I know of at least one site where you really can get something for nothing. They offer a free sweepstakes to players who win a certain pre-defined minimum number of credits on their free slot machine games. Since these credits are the virtual equivalent of Monopoly money, if you have a small chance of winning anything at all, your expected value is essentially infinite.
What is expected value? It’s the average of the results of a tremendous number of repetitions of a bet. It’s the amount you can expect to win or lose on each bet given an almost infinite number of bets. Professional gamblers (including casinos) use expected value (EV) as a means of determining the attractiveness of a bet. It’s a simple enough calculation, too.
Here’s how you calculate it. You take the odds of winning and multiply that by the amount you stand to win. Then you take the odds of losing and multiply that by the amount you stand to lose. So if you’re flipping a coin, and you win $1 every time you call it correctly, and you lose every time you call it incorrectly, your expected value is $0. You’ll win and lose in equal amounts over a large enough number of repetitions.
With a free slot machine game that offers any kind of chance of winning a prize, you have no loss to factor in. Over an infinite number of repetitions, your winnings would theoretically be infinite, while your losses would be 0.
Of course, in practical terms, you’d never be able to get anything close to an infinite number of repetitions. Nor would you want to. Even the most obsessive of slot zombies will get bored with playing for Monopoly money eventually, even if they stand the chance of winning $50 or $100 every once in a blue moon.
Still, it’s nice to know that an activity as seemingly meaningless and pointless as playing free slots can have a tangible reward.
Most online casinos make the bulk of their money from slots players. The oft-quoted percentage of 70% is probably an understatement of how much of an online casino’s profits come from the one-armed bandits. But if you’re new to the world of Internet casinos, how do you know whether or not you’ll enjoy playing the games at a given website?
The casinos make it easy for you. They offer free versions of their games that you can play in order to try out the software. Sometimes these require a download, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. You can now try it before you buy it with free casino games that work on almost any device—not just your desktop computer, but also your tablet or your cell phone.
I’ve seen some speculation about the free versions of these games that’s worth sharing though. I have no way of knowing how accurate these observations are, but I trust the lady who shared them with me. This is pure speculation and completely anecdotal; I won’t share the name of the casino.
My friend tried the free casino games at a particular casino. She occasionally received advertisements from within the game encouraging her to try playing for real money. But she noticed something odd about her number of credits in the free version of the casino.
They kept going up.
She kept winning. If you’ve ever played at a real money casino, online or otherwise, you know that over time, a casino gambler’s bankroll doesn’t gradually get bigger. It gradually gets smaller. That’s because the games are designed to give the casino a mathematical edge over the player. The payouts for your winnings pay off at lower odds than your odds of winning would dictate in a “fair” game.
Her theory was that the free games were designed in the opposite manner, giving the player a small edge over the house. That’s why her bankroll kept growing. She was consistently winning more than she was losing, or at least she thought she was. She’s convinced that the casino set the free games up this way in order to encourage players to switch to the real money games. If it’s this easy to win on the free version of the games, why wouldn’t you want to try the real money games?
Of course, real money casinos don’t stay in business long by offering games with a long term positive expectation.
Free slots are more interesting than you’d initially expect them to be. The Internet has created these new factors to think about. In fact, before the Internet, people didn’t even think about free slot machine games much at all. They can be a fun diversion, but they can also be used as bait to lure gamblers into real money gambling on the Web. As long as you’re aware of that going in, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional free game.