Posted on: June 16, 2021
You have either stumbled across this guide and wondered what on earth volatility and variance is in connection to slot games. Or you’ve seen the term elsewhere and decided to search and discover a little more about it. Most people, even those who are regular experienced online gamers, don’t know what slot volatility is. But it can be the perfect solution for those of you who want to try and improve your chance of winning. Whether you’re intrigued about it or just plain confused, we’ll explain slot volatility and a guide to high variance slots vs low variance slots.
If you search online, you know that most blogs and information sites will have what you’re looking for when it comes to casino and slots. But there doesn’t currently appear to be much in the land of Google when it comes to the slot machine volatility index. This is especially crazy because volatility can affect both online and land-based slot games.
We are eager to rectify this with our own guide on what slot volatility is and how it differs from variance. But also, the effects of high and low variance games on your chances of winning.
What Does Volatility Mean in Online Slot Games?
We’ve slightly hit on it above, but the term volatility is something that has been known to many land-based machine players for years. The transition to online gambling seems to have increased rapidly since the introduction of the UK Gambling Commission. With so many extra regulations and changes, players are looking for new ways to enhance their gaming.
In essence slot volatility is a way in which gamblers can predict when a slot game will land in a winning position as they play. The ability to do this gives the player the opportunity to adapt their bankroll to suit the volatility pattern and ensure that they get the most out of it.
Slot variance links with volatility because it predicts the likelihood of winning and the size of the winning prize. You will see that this is broken down into high variance games and low variance games.
High variance slots – The reels do not land often, but there is the potential for large wins,
Low variance slots – The reels land often, but you will tend to see smaller wins.
Difference Between Volatility and Variance
You now know what ‘volatility’ and ‘variance’ means and the fact that in respects to the online slot world, they are pretty new terms. What you won’t know is that variance is actually used a lot during land-based poker games. Over time it has been adapted and used by slot players to explain their process of trying to (in a sense) beat the system.
In reality both terms mean the same thing and professional players will use them interchangeably. It is worth noting though that there is an element of difference between the two and that is important when you are making a distinction.
Variance – Most players evaluate this as the RTP of the game, but it tends to be when there is a change to the usual routine of the game, i.e., it’s patterns. You can create problems for yourself by focusing on the RTP, in that you can miss the variations and arrangements within the games spins. This is why players will only focus on any varying configurations within a short period of playing, rather than the long term.
Volatility – This also revolves around establishing any changes and patterns in the game, with the exception that it tends to be related on how you finance your bets. So, you would adjust the bankroll of your wagering based on any patterns you have found as you spin the reels.
If you get down to the nitty gritty of it all, there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two. You will see greater variations in the slot games characteristics, when you delve into whether it’s low volatility/variance or high variance/volatility. It’s this distinction which will advance your gaming strategy, but sadly it will take time and money to achieve the long-term successes. This is why most gamers focus on RTP over variance, because it’s much easier and faster to choose your slot game.
If RTP gives you a general idea of how the slots will play out, why even bother with variance and volatility then? There is such a huge choice of slot games online that picking by RTP alone can be difficult and is it worth giving up the enjoyment of a preferred game, over the high percentage of its return rate. By monitoring volatility patterns and variance you can adapt your game play and bankroll so that technically in the long run you should be able to play for longer; which can only be a good thing.
Measuring Slot Volatility
RNG and Slot Volatility
Determining how to measure slot volatility is as difficult as explaining what it actually is, but we’re here to try and make it as simplistic as possible for you. Both the variance and any patterns you can see in the slot game are affected by the RNG (Random Number Generator) software technology. RNG assists in working out important aspects such as the RTP percentage and when to payout. It is added during the development of the game and its priority is to keep everything fair and honest.
As indicated by its name, the RNG ensures that the slot reels land in a completely random manner. It does this by using an algorithm which creates a random string of numbers, which all begin from a specific start point known as the seed. It is this string which can help you determine if there is a pattern as you spin.
As you can imagine the software developers are secretive when it comes to their RNG software and as such will not disclose information to anyone. If players or the casinos were made aware of the structure of the string of numbers, then they could manipulate the results which would discredit the game completely.
It’s probably important here to point out that should you determine the variance on one game, it doesn’t mean that it will be the same on another. Each RNG code is developed slightly differently and as such you will find that there is a different pattern. This fact still remains even if the slot is created by the same provider such as Microgaming and NetEnt.
To actually assess the variance of a slot game, you simply hit the play button and spin. Yes, there’s no secret code you can use or hidden method, it’s all down to spinning the reels and seeing how they land over and over. As they come to a stop time and time again, you will begin to see a pattern which you can record. Its that cycle of the slot games pattern which will help you predict the chance of winning.
We know it sounds easy enough to do but remember that the main goal of the RNG software is to be random. RNG programmes are being designed to become more and more difficult to work out, which can affect how you determine the variance of the game. A general estimation is that a player would need to complete more than a hundred spins during one sitting to establish some form of pattern. That will both eat away at your money and your time, but fear not we do have another suggestion to make the crediting side a little easier.
Most casino and slot sites will offer demo options of the slot games. The UK Gambling Commission introduced legislation which required that they be removed from the main pages of the sites, so that vulnerable players including those who are underage did not have access to them. As a verified member (via know your customer) of the gaming site, when you log into your account you should still see a demo option available, meaning you can play for free but you won’t win any credit.
Demo options are generally there for gamers to test the slots playability and to see if they want to spend their well-earned money on it. But for those of you who are looking to work out the volatility and variance of the game it’s a great way to spin and spin to establish the pattern, without spending a penny. On some demo games you will find that it repeats the process over a shortened period of time and as such may not provide the accurate results we are after. To establish if this is the case, it will basically be a matter of trial and error.
Pay Table and Slot Volatility
The pay table is another aspect which will help you determine whether a game has high or low variance. So, let’s start off by explaining what exactly a pay table on a slot game is.
Basically, the pay table is the instructions of how the slot game works and what is involved. It will list the symbols available, whether there are any bonus stages, the RTP and if there’s a progressive jackpot. To find it on desktop you only have to look for the words ‘pay table’ or an ‘i’ for information. On mobile devices simply swipe the screen left or right and it will appear.
Although the pay table won’t definitively tell you if a game is high or low variance, it will give you an idea by looking at certain areas such as jackpot prize. Part of the pay table will explain what you win by landing certain symbol combinations, which means you can make a comparison between the biggest win available and the max bet level. If there are wins 40 to 50x higher, then this would conclude that the game was a medium to high variance. For small differences between the max bet and prize, then you will be looking at a lower variance game and as such it may not be worth your time. This is because you would only be looking at small frequent wins.
As with most things in life you will find an exception to the rule and that is games with progressive jackpots. In general, they tend to have high volatility because the prize pot grows until someone wins, but the actual base game winnings are incredibly small.
Levels of Variance and their Effect on Volatility
It can be complicated to work out the variance of a game, but we have attempted to summarise them into 5 levels. They will go from a high volatility slot and work down to a low volatility slot, with the other categories appearing in-between. These options should help you explore the type of slot game you want to play, which suits both your desired wagering amount and how often you want to win.
High Variance Slot Games
We begin with high variance slot games, which basically means that you have a bigger prize pot, with smaller less frequent wins. They are predominantly aimed at players known as high rollers (or whales), who are reputationally higher risk takers when they wager.
There is a difficulty with determining variance on high volatility slot games and that is because there can be substantial gaps between wins. This means it can be harder to establish what the pattern is, although we should point out that it is still possible, it will just take longer. Any game classed as being high variance will have that wide gap between normal wins and the jackpot prizes. Also, you will find that the odds of a big win are relatively low, which means that if you are playing to win solely, then you may have to wait a while which can get frustrating. But if you choose to play on then the payout can be worth your while, if you can afford the bankroll. For that you need to balance your budget which is where determining the patterns in the game comes into play.
High volatility games with low bets are available from the top providers such as Microgaming, NetEnt and Playtech. They are better options for those of you who focus heavily on the RTP, which will even your odds as you play. Sadly, the stability of higher volatility games can make it a challenge for players to predict how much credit they will need.
If you’re reading this and you have the bankroll and patience for high variance games, then we have a few examples of slots from the providers we have mentioned. Again, establishing that pattern may take some time and the key to playing online games is to have fun. So never bet more than you can afford, as highly volatile slots don’t always go to plan.
High Variance Slots Playtech
Although they were only founded in 1999, Playtech have already compiled a raft of popular online slot games for players. Most of their games tend to be on the higher volatility end of the scale and as such offer higher RTP’s. Quite a few of them have progressive jackpots and as such this can make establishing patterns difficult.
NetEnt Slots High Volatility
NetEnt is a huge brand in the online gambling industry, and they have given us some of the most popular slots around. These well-known slots tend to have higher RTP’s and as such will have a higher volatility. The majority of their library of games are on the lower end of the scale, with NetEnt not offering many slots with progressive jackpots.
Microgaming Highly Volatile Slots
Founded in 1994 Microgaming is known for their diversity of themes and unique slots, with unusual features and bonuses. In general, they don’t really favour a category for variance, so there is something for everyone.
Medium to High Variance Slot
If you prefer less of a gamble than the high variance slots but still consider yourself a high roller, then medium to high volatility games may be for you. Brands such as NetEnt tend to prefer this remit of variance because they offer a higher RTP percentage than slots under the high volatility category. This means you have an improved chance of winning because of the RTP and it should be for larger amounts due to the variance.
Slots with Medium Volatility
If you prefer the middle of the road approach, then medium volatility is probably the better option for you. These will be games with decent pay outs, your bankroll will last longer than higher volatility and you’ll enjoy smaller wins more frequently.
You will find that games on this level will provide more bonus features to enhance the games fun, such as Jack and the Beanstalk from NetEnt. Most gamers choose medium variance to minimise the risk, but also so they don’t go through their bankroll too quickly. Medium slots such as Thunderstruck II from Microgaming will still provide players with decent win amounts.
Low to Medium Variance Slot Games
As we head towards the lower end of the scale, we will expect more smaller frequent wins. For some of you this is a no go because you want those big jackpot prizes. But there are some gamers who simply enjoy playing, and with low to medium variance you can play longer but still have decent prize pots. Crown of Egypt from IGT is a great example if you’re limited on a budget and simply want to enjoy playing slots.
Low Variance Slot Games
Obviously, you have a high volatility, so you must have low volatility games and with that brings small frequent wins (on average at least once every 3 to 5 spins). This is when you will find it easier to monitor patterns with the aim of predicting wins, basically because you win more often. You will remember before that we mentioned using the demo option so that you can work out the games pattern and not spend any credit. These are the types of games we would suggest trying this on and then using the information to adapt your bankroll.
Low variance slot games are ideal for new online gamers and for players who simply want to relax and enjoy spinning the reels. If you’re interested in big jackpots, then these are not the games for you.
The reason they are categorised as low risk revolves around the fact that they offer low payouts. When you compare it to your wagering amount, you will see they are pretty much the same. A way around this is by choosing a low variance game with a higher RTP which will increase your chance of winning.
The easiest way of working out if a slot game is low variance is by checking out the pay table and seeing if the pay out is small. But also, if there isn’t a huge difference in winnings between 4 and 5 symbols landing. NetEnt offer a variety of low variance games with exciting features and bonuses.
Low Variance Slots Playtech
NetEnt Low Volatility Slots
Microgaming Low Volatility Slots Gaming
Difference Between Slot Volatility and RTP
There’s no escaping Return to Player, otherwise known as RTP, even when we’re talking about volatility and variance. We’ve mentioned it a few times, so thought it best to clarify the difference between RTP and volatility. So, let’s begin by telling you what RTP is.
The RTP is the percentage return that a gaming site will offer a player when they wager. To give you more detail, if the slot game has a 98% RTP, then you should see an average payout of 98 times for every 100 spins. This isn’t one hundred percent the case, because pay outs are affected by the RNG, but it’s a good way to gauge what you should expect.
When comparing volatility and RTP you will see that RTP is measured in the long run, so the percentage rate is tracked over 100’s of spins. This can be a problem for gamers who can only afford the bankroll of maybe 20 to 30 spins.
Variance on the other hand will have a more generalised affect on the results of a player’s spins. Clearly the lower the variance in the game, then the longer you should expect your bankroll to last. This will give you the opportunity to adjust it as you play, to hopefully improve your winning potential. Our advice would be to get the best of both worlds and combine your choice of volatility with a high RTP.
Which Variance or Volatility Level to Choose? High, Medium or Low
You will be pretty versed in what variance and volatility is, so we’re sure your biggest question is which level to choose. Honestly, that’s not a decision we can make for you, because it will all depend on what you’re looking for and most importantly how much of a bankroll you have. The lower the variance the more you can try and play the system, but it possibly won’t be for astounding amounts of money. If you prefer intensity, risk and larger prizes, then the obvious option is going to be high variance. The most important thing to note is that there’s something for everyone and you can even alternate between both high and low.
Summary of Slot Volatility and a Guide to High Variance Slots vs Low Variance Slots
Anything that will help a gamers gambling strategy will grow in popularity, so you can expect to see more written about variance and volatility in the future.
Many experienced players will consider a number of elements which can impact if they win and by how much. We would consider slot volatility to be one area that should certainly be looked at, as it can influence both the amount you win and how much you wager.
The RNG will always have some affect on the way the reels land, especially as game developers become more knowledgeable on the way they code this technology.
If you are still unsure then our advice is to consider everything, including whether you like the look of the game, the variance, features and what is in the pay table such as RTP. Always remember that demo option which gives you a ‘try before you buy’, before you part with any of your own money.