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Free Spins Options in Online Slots

By: Adam Baker, Thursday February 24th 2011
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Free spins are almost mandatory in contemporary online slot games. These are usually triggered when three or more scattered symbols appear on the reels. In most cases the free spins structure is clearly defined and the free spins are executed automatically without player intervention. Sometimes online gaming software developers offer a choice of free spins games to the player. This mostly involves a trade off between the number of free spins and multipliers. A recently released slot game Mile High from Vegas Technology has this option. The first option is 12 free spins with payouts doubled, the second option is 8 free spins with payouts tripled and the third option is 5 free spins with the payouts multiplied by four. The question that arises is how a player chooses between the given options.

There is no way of knowing if one of the options pays out more than others. To actually get a sense of that the player will have to run thousands of spins, keeping stack of the free spins choices and payouts and this is not possible. There ought not to be material payout differences in the options and players can choose randomly or on personal preferences between number of free spins and multipliers.

However, a simple calculation can sometimes eliminate an apparently inferior option. For this calculation to work one assumption needs to be made. Each of the options is played with identical reels. What this means is that the numbers of each type of symbol on each reel remains the same irrespective of the option chosen. Hence the expected payout is the same for each spin across options. This is a reasonable assumption to make.

Let us assume that the expected payout per spin under the above assumption is P. The first option provides 12 free spins at doubled payouts and therefore the expected cumulative payout is (12 x 2 x P) or (24 x P). The second option provides 8 free spins at tripled payouts and therefore the expected cumulative payout is (8 x 3 x P) or (24 x P). The third option provides 5 free spins at four times payouts and therefore the expected cumulative payout is (5 x 4 x P) or (20 x P). Under these conditions one would expect lower payouts from the third option. These are only expected payouts and because the outcomes are random the actual payouts could be anything.

In order to be fair to the Mile High slot game it must be stated that the options given were simplified in order to illustrate the calculation process. The actual conditions imposed are slightly different. The payouts would not be multiplied as indicated every time, but only when made with the help of one wild symbol. Under the basic assumption made this refinement would not alter the calculations. The second refinement is more pertinent. There can be only two wild symbols in Mile High and if both come into play then the multipliers become 4, 9 and 16 respectively. One cannot factor this into the mathematical calculations because there is no way of knowing with what probability both wild symbols will become effective. But whatever that may be one thing is certain. The expected payout will be boosted more in the third option compared to others.

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