For all their famous simplicity, slot machines still sometimes end up buried in jargon. While this isn’t quite on the same scale as office speak (there’s no “strategic staircase” or running of things up the flagpole), there’s still a small barrier to entry associated with casino games. The good news is that there’s little need to know anything but the most basic terms to actually play a slot game - that is unless you’d like to get acquainted with how they work behind the scenes.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to one of the most common words you’ll encounter in conversation about slots - volatility. Used interchangeably online with a similar term, variance, volatility is simply how often (and how much) a game pays out.
Volatility is usually described with three adjectives; high, medium, or low. However, there are plenty of developers and casinos that like to get specific with slot variance, so don’t be surprised to see medium-high or low-medium volatility games out there.
Why does all this matter? The volatility of a slot is something you need to consider when managing your bankroll. It’s a useful metric for building your own casino persona, whether you’re a high-roller setting max bets or a penny player.
We’ll come to the details shortly but as a rule, low-volatility games pay out frequently but in small amounts, while high-variance slots will require more of your coins before they’ll give up any prizes of note. Put another way, slot volatility/variance is a measure of risk and reward.
As a beginner, this is the best place to start. While all slots have the capability to drop jackpots (and some of the biggest casino prizes in history have been won with small bets), a low-volatility slot isn’t designed to be a huge payer.
The most famous low-variance game on the market is NetEnt’s Starburst, which you can play on LeoVegas. It’s possible to set a stake as low as 0.10 credits in this space-themed slot and still get regular wins. Microgaming’s Wild Scarabs, Reel King from Inspired Gaming, and Thunderstruck II also from Microgaming, are just a handful of other low-variance games that you can play with us. Low-volatility games tend to be the most well-known slots of all.
You can probably guess what medium variance games are like. These are the perfect slots for intermediate players, as they do everything in moderation. A medium volatility experience is average as far as payouts and overall token use are concerned.
The downside of slots that are balanced in this way is that they fit between two extremes and so they’re arguably not as popular or visible as low-variance games, or the ones we’re about to discuss, high-volatility slots.
As hinted at earlier, high variance slots are quite capable of leaving you hanging spin after spin - only to hand you a big win when you’ve almost given up. These are high-risk, high-reward games that are best suited to big spenders.
Progressive jackpot games, i.e. those with large prizes built up by the community, usually fall into this bracket. However, due to their extremely infrequent payouts, it can be difficult to determine their volatility from experience.
A good example of the latter is the Mega Moolah series, which you can find described in two different ways on as many websites. We’re pretty sure that Pragmatic Play’s Big Bass Bonanza Megaways is a high-volatility game, though, where you can really reel in big wins if lucks on your side.
We’ve hopefully demonstrated that slot variance is a fairly straightforward concept, but there can be any number of things that will shift a game’s “personality” in unexpected directions. One of the most prominent involves the reels themselves.
Slots that come with the Megaways reel modifier tend to boast thousands of different ways to win, otherwise known as paylines. Somewhat ironically, Megaways are on the high side when it comes to volatility, meaning that those wins don’t happen that often at all. It’s just that when they do, they are often much higher than other slot games.
So, a sudden reduction (or increase) in the number of winlines on the reels can dynamically alter just how likely a game is to pay out. Similarly, bonus features like multipliers adjust a slot’s payout potential too.
Again, progressive jackpots are a bit of an oddity when it comes to variance, as their higher prizes usually produce equally high waits between jackpots. The low wins might still happen regularly so there's always something to play for. Overall, it’s up to you to decide which slot machine quirks are the most important to your gameplay sessions.
Let’s talk about something that’s usually mentioned in the same conversation as volatility, namely, the Return to Player or RTP percentage. Every slot has one of these figures attached to it, regardless of its variance.
One thing you should always be aware of when it comes to a slot’s characteristics is that the numbers and descriptors are an average worked out over millions of test plays. Put another way, for the average player, they mean very little.
A high-variance slot might drop its jackpot on the first $0.10 spin, while a low-volatility game might not seem very rewarding at all. It’s exactly the same mechanic that produces ten heads in a row on a coin toss, despite the 50/50 odds. You might call it luck.
As for RTP, this is how much of a player’s wager they can expect to get back over those millions of turns. For example, a wager of $100 on a slot with an RTP of 98% will (one day) return $98.
Combined with volatility, RTP tells you everything you need to know about a slot’s temperament - whether it’ll pay out often, how large the prizes will be, and how much of your stake is likely to be kept by the game while you’re playing.
Slot volatility is a term used to describe how often and how much a slot game will pay out. The Return to Player (RTP) percentage is an average of how much you can expect to have returned over time from each bet you make, worked out over millions of plays.
Generally, no. However, the casino developer Wazdan produces games that have changeable variance. There may also be some symbols or bonus features that can temporarily alter a slot's prize mechanics.
Most reputable casinos will include all of a game's details on its own page. You might also find the volatility level included in a slot's manual. This can usually be found somewhere on the game screen. If you can't find it, large jackpots often indicate high volatility and vice-versa.
Yes, as they may have a maximum bet stipulation for access to the jackpot. Also, they pay out at a much slower rate than low-variance games.
This is entirely a choice you need to make, as a player. Your chances of winning huge prizes are naturally slim - but if you really want the biggest jackpots, you'll find them in high-volatility games. Best to know your bankroll and preferences before indulging in high volatility slots.
Volatility can be controlled to some extent with an appropriate bet size. To maximize your chances of a large jackpot win, you can stake the maximum amount possible before every spin. This is usually in the region of $100.00 - $200.00.
Yes. Highly volatile games and progressive jackpot slots will usually produce better results with larger bets. Mind you, while those wins may be potentially larger, you’ll need a bigger bankroll to keep the high betting rolling until one hits..if it does at all!
Usually, yes. Progressive jackpot games like Mega Moolah may only pay out their main prize once or twice a year. This makes their volatility a difficult thing to judge.
Yes. Low volatility slots pay out little and often, while high volatility games have huge prizes but little interest in giving them out.
The gambler's fallacy can play a role in high-volatility slots. Just because a slot machine hasn't paid out in a while, there's no guarantee that it will on any future turn either.
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