Page updated on: 07.06.2020
Slot Volatility Explained - Low, medium and high variance
Even though it is not obvious, there a quite a few different types of slot machines, each having a different risk attached to them, which in slot terms is often called the volatility or variance.
The slot variance describes the frequency of how often you will win, and if it's a larger or lower amount. Depending on how much money you have to play with, what you want to stake and how much you are aiming to win, you can determine what kind of slot you should play.
The variance should also not be confused with the return to player rate (RTP). The average RTP is not affected by the variance.
Low variance / volatility
A low variance slot has the lowest risk. It pays out often, but usually lower amounts, and the maximum amounts are usually on the lower end as well.
These games are suitable for players who play with a lower budget. When playing a slot with a low variance, you will win more regularly, although it's mostly amounts around the value of your initial bet, and larger wins are harder to get by, but you will be able to play more rounds, and maybe you will get a chance to hit a higher paying combination.
Medium variance / volatility
As 'medium' already suggests, these slots are neither of low, nor of high variance. The winnings will occur every now and then and the amounts will reflect it.
You should win slightly higher amounts more often, but a really big win is hard to come by. The game itself is more balanced and slots carry a medium risk.
This type of slot machine is suitable for players who don't want the full risk of a high variance slot with massive wins, but rather a decent win every now and then.
However, this means that wins are less regular than in low variance slots, so you will have to keep in mind to play this slot longer, which means you need a larger bankroll.
High variance / volatility
High variance slots are the slots who pay out monster jackpots! These games have the highest risk, but can also yield the highest rewards.
When playing these slots you will quickly find that they don't pay out very often. Every now and then you will get a smaller win, but when you win big, it's really big!
These slots are mainly for players with a larger bankroll, as the game might need to played a very long time before it pays out.
These games have a higher risk, and if you are a careful player and want to make the most out of your game session, then you might want to try a low or medium variance slot.
Keep in mind that many progressive slot games are usually of high variance, and winning larger amounts in these games won't happen often.
The volatility of a slot is an indicator of how much of a risk the game has. It's also often called variance, and mentioned as low, medium or high in the games, or with a number on a lower to higher scale.
The risk of a game determines how often a game pays out, and how much. The lower the risk, the more frequent are winnings, but of a lower amount, and the higher the risk, the less frequent are winnings, in exchange for a possibly much larger jackpot.
Only a few slot developers are disclosing the volatility of the slots on their websites, but many don't, and then assessing the volatility is subjective by the reviewer and their experience of playing the game.
One way of finding out if a game is suitable for you is to play the slot in play money mode. Since operators are obliged to use the same volatility and RTP for a free slot and for the real slot, you will get a good idea of how the slot pays out when you play it for free.
You can also look at the pay tables of the slot. A high variance slot often has very high jackpots for 5 of a kind combinations, which means that these combinations will occur less often.
A lower variance slot usually has much lower 5 of a kind jackpots, and the gaps between 3 or 4 of a kind combinations is much smaller.
Most progressive slot machines are of high variance, which is due to the nature of the games paying out ridiculously high amounts from progressively increasing jackpots.
Progressive jackpots usually have a higher volatility, as they also yield the highest risk. Each time, a portion of the bet of the player is collected and put into the jackpot, which can increase to phenomenal amounts.
The slots with a progressive jackpot will often have many rounds during which you won't win anything, but in turn they give you the chance to win a huge amount in one spin instead, even with a smaller bet.
The answer to the question of which slot is best for you depends on a few factors. First, you need to decide how much you are willing to lose in a game. Yes, lose, as games will always have a risk that you loose everything you bet.
Next, you need to think about the risk you're willing to take with the game. If you'd rather play longer, you might want to consider a game with a lower volatility, and if you'd rather have the chance for a huge win, choose a higher volatility slot, but you might loose your money more quickly.
A more balanced game will have a medium volatility, which is best for casual players who want to get the best of both worlds.
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