What is a Slot?

A thin opening or groove, as in the slot on a computer keyboard or in the mail slot of a mailbox. Also, in sports, the space between a wide receiver and a tight end or wing wideout. The position is usually reserved for faster receivers that can catch passes in the middle of the field. Great slot receivers like Wes Welker are able to get open on short passes by running routes in between the coverage.

In a slot machine, a player inserts cash or, in “ticket-in, ticket-out” machines, a paper ticket with a barcode into a designated slot on the machine and then activates it by pushing a lever or button (either physical or on a touchscreen). The reels then spin and stop to rearrange the symbols. If the player matches a winning combination of symbols, the player receives credits based on the paytable. Most slots have a theme, and symbols and bonus features are aligned with that theme.

The pay table in a slot game is a list of important information about the game, including how much you can win and the number of possible ways to form a winning combination. It is often shown visually with bright colors to make it easy to read. Some slot games even have animations that explain key information, making it a fun and informative experience.

You’ve checked in, cleared security, found your gate, queued up to board and settled into your seat — only to be told the plane is waiting for “a slot.” What is this, and why is it taking so long?