Sittman & Pitt: Grandparents of the Slot Machine
The Slot Machine Came from the Poker Machine
Slots and video poker have always been perceived as being part of the same family. They are related in the sense that they are both coin-operated games of chance. Video poker may have an element of skill that the regular slots do not but, essentially, they are both games that are determined by luck and the spin of the reels.
Historically speaking, however, slots and Video poker are indeed related; in fact, you can say that the slot machine sprang from the loins of the first mechanical poker machine. It all started with a company called Sittman & Pitt, a New York manufacturer that gave us the game that was a cross between a slot machine and a poker game. It had the coin slot (thus the slot factor) but it pre-dated the self-paying reel slot by a few years.
Instead of reels, the original Sittman & Pitt poker slot had five drums holding 50 cards each. When the player inserted a coin into the slot, the cards would spin in the drums and, when the spinning stopped, five cards would line up to form a poker hand, which would either win or lose. Charles Fey took Sittman & Pitt’s idea and ran with it into slot history but it all began in New York City of the 19th century.
Slots Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Sittman & Pitt
In 1881, Sittman & Pitt operated out of Brooklyn, New York, manufacturing poker card machines. The first models were called drop-card machines because two cards were dropped from each deck – the jack of hearts and the ten of spades.
These cards were omitted from the draw in order to cut the chances of a royal flush in half, thus tipping the odds heavily in the favor of the machine. What also defined these pre-Fey machines is that they were not self-paying. What this means is that the Sittman & Pitt poker machines traded in real products; a winner could walk away with free cigars or drinks provided by the saloon owner.
Only later, when Charles Fey came along, was the automatic-pay slot invented. The original Sittman & Pitt machines were called “trade stimulators,” as they traded coins for merchandise and, in fact, stimulated business at the venue where the machine was placed.