What's the Best Volatility for Slots? Slot Volatility Guide

Ziv Chen

Updated by Ziv Chen


Last Updated 14th Mar 2024, 07:22 AM

What's the Best Volatility for Slots? Slot Volatility Guide

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.

What Does Volatility Mean in Slots?

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.

What Are Volatility Types and How Can You Tell Them Apart?

Generally, there are three types of volatility for online slots. These are low, medium and high.

🎰 Low Volatility

  • These slots are very popular with players who have smaller bankrolls and are likely looking to play long periods of time without putting too much money at risk. These games are quite popular with smaller stakes players as it means their money last longer.
  • Most casinos will offer a decent range of low volatility slots. They may market these as penny slots or they might just state that you can play for small amounts of money.
  • What you will find from these games is that you will win more often, but lower amounts. It takes out the dry runs of not winnings, but it does limit the amount you can win. They don’t always include jackpots with these games, and this is one way to spot a game with low volatility.

🎰 Medium Volatility

  • Medium volatility games fall right in the middle and these are the most popular online slots that you will find. They have been designed to strike a balance between the two (low and high) and this is likely what most players will find suits them best.
  • With these games, you’re going to be able to enjoy some playability meaning that your money will still last a decent amount of time. On top of that, you’re going to be able to bag those big wins as well. All of these games will have sizeable jackpots included, often coupled with a ton of features in the game, such as scatters, bonus rounds and free spins.

🎰 High Volatility

  • High volatility games are moving into the extreme of online slots. These games can pay nothing out for dozens of spins. They might not even payout any small winnings at all, which is why you need a large bankroll to make sure you don’t go broke.
  • That being said, when they do payout, they payout big. Winnings from these games can be sensational and with it, you only need to get lucky a couple of times to have massively profitable sessions.
  • These games are not for the faint-hearted though. You need to be in a position where both mentally and financially, long losing streaks are not going to bother you. To even out the volatility somewhat, you need to play long sessions and quit whilst you’re ahead.

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.

What’s the Difference Between Volatility and Variance?

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

How Can You Determine the Volatility of a Slot?

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:

  1. Contact the game developer/casino – The first port of call has to be with the casino you’re playing at or if you know who made the game, to contact them directly. If you note the name of the slot, then they should be able to tell you. Some do get a little funny with giving this information, so some will be more willing than others.
  2. Use the paytable – A good trick is to take note of the paytable that is attached with all online slots. Generally, you find that low volatile games have small jumps between winnings. Increments might double as the payouts increase. Highly volatile games with have much larger, sometimes erratic jumps. Some games will be fairly steady up until the top prize, where you might see a 10-20x jump between the top two prizes. Erratic prices generally mean highly volatile games.
  3. RTP – All games will come with the RTP advertised by law. What you will find is that high volatile games come with a low RTP. This means that the casino takes more money from these games. They apply a lower RTP to take more money from the game to negate when players go on big winning runs. Remember, high volatile games can pay out huge sums of money in a short period of time, so the game needs to have this covered.
  4. Bet Limits and Prizes – The bigger the prizes on offer, the higher the volatility of the games, generally speaking at least. Lots of jackpot games are high in volatility.

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.

Meet The Author

25 Years
Ziv Chen
Ziv Chen
Writer Writer

Ziv Chen has been working in the online gambling industry for over two decades in senior marketing and business development roles. Ziv writes about a wide range of topics including slot and table games, casino and sportsbook reviews, American sports news, betting odds and game predictions. Leading a life full of conflict, Ziv constantly struggles between his two greatest loves: American football and US soccer.

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