CasinoCityTimes.com

Home
Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
News
Newsletter
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: How often do bonus rounds hit?

26 January 2022

A long, long (long) time ago, I attended a slot design talk at the big gaming show. This was the time when slots with bonus rounds were just starting their invasion of the slot floor -- I said it was a long, long (long) time ago.

The designers said that bonus rounds, like any other winning combination, involve a trade off. Generally speaking, the more often it hits, the less it can pay. Bonus rounds presented a particular challenge, though. Players don't feel entitled to get a jackpot or a royal flush each time they play. But we all feel entitled to get one or more bonus rounds when we play a machine for a while.

The bonus has to hit often enough that players hit it or see other players hit it and hitting the bonus is an incentive to play.

Consider Wheel of Fortune machines to see what I mean. We all want to hit the top jackpot on those machines, but the thing that makes us continue playing the machine is the desire to spin the wheel. Triggering a bonus round is an incentive to play over and above the incentive of landing a winning combination.

The bonus also has to pay enough that it truly is a bonus. I don't know about you, but I hate it when I finally get a bonus, like free games, and get nothing or next-to-nothing on each spin and leave the bonus winning low four figures -- that's including the two decimal places.

I've had a few very disappointing free games bonus rounds on Game of Thrones: Red Keep. I've had some very good results, but I've also had some rounds that paid me a few bucks or $10 or $20, which isn't much of a bonus at $4 per spin.

I've also had disappointing bonus rounds on Monopoly Hot Shot. In the Hot Shot bonus round on this machine, you get to take a spin on different slot games when their symbols land on the screen. I used to play a game with the same type of bonus but not Monopoly-themed at Gold Coast. On that game, if you didn't win anything on your spins on the sub-games, you got another chance. The bonus was essentially re-triggered. You kept re-triggerring the bonus until you finally won something.

On Monopoly Hot Shot, though, you had one bite of the bonus round apple, win or lose. I would usually win at least a few bucks in the bonus, but I had a few rounds in which I didn't hit anything on any of the sub-games and I left the bonus empty handed.

This is the tradeoff the designers have to make with bonus rounds. The bonus round has to hit often enough that it's an extra incentive to play (but not so often that it becomes just another winning combination and is no longer special). It also has to pay enough often enough that players get excited when it hits. They don't want it to pay so little so often that players quote my favorite literary bear when it hits, "Oh, bother."

If we had access to our favorite machines' PAR sheets, we could see exactly how likely it is to trigger their bonuses. Even without access to the horse's mouth, so to speak, we can make a pretty good guess just by tracking how many times we've hit a bonus in the number of spins we've played. The more spins we play on a machine, the more accurate our estimate will be.

My empirical, rule-of-thumb estimate for how often your average bonus round hits is once per 100 spins.

My typical game plan for playing a machine is to give it 100 spins. If the machine is stingy, I can bail out before reaching 100 spins. On the flip side, I can play more spins if the machine has been generous or I'm having a really good time playing it, ideally both.

Sometimes I'll keep playing a machine just to hit the bonus. (That is the real purpose of the bonus, right?)

A while ago I saw a pirate-themed slot machine, Coin-O-Mania, at Red Rock that looked like it would be fun to play. I played a few hundred-spin sessions on it without hitting the free games bonus. That didn't faze me. My 1-in-100 estimate is just that -- an estimate. The bonuses on each game theme have their own frequencies.

On one multiple points day, I decided I would play the machine until I finally hit the free games. Well, within reason. I wasn't going to spend a fortune or hours and hours trying to get lightning to strike.

I finally got my free games this session around 700 spins in. All told, I figure I played about 1000 spins before finally hitting the bonus. I haven't played this machine enough to know whether I was just very unlucky or its free games bonus really does hit infrequently.

I have much more experience with Quick Hit Blitz, Quick Hit Reel Boost, Red Keep, and Monopoly Hot Shot.

On both of the Quick Hit machines, I've had a few hundred-spin sessions without a bonus. Maybe one-in-a-hundred is too generous for these machines.

But maybe not. I've also had sessions in which I hit more than one bonus round. A few weeks ago on Quick Hit Blitz, there was a woman playing the machine next to mine. It seemed like one of us was always in a bonus.

When I was finished with my bonus, she played a few spins and she got the bonus. When she was done, I hit the bonus after a few spins. When I was done, she hit the bonus a few spins later. And when she was done, she hit the bonus again after a few spins. And then after a few more spins, she hit the bonus again. And then I got jealous because I was barely breaking even and she was up over $700 so I left to play Monopoly Hot Shot (MHS).

MHS has two bonus features. Hot Shot, in which you get free spins on bonus sub-games and which can end with $0 won, and Around the Board. In Around the Board, you get three rolls of the dice to move around a Monopoly board. You win amounts based on the spaces on which you land. You can't end Around the Board empty handed.

You will always win something on Around the Board, so it might hit less frequently than Hot Shot. That guess matches my experience. I don't think I've ever had a 100-spin session without a Hot Shot and sometimes I've gotten it four or five times. It's very typical for me, though, to go without an Around the Board bonus.

My experience is that Hot Shot hits much more frequently than 1-in-100 and Around the Board much less frequently.

Bonuses on Game of Thrones: Red Keep are around 1-in-100 too, but the situation is more complicated. It has two bonus rounds, Free Games and Red Keep. I usually get at least one of the bonuses in a 100-spin session. Sometimes I get one twice, sometimes one of each. My guess is that each event is less frequent than 1-in-100, but overall you hit a bonus around 1-in-100.

Alas, I won't be able to refine my estimate or continue my investigation of whether it's better to bet the max at the minimum denomination or bet the minimum at the maximum denomination because the game is no longer at Suncoast.

Monopoly Hot Shot is gone too, but it may have been moved and I just haven't found it yet.

Game of Thrones machines don't last more than a few months at Suncoast. I think these machines are placed on a participation basis with the manufacturer. In this arrangement, a casino lets the manufacturer decide what games to place in an area on the slot floor in exchange for a cut of the winnings. When the manufacturer thinks that a game has run its course, it replaces it with another game.

The Game of Thrones machines were replaced with another entertainment-themed machine, Crazy Rich Asians. These games may be hot for a while, but they don't have legs after the novelty has worn off.

Let me know how frequently you hit a bonus on your favorite machines.


Click here for the latest Covid data.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots