Is The Bonus Outcome Decided at the Start of the Spin?

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Here’s a question we get a lot around bonuses, but we’ll not only address the specific question, but zoom out and discuss bonuses more generally:

I understand that the microsecond you hit the play button on a slot that the outcome is determined. What happens when in a bonus the game automatically spins for you? Is the whole outcome of the bonus determined at the very first time you press the button. Or does the “auto” spin determine the outcome?

Trina M.

The industry term for whether a bonus is decided upfront is whether a bonus is predetermined, or a scripted bonus, which means everything that happens during the bonus is working towards an outcome that is already known.

How do you like to play through a slot bonus?

Like many things on a slot machine, looking at it you can’t really tell if a bonus is predetermined or not. Sometimes, they’ll tell you – on all those games where you see 4 progressives and 12 coins or picking options, the outcome is already determined and the picking is just to create some suspense. 

How do we know this? Go into a pay table on a game like Dancing Drums and it tells you! So sometimes, it will confirm what’s happening on the pay table.

Traditionally, if a game doesn’t show you what was under the other options, it’s a predetermined pick. If it does show, usually (but not always) it’s a true pick, meaning your pick was really your pick. There are exceptions, though, basically on games made by Everi, where on a game series like Wicked Wheel they sometimes show you the other options, but the bonus was still scripted.

Newer versions don’t always show you the options, particularly in Nevada, where the regulations have been evolving, but in other states the same game could show you the other possible outcomes even though it’s predetermined.

When it comes to free spins, talking with a lot of manufacturers, the trend does seem to be towards the spins themselves work just like any wagered spin, in that they go to the random number generator (RNG) and that is what determines the outcome. They may use different reels (you’ll often find some indicator of “Bonus Reels in Play” or something to that effect on the screen), but the RNG is still choosing from some range of outcomes for each spin, just like on the base game spins.

So to Trina’s question, as far as when the outcome is decided it can be the start of that next spin, or the conclusion of the previous one (we’ve heard both examples over the years), but ultimately it’s decided in real time as the bonus progresses, and in those cases is not decided at the time the bonus is triggered. 

This would mean if you speed through the spins, the timing would be different (although, like always, we wouldn’t know if this improved our bonus or hurt it, as we don’t know what the other outcome would have been if we left things alone).

Hold and spin games like Ultimate Fire Link and Lightning Link and its siblings all use the RNG and when you hit that button to initiate a spin to determine if you land another prize or not.

But here’s the thing – similar to anything else with a slot, whether a bonus is predetermined or not, the game’s design will still over time accomplish what it’s designed to accomplish. So while you may go on a great picking run on a particular game, you’re simply beating the odds on how many picks and how far an average player will get. The next time you may pick horribly and be beaten by the odds that next time. 

Predetermined bonuses have their place and allow the companies to accomplish things a true bonus may not make as easy to accomplish (such as quickly resolving a pick in the case of those progressives). 

But using one over the other won’t change what a game’s payback will be over time, and either model can be used to accomplish this, so for us players it’s not going to ultimately make much of a difference. But if you like having control, and know what games to play to have it, it’s a neutral thing – it won’t help or hurt your play. As we love to say, it’s all about timing!

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