A narrow notch, groove, or opening, as in a keyway in machinery or a slit for coins in a vending machine.

You’ve checked in, made it through security, waited in the terminal, struggled with overhead lockers and finally settled into your seat. All that remains is to wait for your flight’s slot – the time when it will be permitted to take off. But what is a slot? And why is it so important?

While a slot is a specific point in time, it’s also a metaphor for a moment of opportunity. It’s the space on a timeline where something can happen – and not just in the context of aviation, but in many other industries. For example, using slot-based scheduling can help managers prioritize their work according to pressing deadlines. This can then support consistency throughout a project’s life cycle and ensure that important objectives are met.

Slots are used by casino operators to keep track of the money that’s being paid out to players. They are carefully designed and tested to achieve a particular payback percentage. A machine that pays out 90 percent of the money it receives will, over time, make more profit than one that pays out only 80 percent.

In slot games, the player chooses how many coins to play per spin. Depending on the number of coins played, the game will decide how much credit the player will win if the symbols line up in a winning combination. The symbols vary between machines and may include the classical card deck, such as the A(ce), K(ing), Q(ueen) and J(oker), or themed symbols fitting with a particular theme.