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Are you fascinated by the colorful characters of the Wild West? If so, you will welcome the opportunity to discover the inner gunslinger in you, too, playing the thrilling slot game Dead or Alive.
Saddle up, if you dare, because you will be venturing forth into scary territory. Even if you watch a lot of Westerns, this time, you’re right in the thick of the action. It’s the turn of the 20th century, an era when lawlessness prevailed. So, passing the time at a seedy-looking saloon filled with posters of the most wanted, where shots of whiskey are downed like water and gunshots could go off at any time could be risky. But you’re a gambler, so you’re willing to take a chance.
As the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” While the last thing you want is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, your love of adventure and eagerness to win big tells you that on the contrary, you could be in the right place at the right time. This could be your lucky day when you become the hero who nabs the outlaws and walks away with a big bundle of cash.
Dead or Alive slot machine basics
Dead or Alive is a classic video slot by the renowned slot-maker NetEnt. It consists of five reels, three rows and nine fixed paylines.
It is unusual nowadays to find a slot with only nine paylines. But don’t let the small number mislead you into thinking that the potential to win big doesn’t exist or that you’ll quickly become bored. Dead or Alive doesn’t offer a progressive jackpot, but with a return to player (RTP) that is among the highest offered by any online slots, plus a maximum of payout of $100,000, the incentive to play should be just as high.
Then, from the minute you log in on your computer or smartphone to open the game, the graphics will grab your attention. Everything you might have read about the notorious Wild West from the gun-toting cowboys’ hats and boots to the prominently placed “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters is right in front of you.
More importantly, the chance for big payouts, even in the base game, augmented by the opportunity to trigger immersive special features like free spins and sticky wilds with the potential for even bigger payouts, will entice you to stick around.
Of course, we can’t promise a lucrative ending to every playing session. But even if you don’t win, this game gives you a great bang for the buck, including, but not limited to, the unmistakable sounds of gunshots frequently accompanying your spinning of the reels.
Minimum and maximum bet size
The minimum bet is only 9 cents per spin, while the maximum is $18. This makes the Dead or Alive casino game an excellent choice for small- to medium-stakes players. In fact, penny players can try their luck with this slot game for less cost than they would spend on a movie. However, high rollers who are accustomed to betting $50 or more per spin will be disappointed.
Regardless of whether you bet the minimum or the maximum or somewhere in between, don’t worry, you will always have all nine paylines working for you. However, depending on the coin value, you select (from 1 cent to 50 cents) and level (1-4), you can adjust your bet size up or down to the amount you prefer within the allotted range.
The NetEnt label: Your assurance of excellence
There are some good reasons why some of the most popular online slots of all time — and Dead or Alive is one of them — come from the slot maker NetEnt. For starters, because you get to choose from a vast range of themes, there is something for everyone. But one thing that all NetEnt slots have in common is that they are highly entertaining. NetEnt utilizes the latest advances in online slot technology not only to create outstanding graphics and cinematic-quality sound effects but the added special features that slot players love.
But beyond the wild symbols, scatter symbols, multipliers and re-triggerable free spins bonus rounds that make playing these games so enjoyable, every NetEnt slot has a return to player (RTP) of at least 96%. The RTP is a theoretical measure of how you might expect to fare playing a particular game in the long run, not necessarily of what is likely to happen in any given session. But playing a game with a relatively high RTP is always a good idea, and savvy slot players know that NetEnt slots rank among the very best.
Dead or Alive RTP and volatility
Exceptionally high RTP
Whenever a slot has an RTP approaching or exceeding the 96% mark, that indicates a game whose rate of return to the player is significantly above the average. In other words, it is a game worth playing. However, Dead or Alive has an RTP of 96.8%! Very few online slots have an RTP that high.
Does that mean that you are more likely to win playing Dead or Alive than another slot with a 96.0% RTP? Yes and no. The answer is complicated because you also have to take into account another factor: the volatility level of the game.
Watch out: The volatility level of Dead or Alive is also high
Volatility refers to the likelihood during play that you will experience significant swings in your bankroll. The swings can be either up or down or a combination of both.
Progressive jackpot slots often have both a lower than average RTP and higher than average volatility. Players are willing to accept this less than desirable combination in return for the possibility, however remote it might be, of winning a life-changing amount of money. Meanwhile, of course, there have to be some winning spins to keep the player in the game. But the frequency of winning spins, and especially those with better than tiny payouts, might be less than expected. Players with limited bankrolls need to be careful because long sequences of non-winning spins are a genuine possibility.
Conversely, games with a very high RTP typically have low to medium volatility. The machine pays out frequently, and even when the player is losing, the negative swings are usually modest.
But that isn’t the case with all high RTP slots. Dead or Alive is a game with high volatility. So, despite the exceptionally high RTP, huge negative swings can occur. That’s why it is probably for the best that the bet range is lower than you will find on many other online slots. If you decide to bet the $18 maximum, make sure your bankroll can handle it, as you could lose several hundred dollars very quickly.
Is Dead or Alive the right slot game choice for you?
This combination of high RTP and high volatility is in stark contrast to another NetEnt slot game, Butterfly Staxx, which also has an RTP of 96.8% but low volatility.
If you would like to play a slot game that’s calming and relaxing, a game like Butterfly Staxx would be a great choice. Dead or Alive is far from calming and relaxing but delivers no shortage of suspense and excitement. Anything can happen in the Wild West.
Dead or Alive symbols
All of the symbols in the Dead or Alive slot game fit in perfectly with the Wild West theme. Even the playing cards, which in many slot games seem entirely out of place, make sense here as illegal gambling flourished back in the day in saloons, like the one portrayed in this slot.
As with many other slots, winning combinations are formed when three or more like symbols line up in adjacent reels, starting with the reel furthest to the left.
The lower paying regular symbols consist of the playing cards 10 through Ace.
The higher-value regular symbols, in descending order of their payouts, include the following:
- Sheriff’s badge
- Holster with a gun
- 10-gallon hat
- Cowboy boots
- A shot of whiskey
Even among the higher paying symbols, there is a big difference in payouts. For example, five sheriff’s badges across the reels will pay 1,000x your coin size multiplied by your bet level, while five whiskey glasses across the reels will pay only 200x your coin size multiplied by your bet level.
Since this is the Wild Wild West we’re dealing with, so of course, there’s a wild symbol. In Dead or Alive, the wild symbol is a poster of one of the most wanted. Three, four, or five of these symbols across a payline will pay 25, 150, and 1,500x your coin size times your bet level, respectively.
The wild symbol also substitutes for all other symbols except the scatter symbol to help form new winning combinations or add to existing ones.
But that isn’t all. Any wild symbols that land on the reels during the free spins bonus round become sticky wilds.
The scatter symbol is a pair of crossed pistols, which is the highest paying symbol of all in the game. It is also the only symbol where having three or more will line up on adjacent reels starting with reel 1 is not a requirement for being paid. All you need is for a minimum of two scatter symbols to land, and they can be anywhere on the reels.
The payout for two scatter symbols is 2x your bet, so you still make a profit. However, if three, four or five of these symbols land, you receive 4x your bet, 25x your bet or 2,500x your bet, respectively.
In addition, whenever three or more scatter symbols land, that triggers the free spins bonus round described below, where if you’re lucky, you could win a lot more.
Dead or Alive free spins bonus + sticky wilds
This is the only bonus feature in the game. It is triggered anytime three or more scatter symbols land anywhere on the reels simultaneously. If you’re lucky, it will happen early in your playing session. However, it might not occur during a given session until after you have played a long time or it might not happen at all.
It is highly likely that two scatter symbols will land a number of times, but the third, fourth, or fifth one you’re also hoping for often fail to materialize. The consolation is that you still get a small payout of 2x your bet.
But if and when three or more scatter symbols show up, you win 12 free spins with a 2x multiplier.
Winning combinations during the free spins are paid out at the same coin size and bet level as on the spin that triggered the free spins.
However, if any wanted poster wild symbol shows up during the free spins, it will display that wanted character’s name and become a sticky wild that stays in place for the duration of the free spins. If a wild symbol lands on all five reels, you receive five additional free spins with five sticky wilds.
Also, if three or more scatter symbols land again during the free spins, you retrigger the bonus round and will be awarded another 12 free spins. Any sticky wilds from the previous free spins will remain in place during the retriggered free spins, too.
How I fared playing Dead or Alive in demo mode
These were my results for three sessions playing Dead or Alive in demo mode. The first two times were with a hypothetical bet of $9 per spin. The third time was with a hypothetical bet of $18 per spin.
Session 1: -$7
Betting at Level 2 with a coin size of 50 cents for a total bet per spin of $9, I was down $243 before winning $36 and triggering 12 free spins. During the free spins, I got five sticky wilds, two in reel two and three in reel four. But even so, I only won $200. Once the bonus round ended, since I was close to even, I ended the session.
Session 2: -$450
This session is a good example of what can happen when you play a high variance slot game. Even though my bet size was the same as in my first playing session, I could not get any substantial wins in the base game and watched my bankroll take a sizable hit without ever having three scatter symbols land to trigger the free spins.
Session 3: +$188
This time, betting at level 4 with a coin size of 50 cents for a total bet per spin of $18, I finally had a winning session. However, I was down nearly $400 when I finally got three scatter symbols to trigger the 12 free spins. I won $80 in the triggering spin since I also had another winning combination. That had me starting the free spins with a $314 deficit to make up. During the free spins, I only got one sticky wild and wound up winning $156. So I was still down $158. But soon afterward, I won $346 on a single spin in the base game to put me ahead by $188.
The bottom line
During play, you might have to remind yourself that Dead or Alive has an RTP of 96.8%. Because of the high variance level also associated with this game, you could run into a long stretch of non-winning spins before evidence of the high RTP starts asserting itself.
Therefore, you need enough ammunition to keep firing away, hoping that you will either trigger the free spins bonus round or get a high payout in the base game before the small house edge and high variance gets to you. The problem is that while you are waiting for something good to happen, your balance could take a significant hit.
One very nice feature of Dead or Alive that should keep you in the game even when big payouts elude you is that two scatter symbols anywhere on the reels are all you need to produce a payout. The payouts are bigger if three, four, or five scatter symbols land on the reels, and you also need at least three to trigger the free spins bonus round. But instead of two scatter symbols being a loser, they return double your stake. So, for example, if you bet $18 and two scatter symbols show up, you get back $36. That’s not bad at all.
As in other slot games, as soon as the first two scatter symbols land on the reels, the soundtrack intensifies to a loud crescendo. Meanwhile, you wait for what seems like an eternity to see if the all-important third symbol also shows up. Most of the time, it doesn’t, but instead of the spin coming up empty and all that excitement being for naught, you get a nice payout.
Dead or Alive is as popular with online slot players today as it was when the game was first released back in 2013. But if you’re looking for even more action and excitement, check out the sequel, Dead or Alive 2, with extra bonus features.