Volatility and variance are two terms used synonymously in the gambling industry. Both provide players with information regarding the risk factor in slots, giving them a general idea of what they should expect when it comes to winning combinations and potential winnings.
However, there are tiny differences between the two that require clarifying before we get to the bottom of the 'low volatility vs. high volatility' dispute:
Generally speaking, high variance games have higher jackpots but are also much riskier. Low variance games offer lower payouts, but you are more likely to win more money in the long run. This ties variance with RTP, which we'll explain in a minute.
Now, if we were to use the term volatility instead of variance, you could read it as such. High volatility slots mean less frequent wins but higher jackpots, whereas low volatility games refer to more frequent winnings with lower payouts.
The principle remains the same - high volatility/variance games involve more risk but offer higher payouts. Low volatility/variance slots mean something completely opposite.
Even if you're new to gambling, you must've heard about the famous RTP (return to player). The only question is: do you understand what it means? In short, RTP is a percentage value that shows you how much you can expect to get back from the total number of your bets in the long run (that's what connects it with variance).
Now, in terms of volatility and RTP, you should know that these are two completely different metrics. Volatility can tell you the risk involved and how much you can win in a short period. On the other hand, as we've already explained, RTP refers to the amount you get back from your total bet size in the long term. And by a long run, we mean more than a few hundred spins.
As for calculating Return to Player, there's no higher mathematics involved in the process. Let's say you bet $1,000 on the slot game with an RTP of 96%. This means that in the long run, you can expect $960 to return to your pocket. The remaining $40 is the casino's share.
RTP will help you decide which slot game to play, while volatility will aid you in managing your bankroll for each session. In general, if you don't want to risk too much and guarantee yourself frequent payouts, playing slot machines with higher RTP and low variance is your best call.
Statistically, if you're playing a low-variance slot with a $100 bankroll over 240 minutes you will have a smooth ride. Every once in a while you will win some money but your bankroll will decrease very slowly. Big wins aren't impossible, but it is a statistical outlier. On average, these types of games can be played for a more extended period but your chances of winning are lower as well. Hence why low-variance slots are preferred for wagering casino bonuses. See our list of best low to medium variance slots.
Medium variance slot machines are the most balanced, and therefore most popular among both players and online casino sites. They don't involve as much risk as high volatility slots, and you can expect relatively frequent smaller payouts, and if you're willing to take more risk, have a shot at winning the jackpot. In other words, medium volatility slot games pay well while still giving a casino a more significant edge over a player.
The fluctuations on a $100 bankroll over 60 minutes on a high-variance game on the other hand are more volatile and unpredictable. You may initially start out with a series of losses followed by big wins. Over a longer period of time, the casino will always have the edge, but you definitely have a more substantial chance for a high win if you are seeking to maximize a shorter playing time. See our list of best high variance slots.
In the majority of cases, most casinos don't promote the varying levels of their machines openly, and in order to determine the variance of a specific slot, the player should take a look at the slots paytable.
Here is how:
Gone are the days when all you had to do to play a slot machine was spin the reels and wait for the same symbols to align in the winning combination. Nowadays, slots, especially online slots, come with a plethora of features that impact not only the overall gaming experience but also variance.
Most slot machines out there utilize things like bonus rounds, free spins, or scatter and wild symbols. There are also progressive jackpots and fixed jackpots. And let's not forget that every slot game has a different number of reels and paylines. All of these features have a massive impact on the risk involved, affecting how you play the game.
Let's cover how exactly does each additional feature affect variance in slot games:
Each slot game comes with a different paytable. Pay tables show players how many winning combinations are in the game and how much they can win for each. Now, when it comes to determining variance, if high-paying spins are rare, it means you are dealing with a high variance game. On the other hand, if payouts are spread more evenly, it means the slot has low variance.
Many players believe that the more bonuses the game has to offer, the better. That's not necessarily the truth. While things like free spins, multipliers, bonus rounds do boost your payback, allowing you to mean astronomical sums, it also means the variance is higher as you're less likely to win more without triggering those bonus features. Basically, you should prepare yourself for longer pauses between higher wins, which can drain your bankroll.
By adjusting your wager size, you can lower or increase the variance of online slots. If you put your bankroll at risk by betting higher, you're automatically raising the variance, as you're increasing not only the potential jackpot but also the sum you can lose. Also, pay attention to wagering requirements. High volatility slot games have higher minimum wagers than low volatility slots.
Most online casinos give you the chance to play their slots for free. Of course, it means you won't be able to win anything, but this is a great way of getting a 'feel' of how the slot machine works. You'll be able to understand the rules, determine variance, or study the paytable more thoroughly before playing for real money.
Generally speaking, playing slots for free is a great idea for any beginner. Here is why:
Many players new to casino games don't care whether they play high or low variance games. They're too excited to check such things. This, though, can lead to a massive disappointment. As a rule of thumb, it's always a good idea to check slot volatility and variance. It will help you decide which slots to play and what to expect. Let's take a look at factors to consider when deciding between high variance, medium variance, and low variance slots:
Understanding slot variance is key for understanding what to expect from the slot game you want to play. It tells players the fluctuations between wins and losses in the long run, allowing them to calculate the risk involved and create the right bankroll and gameplay strategy.
In general, high variance slots come with higher jackpots, less frequent payouts, and more bonus features. Wagering requirements are also usually higher. The same goes for risk. In other words, high variance slot games are perfect for high rollers who have a lot of money to play with.
In contrast, a low variance slot pays more frequently, but the prizes aren't as significant. They are also less risky, with the minimum bet size being relatively low as well. That's why low variance slots are usually played by players with a smaller bankroll.
And which slot machine is the best choice for you? That you must decide on yourself. Hopefully, this guide has at least allayed all your doubts concerning low variance and high variance slot machines. And if you still have any doubts regarding online casino slot games, be sure to read more guides you can find on our site.