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Talking Slot Bonuses: Buy a Bonus and the Increasingly Difficult Bonus to Get

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Written by Joshua

In a previous post here on the site I noted examples of online slot game types I hoped would make more of an appearance in physical casinos.

One element I spoke about, which I’ve also written about here in the past, is the concept of buying a bonus. Instead of spinning to get to a bonus, you have the option of paying an amount to get right to the good stuff.

It does seem like games are starting to incorporate this with a bit more regularity. Aristocrat has included it on their Coin Trio and Mr. Cashman Link, both of which have it with a hold and spin mechanic, which merges two elements together.

However, one thing that has begun to become clear is why this is even more necessary nowadays – bonuses are getting increasingly hard to get.

If you go back 10 or 15 years, bonus frequencies were much higher. Let’s say they came every 50 spins or so, and had a target of something like 25x your bet back. However, players have become comfortable with higher volatility, meaning they can make bonuses rarer but have more upside potential.

If you halved the number of bonuses, you could have them pay twice as much, making them more valuable, but harder to achieve. So using the above example, a bonus could be set up to come out every 100 spins instead of 50, but then there’d be room for a 50x bonus on average because they’re coming less frequently.

I get asked a lot more nowadays than I used to why a bonus on this game or that is so hard to get – it’s simply the case that over time, because the potential value within a bonus has grown, the game makers have over time pushed a bonus out to be harder to achieve to offset that – they do this as part of how they ensure the game meets its overall payback design.

They can also make more of the money come out of the bonuses and less out of line hits – we’ve all played games where that’s the case. And often times some combination thereof is likely in play.

So this brings us back around to Buy a Bonus. What I’m beginning to notice especially on newer games, whether it be physical or online, is buying a bonus can be expensive! A number of examples I’ve reviewed have a bonus in the range of 66-125x the normal spin bet to get the bonus. To cite a few examples:

  • The game I previewed with Ainsworth at G2E, Strike it Gold, let you buy a bonus for 100x the normal spin wager. So a 60 cent bonus could be bought for $60, a $1.20 bonus for $120, and so on.
  • Funk Master, a game on Fan Duel here in Connecticut, lets you buy a 20 cent level bonus for $25, which works out to 125x your normal wager.
  • Mr. Cashman Link has a 75 cent level bonus that can be bought for $50, about 66x your normal spin wager.
  • Coin Trio lets you buy a 60 cent level bonus for $35, roughly 60x your normal spin wager.

This really underscores why bonuses are in some cases so hard to get now – if you figure these are baked in with the standard payback percentages (let’s call it 90 percent), a 100x bonus is expected to pay you back, on average 90x. But the bonuses are much more volatile nowadays, so it could be 10x or it could be 1,000x.

So in some ways you do get a bit of a hint of a game’s volatility based on the Buy a Bonus structure – bigger purchases relative to the bet level that is offered will likely indicate a more volatile bonus, but one that has more potential in there. But if playing the game normally, a bigger Buy a Bonus can also hint at the relative level of difficulty of getting that bonus naturally. (In the case of Coin Trio, a three-bag structure may allow bonuses to come out more frequently because you can qualify for one, two or three upgrades, something which could potentially be calibrated differently for the Buy a Bonus, or perhaps not.)

For players who want a chance at a massive bonus potential, those might be the game for you, while players who like to get into the bonus more frequently (without having to pay 100x the normal wager for them, anyway) may find this isn’t the right game for them.

Like other game designs, this is just another variation that players can choose from, with the opportunity to find what works for them. I’ve been playing around more with Buy a Bonus and definitely find it interesting, but for me it’s probably going to be a minority of my casino play.

Buy a Bonus Slot Videos

VegasLowRoller played Mr. Cashman Link and did a full video of bonus buys:

Slot Queen‘s husband (Slot Hubby, of course) did a video during his weekly Saturday video on the channel, playing Coin Trio, that started with a series of bonus buys:

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.


  • This seems like it could be a potential advantage play, if you have enough freeplay…
    Assuming the house edge is 15%, and you had $150 freeplay, you could buy a 2x multiplied bonus round on the $.10 denomination of Coin Trio, which would cost you $1,000 but you’d only really be risking $850 of your own money, which could be enough of a discount for you to still come out ahead if you didn’t get a great bonus, while still allowing you to play for a big win from the $.10 x2 bet level bonus round.
    Or is the volatility and expense too much on a game like that for that math to work?
    Seems like you’d at least lose LESS money and get a shot at a big win, or you could do it at $.05 or less and pick a bigger multiplier, or don’t pick a higher multiplier and get a free (or nearly free) bonus round…

    • I wouldn’t consider having to put $850 at risk to convert $150 in free play advantage play. I think I mentioned in the piece that I won $10 on a $70 buy a bonus so the risk is real on any given buy a bonus wager, although I’m sure that’s in the bottom 10 or 20 percent of the outcomes. If you have $150 in free play a game like video poker with a much thinner house advantage is probably a better free play conversion approach than a slot as a general rule, but lower volatility slots will convert at a more reliable rate than a game like Coin Trio.

    • You’re awarded five coin prizes and a coin upgrade to start the bonus, presuming the worst case of only breaking one pig open. The minimum a coin can be is 20 credits which is 1/3 the minimum bet. So 100 credits and either an Award All or a 2x (really the same thing at the start of the bonus) and no other coins won would be 200 credits, or just over 3x a 60 credit bet. (These grow proportionally so a 2x bet would see these values double, etc.)

  • Yeah, now that I have all the info, buying a bonus doesn’t seem like such a great deal because it costs 5000 credits and you might only win 200 credits. You’d probably be better off just playing the normal game. You would have more chances to hit the bonus naturally (or win via other combos) before losing 5000 credits.

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