When I got my first job at an online casino, I couldn’t entirely understand why so many people found slot games appealing. I could identify with sportsbook and poker players since there was an element of knowledge or skill involved, but I couldn’t wrap my head around why anyone would spend hours playing a repetitive game that’s based on sheer luck.

The outcome of online slot machines depends on a random number generator which continuously spits out thousands of numbers per second. Each number is mapped against a particular symbol – for instance number one might be associated to a cherry. The number generated on the instant the spin button is hit determines which symbols will appear on-screen, and where.

Rationally speaking, only very few would be willing to play a casino game with a built-in house edge, with the hope of succeeding in the long run, which led me to delve into the matter further. It appears that the popularity of these games rises from different circumstances, many of which are non-financial. Psychologists have classified these players into four categories.

First is excitement. Excitement seekers are driven by the thrill of winning and losing. Slot games are designed to stimulate the senses and trigger both physical as well as emotional responses. Memories, near misses and the unpredictable nature of slot machines all contribute to heightened feelings of anticipation and mystery. This process prompts a release of dopamine to the brain, indicating that these players experience a rush while playing, similar to one you would feel after riding a rollercoaster for example.

Another substantial portion of players are classified as relaxation seekers. These individuals hit the slots to unwind and kill time, instead of reading a book or watching a movie. Some players also experience a trance-like state when playing slot games, naturally progressing to an average of 15 to 16 spins per minute – which interestingly is the same amount of counts associated with rhythmic breathing during meditation and other relaxation techniques.

For others, it’s an absolute social affair – a shared interest with a friend, or a way to escape the mundane. In the best part, this segment is generally represented by an older demographic who generally hit the reels with a predetermined budget. However in more recent years social platforms such as Twitch have presented slots as an appealing possibility to a younger generation of players, some of which simply tune in to watch others play and socialise.

Finally, we’ve got the multipurpose players who love slots because they’re fun and there’s a chance to hit a big win at any moment. These players are known to fantasise about potential winnings which gives them something to look forward to. A little-known fact is that due to their lower operating costs, online slots offer a higher return to player than their land-based counterparts. Online jackpot games with large international player bases can soar up to tens of millions – imagine that!