much money the casino will win from you on each bet.

Most slot machines have a hit ratio of about 1 in 3 or 1 in 4.

So it’s fair to see that on most slot machines, your odds of winning something are 3 to 1 or 2 to 1.

The problem is that the payouts aren’t commensurate with these odds of winning.

Also, slot machines pay off bets on an X for Y basis rather than an X to Y basis.

In blackjack, your payouts are in addition to what you risked. Bet $5 on a blackjack hand and win, and you get a 1 to 1 payout, or even money. You get your $5 bet back with $5 in winnings.

Gambling machines, though, pay back with odds on a 1 “for” 1 basis. Bet $5 on a spin of the slot machine reels, and you get $5 in winning in exchange for your $5 bet.

The machine acts like it’s a win, but the reality is that it’s a push.

This is also one of the reasons slot machines measure their odds using payback percentage rather than house edge.

When a slot machine game has a 90% payback percentage, it means that on average you get back 90% of each bet. Place a $5 bet, and you’ll get an average of $4.50 back over time — which means you’ll lose 50 cents per bet on average.

And that’s just the average including any jackpots you win. If you play in the short-term and don’t see a jackpot, you’ll usually see a lower payback percentage until you get some winnings and catch up.

5- Which Slot Machine Has the Best Payout?

How do you know which slot machine has the best payout?

The short answer to this question is easy enough:

You don’t.

You have NO WAY of knowing which machine has better payouts than the other machines. In fact, you can play an identical slot machine next to the one you started on and be facing a different payback percentage.

The casinos have no rhyme or reason in terms of where they place the higher and lower payout machines.

In the long run, it doesn’t even really matter. If you play a negative expectation game long enough — and slots are ALWAYS a negative expectation game — you’ll eventually lose all your money.

Stop worrying about which slot machine has the best payout.

Worry instead about how much fun you’re having — or not. If you don’t enjoy a specific game, move on to another game.

6- Why Are They Called “Slot” Machines?

They’re called slot machines because you put your money into a slot to play.

When they were first invented, slot machines only worked on a literal coin-in and coin-out basis.

Now, of course, most slot machines work by accepting bills and spitting out a piece of paper with the amount you’re owed on it.

But we haven’t changed the name of the games.

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Also, it’s not called a slot machine in other countries, always. In the United Kingdom, they’re called fruit machines. In Australia, they’re called “pokies,” which is short for poker machines.

That last nomenclature comes from their original nature — the first slot machines, which predated the machines that gave away candy — used playing cards to produce random results instead of symbols on metal reels.

7- Who Invented the Slot Machine?

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, as well as many other legitimate sources, Charles Fey invented the first slot machines.

He born in Bavaria but was making his living as a mechanic in San Francisco when he invented slot machines in 1894. It didn’t take long for him to be doing so well that he started a factor to produce more slot machines.

The first 3-reel slot machine with machine-generated payouts in real money was invented in 1898, also by Charles Fey. The Liberty Bell, which most modern slot players would recognize as a real slot machine, came along in 1899 — another Fey invention.

There are only 4 Liberty Bell machines still extant.

Also, it didn’t take long for other companies, like the Mills Novelty Company, to steal Fey’s invention and start making money from their own versions of it.


Those are the most accurate and concise answers to some of the most common questions about slot machines and their symbols on the internet.

What other questions do you have besides what do the symbols mean?

Leave me a note in the comments, and I’ll respond with an answer if I can.

The motto for most gamblers who come to Las Vegas on a lark is rather simple – go big or go home.

Slot Machine Jackpot Symbols Slot Machine

If you’re going to wager real American dollars on games of chance and skill, there’s no reason to take the conservative route. Bankroll management notwithstanding, the goal for any gambler in Sin City is to hit it big, win the jackpot, and walk away with more money than you know what to do with.

Of course, the vast majority of us who take these shots don’t mint themselves instant millionaires. Instead, the house’s inexorable edge and every gambling game’s inherent odds against the player combine to pour our money straight into the casino’s coffers.

For this reason, what happened at the Excalibur casino on March 21st of 2003 when a random tourist from Los Angeles decided to hit the slots has become the stuff of Las Vegas legend.

On that day, an anonymous 25-year old gambler arrived in town to visit his family. With the annual “March Madness” college basketball tournament in full swing, the player figured they might as well get some action down on Duke, Arizona, and the rest of the sport’s heavyweights.

The young man’s uncle heard about the trip to Excalibur Hotel & Casino and offered his nephew a little sage advice from a Las Vegas local – play the Megabucks slot machine and see what happens.

At the time, Megabucks – which boasts the largest wide area progressive jackpot network in the world – had gone nearly a year without paying out.

And with a $10 million starting seed* – not to mention millions of tourists plunking down the requisite $3 per spin to give themselves a chance – the Megabucks jackpot had swelled to an astounding $39.7 million.

*Megabucks initially offered a $1 million starting seed, before increasing to $7 million in 1997, and $10 million in 2005

Thus, the visitor from L.A. found a Megabucks machine and took a seat with $100 in hand.

What happened next made history…

How Does the Megabucks Slot Machine Work?

Slot Machine Jackpot Winners

First things first though… in case you’re unfamiliar with the Megabucks slot, here’s a quick crash course on the greatest progressive jackpot game of them all.

Slot Machine Games

Casino game manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) introduced its Megabucks slot way back in 1986. At the time, slot machine jackpots were static in nature, meaning each individual machine offered its own kitty based on how many coins had been previously deposited in between major payouts.

IGT had a revolutionary idea, however, so the company linked its various Megabucks machines all over the Silver State together. In other words, whenever a player in Reno, Mesquite, or anywhere in Nevada for that matter played one Megabucks machine, their coins contributed to the same jackpot total.

This wide area progressive jackpot concept proved to be an immediate hit with players, who loved to watch the meter continuously climb into the seven-figures.

And those meters did climb on a daily basis too, thanks to the Megabucks game’s enormous odds against on the topline jackpot.

Megabucks is a deceptively simple game, one which eschews the multiple paylines and expanded reels that make up the bulk of a casino’s slot inventory nowadays. For a maximum bet of $3, players send three reels spinning, each featuring traditional symbols like 7s, cherries, and BARs. To form winning combinations, players hope to hit three matching symbols along a single payline.

Yep, no bonus games or free spins, no scatter symbols or wilds, and no video clips or sound effects. Just straight up slot spinning gameplay as gamblers have known it for more than a century and counting.

The game’s jackpot symbol is a golden “Megabucks Eagle” which depicts the slot’s distinctive logo. The only thing is, landing even one of these crucial symbols along the payline requires the player to beat odds of 1 in 368. Knowing this, the odds against spiking all three at once come to an astronomical 1 in 49,836,032 – or (1/368)3.

/best-bet-slot-machines.html. However, there are slot machines with few reels and paylines which also have great payouts. RTP – the Return to Player (RTP) Percentage is one way to spot which slot machines pay the best. Number of Paylines – slot games with higher numbers of paylines which you can activate are more likely to be in the best online slots that pay category.

For this reason, the Megabucks progressive jackpot often goes unclaimed for extended stretches, many of which lasting more than a year. With so much time in between big winners, and so many players statewide tossing $3 per spin into the kitty, Megabucks jackpots soon became notorious for reaching epic proportions.

Before that fateful day in 2003, Megabucks players enjoyed an incredible run which saw the jackpot rise to a then record $27.5 million in 1998. That life-changing sum was won by a lucky slot spinner at Palace Station in November of 1998, but the record was eventually broken with a $34.9 million payout awarded to a cocktail waitress playing at the Desert Inn in January of 2000.

Slot Machines Jackpot

A little more than three years later, a new record was waiting to be set at the Excalibur.

$100 Flier Turns Into Life-Changing Record Jackpot Win

Starting out with only $100, the player from L.A. had just 33 spins to work with given the $3* price of play.

*Megabucks can be played for $1 or $2 spins, but the progressive jackpot is only awarded to players who opt for the max-bet of $3

Even so, as a press release issued by IGT later revealed, the player with a birthdate featuring three 7s seemed to have Lady Luck on his arm from the very start. Within the span of those 33 spins, the man watched as not one, not two, but three of the “Megabucks Eagle” symbols slowly spun and came to a rest alongside one another.

Just like that, the player had beaten odds of nearly 1 in 50 million to put nearly $40 million in his pocket.

Well, not all at once anyway. The winner elected to take $1.5 million installments over the course of 26 years – which means he’s still receiving seven-figure payouts annually to this day. In fact, the winner has another 10 years and $15 million remaining on his record-setting payment plan.

Although he chose to remain anonymous, the winner provided the following statement to IGT:

“I’m still stunned; it doesn’t seem real yet. But both of my parents are still working, so some of this money will be used to fund their retirement.”

Largest Megabucks Jackpot Ever – And By a Long Shot

John Sears – who served as vice president of IGT’s MegaJackpots program at the time – confirmed that the $39,713,982.25 payout smashed the previous record for largest slot machine jackpot ever awarded:

“This MegaJackpot is nearly $5 million more than the previous world record slot jackpot amount of $34.9 million – this one goes into The Guinness Book of Records.”

Slot Machine Jackpot Symbols Games

Check out the table below – featuring 10 real megabucks jackpot wins – to get a better sense of just how ridiculous the record-setting jackpot really is:


Megabucks Jackpot History (Wins of $10 Million or More)

3/21/2003ExcaliburLas Vegas, NV$39,713,982.25
1/26/2000Desert InnLas Vegas, NV$34,955,490.00
4/12/2009Terrible’s Rail City CasinoSparks, NV$33,000,563.00
11/15/1998Palace StationLas Vegas, NV$27,580,878.00
5/27/2002Bally’s Las VegasLas Vegas, NV$22,621,229.00
6/1/1999Caesars PalaceLas Vegas, NV$21,346,937.00
9/15/2005CanneryLas Vegas, NV$21,147,947.00
11/14/2003StardustLas Vegas, NV$19,600,523.30
12/14/2012M ResortLas Vegas, NV$17,329,817.67
11/30/2014Rampart CasinoLas Vegas, NV$14,282,544.21

Competing Jackpot Hunters Lament Loss of Record-Setting Total

Within the slot machine gaming enthusiast community, learning that Megabucks’ massive jackpot had been won proved to be bittersweet indeed.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun conducted shortly after the news broke, Kim Wong from Kailua, Hawaii told the newspaper how she felt watching the meter reset back to $10 million:

“I was here at lunchtime around 12:30 and it was still around $39.7 million. Then I came back around quarter after one and it was resetting. It was such a drag. It was a little more enticing with the $39 million up there, but I’m still playing.”

Judy Selasky from Lavonia, Michigan provided a similar story, telling the paper that even though a record payout was off the table, she and her husband would still play in hopes of a “lightning strikes twice” type of moment:

“I said, ‘Hurry up and get up to the room, so I can get downstairs. I figure if he won, there might be some magic here. I’m not a hog.”


In a city like Las Vegas which was founded on excess, setting the world record for slot machine jackpot winnings really is something special. And while we don’t know much about the software engineer from L.A. who did the deed, learning that a 25-year old tourist took the honors should give hope to every gambler who makes the sojourn to Sin City.

More than 16 years have passed since the record-setting spin, and nobody has even come close to claiming such an incredible Megabucks jackpot over that span – which shows just how astonishing that memorable moment in March of 2003 really was.