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HOME > Gaming > Free slots and bonus events

Free slots and bonus events

2 February 2014

By John Grochowski

QUESTION: I’ve been playing some of the free slot apps through Facebook, on my computer and my phone. I see a lot of games that also are in casinos.

My question is, do they work the same way as the casino games? Am I essentially getting the same game as I do in a casino?

ANSWER: Free games don’t face the same stringent regulations as casino games, and aren’t programmed in exactly the same way. Still, I spoke with a representative of Williams Interactive a while back about the online Jackpot Party Casino, and was told an effort is made to keep the game experience very close to the casino versions.

I find the feel very similar. I’ve played around with WMS Gaming offerings at the Jackpot Party Casino, and International Game Technology Games at Double Down Casino, and find they treat my virtual bankroll pretty much like casino games treat my real money.

At the beginning of January, I logged onto the Jackpot Party Casino and played the WMS game Jungle Wild. My habit when playing video slots is to count the number of spins between bonus events, and Jungle Wild gave me a casino-worthy cold streak. It took 391 spins before I saw the three pyramid symbols that would take me to the free spin bonus.

On the other hand, it was very lucrative free-spin bonus. At least two of the five reels during free spins are filled by stacked wilds, and with a couple of top-end symbols to go with them, I won back most of the credits of I’d lost in the cold streak.

Back on the main game, I went back to the bonus after 54 more spins, then back again after 12. Then it was another 218 spins before my next round of freebies.

That all felt real and right compared with the way casino games really play -- long cold streaks, interspersed with short periods of close-together bonuses yielding some kind of equilibrium.

QUESTION: My mom brought up the bonus rounds on slot machines and asked if the machine knows how much it’s going to pay out, how do they count the bonus round?

As a programmer I know that it would be much easier to figure out ahead of time how much you are going to pay in a bonus round and then put those amounts under whatever options the player will choose after the choice has been made. It doesn't seem as random, and yet it is because the bonus round itself is just a part of the overall slot payout.

Is that the way the slot machine bonus rounds work? Are the amounts you pick predetermined no matter what rock or mushroom or turkey target you choose? Or do they actually put random amounts under each bonus choice and rely on your picking to be random enough?

The answer may not matter except if you are allowed to choose randomly, then algorithms could be used to calculate the most and least picked areas of the playfield and put amounts under them accordingly.

ANSWER: The end result of your bonus event is not determined in advance. Your choices really do make a difference. If at the end of a round you see that choice A would have brought you 200 credits and choice B would have brought only 20, then if you made those choices, that's really what you'd have received.

Higher-paying choices are not programmed to occur in less frequently chosen spaces, either. The distribution is random, or at least as random as humans can program a computer to be. Programmers set the possibilities, and your choices determine your outcome. If you watch games with pick'em bonuses over a long period of time, you'll see the bigger bonuses show up on every space on the field from time to time, and the smaller bonuses show up on every space on the field.

If there was an effort to place the bigger payers on what were believed to be less frequently chosen spaces, you could bet that some sharp players would figure that out. Anything that makes a game more predictable can be used to diminish the house advantage.

As long as the distribution of the high- and low-payers is random, that programmer can count on returns boiling down to a long-term average, then include that data in the calculation of the game's long-term payback percentage.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

John Grochowski
John  Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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