Smarter Gambling Understanding Comps

Does What You Play Your Free Play On Truly Matter?

Mohegan Sun types of comps
Written by Joshua

In one of the forums I frequent, a bit of a debate cropped up recently around free play and what you play it on. I’ve advised in the past to choose based on what you want to try for in converting your freeplay. But some said that you can still get trounced on low volatility games, or win big on high volatility ones, so it doesn’t matter.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Let’s take a few examples and discuss why your choice can matter.

Low Volatility vs. High Volatility Slots

Let’s compare two games I’ve written about often, Quick Spin and Dancing Drums. Quick Spin is a lower volatility game with a higher hit frequency, while Dancing Drums is a higher volatility game with a lower hit frequency.

When playing Quick Spin, your money is more likely not to go up or down as much, as the game offers pays frequently, albeit smaller ones. The game is also designed on average to deliver a wheel spin every 56 wagers, according to our friends at Ainsworth, who developed the game.

Meanwhile, Dancing Drums is known to have a lot more dead spins, offering pays less frequently, and so the swings are much wilder.

When you play on free play, you only have a certain number of wagers. Let’s say you have $50 in free play. You could do 100 spins at 50 cents a spin (or 50 spins at $1 a spin) on Quick Spin; to get access to all the progressives on Dancing Drums you could do 56 or so 88 cent spins. That’s not a particularly long time to make anything happen.

With Quick Spin you’re likely to come away with a good portion of your money even if you lose, whereas with Dancing Drums the range would be much wider because of the higher volatility of the machine.

So it does matter, based on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Quick Spin will be more likely to deliver cash in pocket that you can take home, use to play other games, etc., whereas Dancing Drums is going to be more uncertain, but probably more upside potential if you do hit it big.

Video Poker vs. Slots

Another topic on the forum was how you could still get trounced on full pay 9/6 Jacks or Better. This is certainly true on any game in the casino – variance is real – but that doesn’t mean that as a general rule it’s still not a better bet than other options in the casino.

In one of my home casinos they offer 9/6 Jacks or Better at the quarter denomination, but you don’t earn comps. But if you’re converting free play, comps don’t factor in either, so why not use it to play, especially when it lets you do so?

I routinely convert on full pay when choosing Video Poker as the option because you get the better pays on full houses and flushes over a non-full pay machine in the same casino. And I even once got a Royal Flush converting my free play at the casino so there’s still the opportunity to win big!

You can also lose, but compared to more volatile slots it can be at least a bit more likely to pay, as 45% of hands or so on Jacks or Better (when played to proper strategy) will yield a payout, and the minimum you can win is your money back. There are a lot of slots with hit frequencies that are the same but many hits will be less than your wager, or lower hit frequencies overall, etc.

So again, it comes down to your overall strategy – are you aiming for cash? Or the chance of a massive payout?

My Approach

I always try to aim for cash, even if it’s a roughly even conversion. Once it’s cash, it’s counted as cash wagers, which counts towards tier credits, comps and so forth. I get to put the casino’s money to work to help me earn comps and the tier I wish to have at a casino. It also helps my overall coin-in, which can help my overall comps position.

Swinging for the fences is certainly a fair strategy, but that means when the free play disappears quickly you have to use your own money to earn your various comps.

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.

1 Comment

  • Some casinos will limit what type of slot machines will take Free Slot Play (FSP).

    Generally, FSP are not allowed on games where you can hedge the wagers: video baccarat, both electromechanical and video roulette, both electromechanical and video craps, etc.

    FSP is also generally not allowed on slots that have (huge) progressives jackpots. These casinos don’t want players to win say million dollar jackpots without paying for them. Progressive slots like Megabucks have huge margins for the casino.

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