Volatility and variance determine a slot game’s behaviour, which is linked to the frequency and amount of payouts, as well as the level of risk you are willing to accept.
Volatility explains the level of risk for each slot game and can be high, medium-high, medium, medium-low, or low.
Volatility (or variance) metrics allow you to choose the best slot for your needs, and provide you with an idea of how much you can win or lose on your selected slot.
It is also a question of your wallet: If you have a small budget, you’ll likely want to play slots with low risk for longer gameplay and the possibility of frequent wins.
If you have a big budget and like high risk, you’ll play medium or high volatility slots that have big wins, but with less frequency.
So, let’s take a look at each type of volatility and find the right one for you!
Types of volatility in slots
There are five volatility levels of risk: High, Medium-High, Medium, Low-Medium, and Low.
If you like taking risks with the possibility of big wins, this is definitely your level of volatility.
High volatility slots often offer a lower payout frequency, and for long periods of time you might not win anything at all, but when you win, the payouts are usually very high.
There are several high-volatility slots like Book of Ra, Beowulf, Bonanza and Dead or Alive. Despite these slots being released by different providers they have high volatility and players taking big risks in common. Slots with high volatility usually also have an RTP of 96% and above, which guarantees players big excitement.
Most of the time you’ll find big bonus features too. Take the above-mentioned Dead or Alive slot which has three free spins bonus features. The Book of Ra free spins round offers multiple wins. High variance slots are at the top of the slots world and must be played with the right budget and mindset to match.
The negative aspect of high volatility is that players can lose more money playing on high volatility slots than on any other game.
The medium-high volatility slots group is a particularly popular subcategory. This is because of the good value wins and relatively high win frequency. These slots are more related to high variance slots than they are to the medium volatility slots.
If you’re looking for some of the most popular medium-high volatility slots check out Gonzo’s Quest, King Kong Fury, or Terminator 2. Although set at a lower variance than the Book of Ra or Bonanza, these games are still quite frustrating to play. But that’s the real excitement in medium-high volatility slots, they come with sudden and unexpected big wins.
This is the most popular and appreciated subcategory of volatility among players. It’s because medium variance slots give you the best of high and low volatility slots.
Slot games with medium volatility offer smaller, but more frequent payouts compared to high volatility slots.
And, on the contrary to the low variance slots, you get a higher payout amount playing medium variance slots. Moreover, you have lots of bonus features.
Medium volatility slots allow you to play longer than the high volatility slots, the winning combinations are more numerous and payouts more frequent, and with a greater hit frequency less risk for players.
Compared to low volatility slots some big wins and bigger jackpots are possible for players to win.
Low-medium volatility slots are lower-risk games that offer lower-value win combinations and more frequent payouts than medium volatility slot games.
But it doesn’t mean that these types of slots are less fun. If you don’t have a big bankroll you can still have a long and happy gameplay session with these types of slots.
Subtopia, Zombies, or Battlestar Galactica are good examples of low-medium volatility slots. Go Bananas is another good representation of the low-medium slot category. The wins are low value, but the hit frequency is really high. This is the perfect game if you’re looking for a fun and relaxed gaming session.
The opposite of high volatility slots, low volatility slots offer small wins often.
So when you play the most popular low volatility slots like Tomb Raider, Jack Hammer, Mummy, Starburst, Blood Suckers 2, you can expect countless low value winning combinations every five to ten spins on average, which is what makes these slots so popular among new players.
Regular payouts mean that the risk of losing a lot is really small. An example can be a slot that pays for two symbols of the same kind on any win line. Of course, that won’t be a big payout, but it will happen often.
Slot machine volatility calculation
In theory, you can calculate slot machine variance if you know the frequency of symbol combinations and odds, or the value attributed to them. In reality, it takes some complex mathematical equations to determine the exact slot volatility.
Slot machines come with a volatility index rating which indicates how volatile the slot is. However, this type of information is not something game developers are willing to display publicly, though sometimes the calculations can be found on their official PAR (Program Accounting Report) sheets.
But as a player, there are a few factors you can look out for to determine how volatile the slot you want to play is:
· The paytable can be a good tool to determine a slot’s volatility. Look at the difference between the payout of 4 of a kind symbols and 5 identical symbols per line. If you see that 4 symbols of a kind has a payout with fairly low amounts, while the 5 of a kind payout is a lot more (10 to 15x), then you can assume that it is a high variance slot. If the gap between 3, 4, and 5 of a kind symbols is 3-5x the payout, then you are looking at a medium or low variance slot.
· Another way to determine volatility is to look at what prizes are offered by the game developer. If you see sky-high cash prizes and massive jackpots, it can be an indication of a medium or high variance slot. As we covered in the ‘types of volatility’ section above, you don’t land big wins easily.
· Look at the max bet. Because of the possibility of big wins, high variance slots come with small max bets.
· Playing in demo mode could also help determine slot variance. If you land frequent low-value wins it’s a lower variance slot and vice versa, bigger less frequent wins are offered by medium or high variance slots.
· Finally, to save all the hassle, you can find both the RTP and volatility clearly listed in all our slot reviews. We’ll tell you the exact return to player percentage and whether it’s a high, medium, or low volatility slot.
Volatility Level of Risk: Find the right one for your needs
For the best results in your game sessions, the first thing to understand is the level of volatility.
It is still important to check the theme, the colour design, the name of the slot, etc., but to have the right fun according to your budget, needs, and style of play, you need to know the level of risk you are able to accept.
We’ve put together a table below where you can easily find your perfect slot matching the level of volatility and features per level.
There is a good reason why our slot reviews state the slot volatility right at the start.
While choosing slots based on their name, provider, theme, and colour scheme might be fun, it might not be very wise.
For the best results, we’ve put together a quick table below where we’ve listed when you should play each volatility category slot to get the most out of your gameplay.
VOLATILITY – HIGH
· You have a big budget
· You like taking risks
· You want bigger wins even if they are not frequent
· You’re ready to stop playing as soon as you have used all of your budget
· You don’t mind waiting for the bonus features to be activated
VOLATILITY – MEDIUM-HIGH
· You’re looking for a balance between the win frequency and the size of the payout
· You’re looking for the wins at the bigger end of the spectrum
· Your budget is towards the top end of the scale
· You’ve played enough medium variance slots to feel confident to take more risks
· You enjoy slots with bonus features, but don’t mind slots that have fewer of them
VOLATILITY – MEDIUM
· You like playing for fun, but also want to win
· You are a new player, but feel confident to advance to riskier gameplay
· You have a limited bankroll, but still want to win big
· You like both frequent wins and bigger rewards
· You like slots with free spins and other lucrative bonus rounds
· You could stretch your budget slightly to play riskier games
· You want to have fun with more added thrills
· You’re new to slots, but want to take your gaming up a level
· You’re interested in bonus games
· You’re playing with a small bankroll
· You want to have fun
· You want to play for as long as possible
· You want to win often (even if wins are small)
· You don’t want to wait a long time for features to be triggered
· You’re new to slots
· You don’t enjoy taking big risks
Why Volatility and RTP go hand in hand in Online Slots?
Together with volatility, return to player percentage (RTP) is the other main element to consider in online slots. A combination of volatility and RTP come together in every slot game and must be the first thing you consider when starting to play.
RTP helps you to determine the odds of winning (or losing) on a particular slot. For example, a slot with an RTP of 95% will pay out €95 per every €100 played on average. The remaining 5% goes to the house.
However, this percentage is in the long run, over millions of spins, and is an average. The key factor is to always remember that with increased volatility, the RTP gets less accurate.