You’ll see them in bars, pubs, and clubs across plenty of countries (particularly the UK), but unless you’ve spent a little time standing in front of one, it’s likely that you won’t be entirely clued up on how the elusive fruit machine actually works.

It’s like a slot machine, but it’s not quite a slot machine. It’s like an arcade game, but it’s not quite an arcade game. It very much is its own kettle of fish featuring flashing lights, exciting animation and plenty of satisfying buttons.

There are tonnes of themes, tonnes of providers and tonnes of different payouts, winning lines and features unique to each machine. From the classic button wielding machine to the super modern touchscreen alternatives that we’re seeing work out way into society – there’s plenty to talk about.

They may look fancy and feel satisfying to the touch, but how exactly does the fruit machine work and how can players make the most of the options available?

The difference between a fruit machine and a slot machine

Although the terms are often interchanged, there are actually a number of differences between the typical slot machine and a fruit machine that not everyone is completely aware of.

A fruit machine is identified as a form of a slot machine, although is far from the typical one-armed-bandit. In a typical slot, although there are a number of tips circulating, the game is entirely based on the luck of the draw with anywhere from 3 to 6 reels spinning and creating combinations leading to a payout. Once you’ve pulled the lever and received the outcome, the only option is to pull it again and once more hope for the best.

A fruit machine differs thanks to a number of options available during play, meaning there’s a more perceived skill to the game than we see in a regular slot. Players will be able to influence the outcome of the game, increasing their chances of a big win by choosing the “nudge”, “hold” and “repeat” to match symbols and take home the jackpot.

Although slots and fruit machines are from the same family, they’re actually very difficult in the ways in which they are played!

How to play a fruit machine

The first thing that you’ll do when wandering over to the nearest fruit machine? Insert your payment and hit “start”.

The aim of the game is simple and very similar to a typical slot machine, make sure that the spinning reels make winning combinations so you’re able to cash-out with a profit. Sounds simple right? That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to come out on top.

When playing the fruit machine, unlike the typical Vegas slots games (great review here), you’ll have a number of options that you’re able to choose to give yourself a better chance of the jackpot. Ignore these options and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

  • Nudge – If the “nudge” feature appears on any of the spun reels, players will be allowed to nudge the reel in question, showing the next symbol in an effort to make a winning combination.
  • Hold – When a player selects the “hold” option, specific reels will be able to be held, whilst others can be spun in an effort to make a winning combination. This is usually chosen when high-value reels are landed upon.
  • Repeats – If the repeat feature is active, players will be able to repeat their previous action of either the “hold” if the “nudge”.
  • Cancel – If a fruit machine offers the cancel option, once the button is pressed it gives gamblers the option of manipulating the reels while playing, slowing them down to look for patterns and bonuses. This process is sometimes known as “wedging”.

For the majority of fruit machines, those are the only functions that you’ll have to worry about although you may come across a little wackier machine during your gaming career.

How do fruit machines payout?

Although a fruit machine might feel fixed if you’re on a long enough losing streak, the truth is that the machines are programmed to give a specified RTP (Return to Player) percentage.

The industry standard for slot machine payback sits around the 95% mark, but it’s not uncommon for machines to payback as low as 70% of the value wagered. In the US, slots and fruit machines are required to pay out a minimum of 75% by law, but in other areas of the world, including the UK, there is no minimum, just an obligation to include the rate somewhere for reference.

Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, explains: “It’s not always the case that the higher return percentage means less profit. If players are constantly winning amounts close to what they’re putting in, they can be hooked for longer, ultimately spending more time and, more importantly, money on the slots.”

The majority of the machines we see today simply work with something called a PRNG or Pseudo-Random Number Generator which generates a sequence of random numbers, ultimately determining the outcome of the game. This works in conjunction with the predetermined RTP percentage, ensuring that the games are both fair and reliable to keep them legal (for a summary of where online slots games are legal, check out this article).

Unfortunately, as a general rule, there’s no merit for calling out a machine as “rigged” or “bias” if you’re losing. With the percentages preset and outcomes totally random, it’s all down to chance whether or not you’ll be hitting the big time.

To cut a long story short

To cut a long story short, fruit machines, although from the same family as the slot machine, are very different in the way in which they are played.

With players given the options to “hold”, “nudge”, “repeat” and “cancel”, there’s an added layer of skill present with the games that just isn’t seen when playing the slot machine.

Despite this, the fundamental chances of winning remain the same and with PRNGs and RTP percentages responsible for the wins and losses that players see during a game, it’s clear that the games are heavily chance-based.