The original slot machines were actually created around the idea of the poker game. Winning results were based on the poker card combinations. The games were coin-operated and created in Brooklyn by the Sittman and Pitt company in the latter part of the 19 th century. Unlike today’s slot machines though players didn’t win cash, but because the games were normally in bars and restaurants, they won free prizes in the form of liquor or tobacco. The games were instantly a huge success.
Here’s how the original slot machines worked. A player puts a coin into the slot and then pulls the handle activating a mechanism that would spin a series of drums that were decorated with pictures of different poker cards on them. When the drums came to a stop the “cards” it stopped on would be the players poker hand. The combination of cards would determine whether a player won or lost and what kind of prize they would win. To rig the game in favour of the bar owner the Jack of Hearts and Ten of Spades were removed from the drums in order to reduce the chance of a player winning.
While these poker-based slot machines were the originals, Charles Fey developed the more famous version of the slot machine. The Liberty Bell was created in 1887 and had a huge impact on the market. The Liberty Bell also relied upon playing card symbols at first, but added stars, horseshoes, and bells. The machines was such a success that in a few short years Fey was working constantly to fill the orders he was receiving so he joined up with the Mills Novelty Company.
Fey’s part in the creation of video poker was the “draw” feature which allowed a player to use some of their poker skills instead of relying completely on the luck of the draw. This addition meant a player could hold onto the results of some drums after one spin while spinning the others with the pull of the handle. This combination was the first “hold and draw” action in a slot machine.