A slot is an opening in a machine or container that can accept something. It can be a hole, a groove, or a narrow opening that is not wider than the object being slotted. A slot can also refer to a position within a schedule or program: You can book a time to see the doctor at a particular slot.

A casino floor is alight with towering slot machines complete with bright video screens, loud sounds and quirky themes. These eye-catching contraptions can be fun, but they can also drain your wallet if you don’t have a plan or play smartly.

Start with a game plan: Decide how much you want to spend in advance and stick to it. Play only one or two machines at a time and stay clear of the ones that look occupied. Don’t try to snag a jackpot spot if you can’t afford it; the likelihood that another punter will hit the exact same combination in that same one-hundredth of a second is astronomical. Don’t be a greedy punter: Don’t be angry if someone else wins. Each machine runs thousands of combinations per minute; the odds that you would have pressed the button at exactly the right moment to win are incredibly slim.

Learn the rules of the game: Read the pay table to understand payouts, symbols and jackpots. Then, make a budget and play accordingly. It’s a good idea to choose a machine with a bonus feature that aligns with your gaming strategy.

Keep your eye on the prize: Staying in control is the most important aspect of playing slots. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of a good time, and don’t be tempted to chase losses by betting more money than you can afford to lose.

The word “slot” also has a figurative meaning, in that it is a place or position that can be reserved for a specific activity: The job of chief copy editor at the Gazette was a very sought-after slot.

A slot is also a term used in aviation, for the narrow opening in the wing of an airplane that allows for air flow over its upper surface. A slot can also refer to an allocation of time for an aircraft to take off or land, as determined by an airport or air-traffic controller: The airline was told it would need to wait for a landing slot.