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Ask the Slot Expert: Is what you win on the free games in China Street pre-determined?

18 March 2020

Question: When playing Ultimate Fire Link, especially the China Street version, does it matter what you choose when given the option of how many free games to accept and what multiplier, or is that bonus predetermined before you even make the choice?

Answer: I've never played this version of a Fire Link game. You Tube came through for me again. I found a number of videos of China Street play there.

There might be some variations on the game for different jurisdictions, so let me describe the game on which I'm basing my answer.

When the free games bonus is triggered, the player has to choose one of seven options: 20 free games with a 2x, 3x or 5x wild multiplier; 15 free games with a 3x, 5x or 8x wild multiplier; 10 free games with a 5x, 8x or 10x wild multiplier; 7 free games with an 8x, 10x, or 15x wild multiplier; 5 free games with a 10x, 15x or 25x wild multipler; or a mystery choice with a mystery number of free games with a mystery set of multipliers.

If I understand your question correctly, I believe you're asking if the program running the machine has determined that you will win, say, 250 credits for the free games bonus regardless of which option you choose.

That's not the case, at least not for machines with internal Random Number Generators.

After you make your choice, the machine switches to a set of bonus reels and it determines the outcome of each of your free spins at random. The amount you win on the bonus is determined by the number of free games you choose, the wild multiplier you received, and the results of each of your free games. It is not determined before you play the free spins.

So, what you pick matters for this play. But it may not matter in the long run.

I wouldn't be surprised to see that the machine is designed so that the expected value of each choice is the same. When you do the long-term payback calculation, the probability of triggering the free games bonus is whatever it is and the value of the free games bonus is the same, in the long run, regardless of what the player chooses. That may even be a requirement for the calculation because I don't know how you would determine the probabilities of a player choosing each of the options.

I've played games that give a similar choice before. I rarely go for the big win and choose an option with fewer games and higher multipliers. I stick to the more conservative options of more games with lower multipliers. I've had too many free spins with no or low payouts even using the generous bonus reels. I like having more chances at getting a good-paying winning combination.


You've probably seen news reports about strip casinos closing for a few weeks. It may not have made the national news when they first postponed or canceled shows, closed buffets, and closed race and sports books and poker rooms before going one step further and closing all together.

Las Vegas' locals casinos have also moved into a new phase in their response to COVID-19. At first they set up more hand sanitizer dispensers and it was still pretty much business as usual. They really stepped their actions this past weekend.

Although a St. Patrick's Day slot tournament at one casino still went ahead as scheduled, there were many bottles of hand sanitizer spread throughout the tournament area. In the casino I saw many more employees walking around with containers of wipes and wiping down machines. I also saw an employee wiping down door handles both when I entered the casino and when I left.

Monday, in accordance with new guidelines issued by the governor on Sunday, some casinos took it up a notch to ensure social distancing. They removed tables in food courts, removed chairs from table games and shut down every other machine. It's weird to walk into a casino and see every other machine dark or displaying a Disabled message.

I guess I was ahead of the curve because I've been practicing social distancing at the machines for years. The only time I played a machine next to someone is when I had no other choice. And it always bothered me when someone sat down next to me when there were other machines available in the bank.

On Sunday, I was playing the left machine in a bank of four and a man was playing the right machine. Good distancing. After he left, a woman took his place. I guess she's one of those people who switch machines after a big win or a big loss or on a whim because she moved one machine closer to me after she had played for a while.

Okay, we're still about three feet apart. Some minutes later she cashed out and moved to the machine next to me. I almost asked her why she would move so close to me with all that is happening, especially when we were the only two people playing at that bank.

Maybe I should have left, but I stayed. She played that machine for about 15 minutes and then left. I admit, with a small amount of shame, that I had a touch of schadenfreude every time she had to put more money in her machine.

Today, St. Patrick's Day, I wanted to use a dining credit that expires on Thursday. The casino was even less crowded than it was on Monday, when I made a quick visit solely to get some take out using a dining credit that was also expiring this week, but was not restricted to dine-in only.

The credit I wanted to use today was dine-in only, so I went to the casino's coffee shop. Many, many open tables there and as the hostess scanned the dining room to seat me, I had the impression she was trying to keep a good distance between the few customers she had.

I ordered my usual, which comes out to $16. I usually leave a $3 tip, but the local news is filled with stories about how restaurant workers and other casino employees may not have any income while casinos are closed and may even lose their jobs, so I added an extra buck. Then I watched the waiter wipe down a table and the condiment containers at a table after the patrons had left and thought about how few customers he had and if the casino closed, he might lose his job. I swapped a fiver for the four singles. I was using a dining credit so I figured I could be a George.

When I handed my credit slip to the hostess at the cash register, she apologized that she couldn't accept it today because it was not valid on holidays. I said, "St. Patrick's Day is a holiday?"

I had a discussion about holidays and coupons with the hostess at another restaurant in that casino. She told me that, as far as she knew, the holidays on which the coupons were not valid were just the big ones, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and New Year's Day.

I don't know whether the hostess today was mistaken about the coupon's validity, whether coupons have never been valid on St. Patrick's Day, or whether this casino decided to not accept them this year. In any case, I think enforcing a coupon's restrictions is short-sighted in today's circumstances.

I suggest that casinos not enforce the dine-in only restriction on their coupons. While the casinos and restaurants in them remain open and we're all trying to limit our interactions with others, honoring coupons for take-out will give more business to the restaurants without increasing the risk to staff and other patrons.

Update: The situation changes quickly. I wrote the above before dinner. During dinner Governor Sisolak announced that all non-essential businesses Nevada had to close for 30 days to slow the spread of the virus. All machines had to be turned off and table games closed at midnight tonight, March 17. Restaurants within the casino are allowed to remain open for take-out only.

I wonder though how much business the restaurants can get. I foresee the restaurants in Suncoast closing because they won't get enough business to warrant remaining open. At Red Rock, on the other hand, I can see Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que remaining open because it already does a big take-out business and people would go to Lucille's without ever going to the casino. Plus you don't have to go to the casino to get into the restaurant. I have to admit that I have an ulterior motive for hoping that Lucille's stays open. It's giving a discount on take-out orders and I have a Lucille's gift card to use.

I've received emails from Starbucks and Cinemark saying that they have extended the expiration date for points that were going to expire in the next month or so. Casinos could extend the expiration dates on coupons already in patrons' hands. There may not be time to redo the mailers for April, so they could extend the expiration dates on them too. Or maybe it's just easier to write off everything that is already in the pipeline and start anew when things start to return to normal.

Everything is changing so quickly, the marketing departments can't keep up. Yesterday I received an email saying that a wine dinner at one casino was canceled. Four hours later I received an email inviting me to the wine dinner.

It's going to take a while for the marketing departments to get everything in line with the new reality.

Some people are saying that we're overreacting to the threat of this virus. I hope that when the worst is behind us it will look like we overreacted.

I think I can make a useful comparison with Y2K. My sister-in-law's mother said the people predicting massive problems were scaremongers and the whole thing turned out to not be a big deal.

I tried to explain to her that the reason Y2K didn't cause serious problems is because programmers spent years going over existing programs to make them Y2K compliant and the tech boom at the end of the 1990s was due in part to companies buying new Y2K-compliant systems.

Y2K turned out to be relatively painless not because the dire predictions were alarmist, but because a lot of people spent a lot of time and a lot of companies spent a lot of money to minimize the problems.

Who know how bad things could get if we don't overreact now?

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots