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Does it Really Matter if a Bonus is Predetermined?

Dancing Drums by Shuffle Master and WMS progressive pick
Written by Joshua

I see slot players debating and wondering about whether a bonus is predetermined all the time on them. I see it enough that it is probably worth addressing the question: Does it truly matter if a bonus is predetermined?

STATUS: It doesn’t matter at all, as far as your payouts over time are concerned.

The reality is both bonus types rely on math to ensure that, over time, the games pay out exactly as their designed. With predetermined bonuses, this is done more directly, whereas through picking bonuses, it’s the probability model that comes out of having x number of choices.

Take the game Airplane. There’s a ton of choices, but you can look at it with three basic pick types:

  • A credit prize
  • A special feature and/or prize (through a secondary bonus, such as the Food Cart or the Otto bonus)
  • The Collect symbol. You are offered the ability to get back into the bonus if you pick well. But the first return has a bit better than 50/50 chance of happening, and each additional try drops to a 20 percent odds of happening, so staying in the bonus becomes difficult.

Here’s an example of a picking bonus on Airplane I filmed a couple of years ago:

With 40 spaces and 8 Collect spaces, on average you should be potentially booted out of the bonus every five picks or so, give or take. In my case I bounced out on the very first pick.

But since that’s just an average, and you do have the ability to get back into the bonus, you can get horrible bonuses like the above, or really awesome bonuses, like King Jason Slots’s run on Christmas Vacation (which has a similar picking model) below (bonus starts at 18:24):

In this instance there’s 42 spaces, vs. the 40 on Airplane, but still 8 outs, and it took the 5th out of 8 before Jason was finally out of the bonus. Mathematically the odds of that happening are pretty poor, but the game clearly has the ability to get there if the selections are consistently on the right objects.

Some players think this makes the game more fun, and if that’s what you prefer, that’s great, but it doesn’t change the fact the game’s math model and the probability of such a bonus occurring is just as precision-driven as the predetermined ones. Getting a Major on Dancing Drums or such similar games is probably equally rare, and just as exciting when it happens.

So while you might choose a game with a true pick purely for the entertainment value and the satisfaction for a picking job well done, it won’t make any difference as far as to the expected long-term payout – both bonus types are designed to work with other factors to achieve the payback setting the casino has chosen.

Therefore, worrying about whether a bonus is predetermined or not is probably unnecessary and won’t ultimately change your ability to win or not.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


  • Hi Josh, on the Wonder 4 Buffalo when I get the bonus wheel, I have a little system when the wheel is up. When the music is almost done playing I hit the spin button. I have a pretty good percentage of getting super games or getting the mini jackpots. I know that Brian has said that the bonus is not determined until you hit the spin button for example. So do you think that it is pure luck getting the supers or the jackpots, (have only hit the grand once, last year), or is it my timing when I actually hit the spin button? Also, just to comment, last night I finally got the gold extreme bonus symbol on the Wonder 4 Boost Americoins and my whole bonus for 7 games was $1.35. That was so RUDE!!!!! LOL

    • Generally speaking if a game gives you the ability to time when an action occurs, like a wheel spin, it’s based on the button press. It’s a weighted distribution, meaning some outcomes will come up more than others, and it’d be the same odds as if it were predetermined. So even if it is, your chances of getting one or another are the same!

      $1.35 bonus is painful… hopefully you’ll get a really good one next time to make up for it!

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