Why Does the Missing Bonus Symbol Appear On the Next Spin?

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Buffalo Gold Max Power single coin

We’ve talked here a bit already about our observations and how confirmation bias reinforces our beliefs when we think we spot patterns. Here’s another example from a player:

If each slot spin is completely random, why is it that when one gets 1 less bonus symbol that one needs, it almost ALWAYS appears on the next spin???

Philip L.

In a funny twist, we cited this exact example of an observation players make in a previous post on this sort of topic. But let’s talk about it in more depth and why this observation even happens.

Bonus symbols come out in ones and twos on reels quite frequently. The fact this happens means that seeing a single bonus symbol frequently enough the spin after two spins is as likely as seeing a single bonus symbol on any random spin.

I’d venture that if you kept track, over a bunch of sessions, you’d see a single bonus symbol a lot in general. But your observation is just spotting those single bonus symbols on that spin after because it feels like the game’s showing you the one that got away, when both spins are independent.

So why does it happen? Because games are designed to show those bonus symbols a lot, as the psychology of an almost bonus is actually more powerful than getting the actual bonus – the anticipation of a bonus is more stimulating than the actual achievement of a bonus.

It’s powerful enough that regulations were developed at one point to ensure it wasn’t being exploited. Here’s an article from 1989 that spoke about how one company had to modify their machines after gaming commissions found their near misses were too frequent based on their design.

So in actuality, the game designs can’t over emphasize single bonus symbol scenarios to follow a spin that’s one short. But games are often designed to have bonus symbols appearing regularly on the reels, so seeing one symbol in general is just not that unusual.

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