When you land on pretty much any online casino or even land-based casino, one of the first things that strike you is the number of slots that are available to play. Online you can have thousands to choose from, and the numbers aren't much lower than that in your high-profile Las Vegas outfits either.
Slots may look different in terms of the theme that they host, but in reality, the platform that they work on are much the same. A cherry might be substituted for a Queen, an Egyptian God for a gremlin. The symbols look different but work the same.
When you dig a little deeper into how slots function, one of the areas that you need to address is that of volatility. This is not always a buzz word that many slots will link to their games, nor will many players look or potentially even be aware of how it works. However, volatility is one of the biggest factors in creating a unique gaming experience for an online slot.
Throughout this article, we will be looking at what volatility is, how it’s applied to slot games and what you need to know to get the most from your online slots. If you fancy getting stuck into some online slots straight away, we'll leave our top recommended slot casinos for you to choose from below.
The best way for us to explain what volatility means and how it works with slots is to break down how all slot machines work.
Each game is set up to pay a return on the investment that is made over a massive sample of hands. This is known as the RTP (Return to Player). An RTP is signified as a percentage.
A 100% RTP would mean that everything that was staked by the player, would be returned. A 90% RTP would mean that for every 1 unit staked, they would get a return of 0.90 units, with the casino then taking 0.10. A 110% would mean a 1.10 unit return for every 1 unit staked. The latter never occurs and rarely do games get near the 100% mark.
Volatility comes in to determine how often the slot pays out at the RTP percentage. So, if there was a 100% RTP slot that paid 1 unit for every 1 unit staked, then this would be a low volatility game. You would literally be paid out 1 unit each time you spin the reel.
If the same 100% RTP game was changed to pay out 1,000 units for 1 unit staked, then this would mean it would take 1000 spins to get that same payout. The length between the spins makes for this game to be a highly volatile slot.
It’s worth noting that these are two extreme examples, and no game would actually function like this. Instead, it would drop in between this to find a balance that players can then pick and choose by.
Generally, there are three types of volatility for online slots. These are low, medium and high.
🎰 Low Volatility
🎰 Medium Volatility
🎰 High Volatility
There are going to be games that fall in between each of these brackets. We can’t sit here and say which one is best, as each is designed to fit a certain type of player.
One misconception that we see a lot is that high volatility games are set up more in the casino's favour than low to mid. This is not the case. Take the example earlier when we spoke about two 100% RTP games both paying out the same, just at different intervals. You need to take intervals into account with volatility to grasp how it works.
When it comes to slots, generally people link variance with volatility as the same thing. They are both going to get the same result, just the path that they take may be different.
Variance is often referred to an anomaly of what’s been reported as fact. Let’s take a simple coin toss as our example.
We know that the odds of flipping a head or a tail is even money or 50:50. Basically, the same. However, we know that when we flip the coin there is no guarantee that one or the other will land.
It’s plausible that we flip the coin 10 times and each time it lands on heads. When we come to the 11th flip the chances of it then landing a tail is no greater than another head, even after we’ve had 10 heads already.
The reason that we have 10 heads in a row is down to variance.
Variance starts to level out the more times the scenario takes place. So, if you flip a coin 1 billion times, the chances are that the numbers are going to be incredibly close, if not exactly a 50/50 split. But, when you look through the patterns of if a head or tail landed, there might be thousands of sequences where it had 10 or more runs of heads or tails in a row.
Slots games work in the same way. A high volatile game at 100% RTP might payout once every 1,000 spins. But variance (or volatility) allows for you to potentially win multiple times within that 1,000-spin cycle, which is how you make money from slots.
The flip side is that you could go 2,000 spins and not win anything. Lower volatility games negate these runs, high volatility games encourages them
When manufactures make an online slot then come with a volatility rating. It’s often referred to as a volatility index, but this is not a term that is coined by the whole industry, so the names vary.
All games have a rating of some sort, however, most online casinos do not publish nor do the game developers. This makes determining what kind of slot you’re playing rather tough.
Here are a few ways that you can determine the volatility of the slot:
As a final note to all this, one of the best ways to see how games play out is to utilise demo play. This is a free version of the same game that allows you to test and see how the slot works without using real money.
You’ll be able to note how often the games payout and, just as importantly, the average size of these payouts. You will need to test a good few hundred hands if you can to get a better idea, before playing for real money.
The best way is to contact the casino or game designer. If this is not possible, then the big jumps in prizes on the paytable tend to mean that games are of high volatility, and small jumps low volatility.
Without a doubt, the best route for new players is low volatile slot machines. You want games that work slowly to start with until you get more familiar with how these games work. This will give you more playing time with less risk to your bankroll.
Not necessarily, no. Slots are designed to work with different players and different bankrolls. They allow a mix of how much “bang for their buck” players get. High-limit slots allow you to win bigger prizes (generally) but they mean you need a bigger bankroll to play them.
You can play these at any time; however, we would recommend that only seasoned online slots players target them. If you’re a beginner, you are best off playing low volatility slots.
If you are new to slots then you want low volatility games. If your bankroll permits, then mid to high volatility slots are going to get you access to bigger wins and can be more exciting to play.