Bonuses: Predetermined vs. Free Pick

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In an earlier article we discussed the randomness of slots, which yielded a question from a player who wanted to know specifically about bonus rounds:

Are the bonus rounds predetermined or completely random? If the regular slot play is pseudo-random, it is already decided at the time that you get a bonus as to what the total payout will be? Or is there still plenty of “randomness” to that play as well?

J Timothy

The question of whether bonus rounds, whether it be free spins, picking screens and so on, is decided upfront or as the bonus proceeds is probably one of the biggest batches of questions we’ve received so far. And the answer is: Both.

But first, since we’re in the Casino Definitions bucket, let’s define a couple of things:

  • Predetermined Bonus or Scripted Bonus: This means the final outcome/prize of the bonus is determined at the time you initiate the spin that triggers the bonus. Everything you see from that point on, whether free spins or picking, is “scripted,” meaning it’s designed to get you to that outcome in a specific way.
  • True Pick/Free Pick or RNG Bonus: Here the final outcome is not determined at the triggering of the bonus. When you’re picking, you’re choosing from a set number of options, but what you touch is completely in your control. For free spins, the game will use the RNG, just like when you’re hitting the spin button, to determine the outcome of each free game/spin.

Manufacturers can generally decide if they want to take a predetermined bonus approach or take an RNG-driven approach, or even some hybrid of both. Certainly when it comes to free spins, it seems the lean overall is towards an RNG-based approach, given that tends to mirror the work slot developers have already done on the base game. 

That’s not a universal answer – there are certainly scenarios out there where free spins are just just visual eye candy to build to a prize that was determined at the time the spin that triggered it started.

The same can be said for picking bonuses. There are definitely true-pick picking bonuses (think the Jackpot Party series of games) while there’s also obvious examples of predetermined picking (the progressive pick on Dancing Drums). 

As a general rule, if you don’t see what the other options are after the picking bonus is concluded, it’s a predetermined bonus. If you do see the other options, it’s usually true pick, but there are exceptions to that rule, particularly on games made by Everi.

While it’s clear a lot of players want to know if a bonus is predetermined, in the long run it won’t have any effect on the way a game pays out – it’s just two approaches to the same overall long term outcome. After all, you don’t really know if your picking was good or not until the bonus has concluded – and the overall odds within the bonus are still calculated out, just like anything else, based on the distribution of prizes and the number of bonus ending elements.

As such, if you have a bad picking scenario, or just got your 12th Mini progressive, don’t beat yourself up too much. And take the time to celebrate when it is a Major, or you get that third free spins retrigger, as regardless of how you got there it’s a moment to root yourself on!

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