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Free Spins Features

One of the most common and popular bonus features in online slots is the Free Spins bonus.

Free Spins offer the chance for players to seriously increase their winnings. The bonus varies from slot to slot, and from developer to developer, but essentially they do the same thing: you are awarded a set or random number of free games, sometimes with a multiplier attached to your winnings.

Spins can be retriggered, or reactivated again and again during the bonus. You may even find extra bonus symbols and Wilds included when you play the feature. They offer a great way of improving your casino bankroll, but are Free Spins slots worth the cost?

Let's take a look at how free spins work, and the different types of feature you'll find online.

What Are Free Spins?

Free spins are a common bonus feature of many online slots. Typically they are awarded in-game by lining up special symbols or landing Scatters. In their most basic form, they promise players free games to help boost their winnings.

Many games have fixed spins with a special multiplier attached. You might, for example, win 10 free spins with a 3x multiplier added to any wins.

Once the round is over, you will return to the base game and continue playing. Any wins from the free spins round are added to your bankroll when the round finishes.

Watch a Free Spins Feature Demo

How Do You Trigger Free Spins?

Typically, free spins are triggered in three ways. You can generally trigger free spins by landing three or more bonus symbols anywhere on the reels, by randomly triggering a free spins bonus after a paid spin, or by collecting a certain number of special symbols that results in the triggering of free spins.

First, look at the slot paytable, which you can learn more about by visiting our slots glossary. You'll find the symbols needed to trigger the Free Spins round. Usually, they will be Scatters - symbols that pay wherever they land on the reels (i.e. they don't need to be on a payline to trigger a win).

Listed on the paytable will be a description of the feature and any added extras. Generally, the more Scatters you hit, the more free spins you'll win. So, three Scatters might trigger 10 free spins, four Scatters 20 spins, and five Scatters 30 spins (in addition to any regular payline wins).

Types of Free Spins Features

Fixed Free Spins With Multipliers

The most common form of free spins bonus is a set number of spins with a multiplier attached. Novomatic's hugely popular Lucky Lady's Charm Deluxe awards 10 free spins with a 3x multiplier on each spin. While 10 spins isn't high compared to modern slots, the bonus can be retriggered (see below) for bigger wins.

Variable Free Spins and Multipliers

Many slots manufacturers prefer to offer more spins the more Scatters you trigger the round with. Microgaming and NetEnt offer dozens of slots with variable free spins.

King of Slots is a typical example: a 25-payline slot played on five reels, where you can win anywhere from 10 to 30 free spins with a three times multiplier on each and every spin.

The 'Second Screen'

Some slots have your free spins done on the same screen you play the base game on. However, others have a separate 'second screen' packed with interesting symbols, and possibly loaded with extra bonus symbols.

Choice of Spins and Multipliers

Some slots give you no choice on how many spins you win. Other titles give you a choice between three or four spins totals and multipliers. Usually, your choice will between lots of spins and a low multiplier or a few spins but a big multiplier. Do you opt for fewer spins but big multipliers or go for volume?

Microgaming's excellent 2015 slot, Game of Thrones, is a good example. When you trigger the Free Spins round you have a choice between four options: 8 spins with a 5x multiplier, 10 spins and a 4x multiplier, 14 spins with a 3x multiplier, or 18 free spins and a 2x multiplier.

The 'Pick 'em Bonus'

Some developers make the free spins feature a little more interesting. Rather than give you a fixed amount or award more for hitting more Scatters, you'll have to play a quick Pick 'em or Skill game first.

iSoftbet's Happy Birds game kicks off the Free Spins round by presenting the player with a screen filled with balloons. The more balloons you shoot down, the more spins and multipliers you win. Once the mini-game is over, the free spins will begin.

Other developers implement a short Pick 'em bonus first: select from a choice of objects to reveal your free spins total.

Slots with the Most Free Spins

Special Free Spin Symbols

In some video slots with free spins, additional Wilds, expanding Wilds and bonus symbols are added to the reels to spice things up. These keep players interested and increase the chance of bagging some extra wins.

Expanding Bonus Symbols

Novomatic's Pharaoh's Ring slot features a free spins round where 10 spins are won by hitting three or more bonus Scatters. When you play the feature, a special icon is added to the screen which expands to fill the whole reel when it appears.

Expanding Wilds

These are special Wilds which not only act as substituting symbols but also expand to fill the whole reel when they appear.

Stacked Symbols

Stacked symbols are icons that fill the three spots on a reel. If you hit stacked symbols on more than one reel at once, these can really increase your winnings.

Retriggering Free Spins

Before you start playing, check the paytable to see if the Free Spins can be retriggered. Some games allow it but many don't.

Retriggering can happen once, twice or indefinitely. With a little luck a retriggered feature can go on for 100 spins!

Typically, retriggering the feature is done by hitting the round in the same way you first activated it, namely by landing three or more free spins Scatters anywhere.

Are Free Spins Good For Players?

Free spins are a great feature for both players and developers. They promise the chance to bag the slot's biggest jackpots. And if a feature can be retriggered that’s even better.

But there's always a trade-off. Slot manufacturers have to balance the frequency with which the free spins rounds appear with the regular payouts of the slot. If a free spins round is lucrative, it probably won't come round that often. That can make a slot quite volatile and worse for your short-term profits.

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