A slot is a narrow notch, groove or opening, such as a keyway in machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. It can also refer to a position within a group, series or sequence. The word is derived from the Latin term for “hole.”
Slots are becoming more common in the NFL as teams seek to add versatile receivers to their rosters. These players line up in the area between the outside wide receiver and tight end, a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. They have become a critical part of many offenses, and their unique skill set makes them difficult to defend.
To play a slot, the player inserts cash or, in “ticket-in, ticket-out” machines, a paper ticket with a barcode. Then, the machine activates by means of a lever or button (either physical or on a touchscreen) to spin and rearrange symbols. When a winning combination is struck, the player earns credits according to a pay table displayed on the machine. Pay tables vary by machine and may include classic symbols such as fruits, bells or stylized lucky sevens.
In addition to the pay table, a slot machine may display a credit meter, which is typically a seven-segment display. The meter may also contain a number of status indicators, such as a “cash out” or “service” indicator. The latter illuminates when a change is needed, hand pay is requested or the machine has a problem.
A “tilt” is a malfunction in a slot machine that causes it to stop paying out or to produce incorrect results. It is a technical fault that can be caused by mechanical problems or by the machine’s software. Some electronic slots have tilt sensors, which can trigger an alarm if the machine is tilted or otherwise tampered with. Others have a manual reset button that can be pressed to clear the machine’s memory and start over.
The “tilt” function can also be triggered by pressing a special button on the front of the machine, called a skill stop. These buttons predated Bally electromechanical slot machines’ reel-stop arms and allowed the player to halt the reels early, allowing them to hit the bonus symbols more often. The concept was later incorporated into video slots, which now feature multiple skill stops in the game.
While slot receivers are increasingly popular, the position has been around for decades. Legendary receivers such as Wayne Chrebet, Wes Welker and Charlie Joiner excelled in the slot position, which requires them to be fast and precise with their routes and timing. Today, every team has at least one slot receiver on its roster. However, some are better equipped to maximize their talents than others, making them more valuable to their teams. Here are a few of the top slot receivers in the NFL.