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The main aim of online gaming is fun, but for some of you out there it’s also about technique. Many players focus on the games RTP or Return to Player, but did you know there are other elements to slot games which can impact your results. The terms volatility and variance are relatively new to the online gaming world, so it wouldn’t surprise us that you haven’t heard of them. That’s why we’ve brought you this article on slot volatility and a guide to high variance slots vs low variance slots.
Many of the casino and slot blogs have rafts of information about everything you will ever need, yet there isn’t much about the effect of the slot machine volatility index on your gaming. This is especially surprising because volatility is often used by land-based casino players, so why haven’t we seen the move to online?
We’re hoping that by the end of this guide you’ll have a greater understanding as to what slot volatility is, how it differs to variance and the affects of high and low variance on your game time.
What is Slot Volatility in Online Gaming?
The idea of measuring volatility on slot machines may not be new to those of you who play in land-based casinos. So, the transfer to online games doesn’t seem a far stretch, especially with the tightening of regulations since the introduction of the UK Gambling Commission. We are finding that players are eager to discover new ways to push the odds into their favour.
Basically, if a player attempts to predict how a slot game will perform, then that is known as slot volatility. They can try to distinguish patterns and rules as they spin and gauge the number of times the reels will land in a winning position. The aim of monitoring these types of changes is so that you can adapt your bankroll with the volatility pattern, and this should increase your chances of winning.
If you see someone mention slot variance then they are trying to predict both the likelihood of winning and the size of the prize pool. This could either be displayed as high variance games or 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.
What’s the Difference Between Volatility and Variance?
Essentially both ‘volatility’ and ‘variance’ mean the same thing, although gaming professionals will use them interchangeably. Variance is a common word used during poker games and has been modified for online slots. Even though they are the same in general terms, some experts do believe that there is a slight distinction between the two.
Variance – This tends to be seen as the RTP of the game and is when there is a change that the player would expect to see. This could be any patterns that occur within the slot game. Variance isn’t necessarily the best option because as you focus on the RTP, you can miss specific arrangements and variations. It is best to look for configurations that appear in the game over a long period of time.
Volatility – Similar to variance, the term volatility also relates to patterns and changes in the game. But instead of just focusing on how the reels land, volatility focuses on how the player estimates their bet. So, depending on the pattern that is produced, you can amend your wagering so that it will hopefully land you more wins.
In general, there isn’t significant variations between the two, it’s all down to semantics. What will impact your gaming time is whether the slot can be characterised as low volatility/variance or high variance/volatility. By ensuring you understand this, you can adapt your own gaming strategy with an aim to win. Sadly, this does require both time and patience, and it’s why most gamers will simply focus on the RTP. Taking a quick look at the RTP percentage will provide a generic idea of how the reels will play out, without the additional work.
Taking all of this into consideration, is it even worth focusing on volatility and variance? We would argue yes, because watching the patterns of the slot game can give you the knowledge to modify your bankroll and gameplay. Playing online games should predominantly be about fun, but it doesn’t hurt to increase your chances at winning.
Measuring Slot Volatility
RNG and Slot Volatility
Trying to describe slot volatility and how it is measured can be a difficult task, because the changes in patterns within the game are determined by the RNG (Random Number Generator). RNG is a software technology which is implemented during the creation of the game. It helps to ensure that keys aspects such as the RTP percentage and payout are fair. As you would imagine from its name, the RNG algorithm is set that the reels land randomly. It does this by generating a random string of numbers which all start from ‘the seed’, to create the variance pattern.
So that the game cannot be manipulated, the software developers will ensure that details of the algorithm remain confidential. This can only increase our confidence in the slot and table games that we play, as none of the casino sites can change how the game plays out. You should be aware that the volatility of a game will vary slot by slot, even if the games are designed by the same developer.
How do you determine the variance of a slot game? There’s only one way to work out the patterns of a game and that’s by spinning the reels and seeing how they land. As you watch them land over and over again, you will begin to see patterns emerge and it is with this information you can attempt to predict any future outcomes. This all sounds wonderful, but you’ll be wondering why everyone doesn’t do it, if it increases your chances of winning. That’s because to establish that pattern you have to spin a lot, and by a lot we’re talking about a 100 spins in one seated session. Also remember that there may be patterns, but there is also the RNG software working against you and that will affect the long-term variance of the game.
If you have the money to fund this type of gaming session then great, but not many people do, so we may have an alternative option for you. Most casinos have removed demo free play slots from their sites to non-registered players, due to the regulation changes from the UK Gambling Commission. But if you are a member of the casino or slot site, then you will still find a number of demo options around and they offer the chance to spin as many times as you like. This method will give you a general idea of patterns but be aware that test spins don’t always provide accurate results.
Pay Table and Slot Volatility
Within slots, one of the most informative areas for how the game works is the pay table and this can also be a useful tool for working out high and low variance. The pay table is basically the set of rules for the game, and it shows everything you need to know about how the slot works, for example what are the symbols, payouts and bonuses. You will find it labelled as ‘pay table’ or ‘i’ which stands for information. For mobile players it’s even easier to find because you simply swipe the gaming screen right or left and the pay table will appear.
There are a few ways to determine if the slot is high or low variance, including how big the jackpot prize is. The pay table provides the player with information on the winning combinations, for example if you were to land 2, 3, 4 or 5 symbols. By making a comparison between the biggest win available and the max bet level, you will be able to see if the game has a high variance. Any wins 40 to 50x higher can be categorised as medium to high variance, but if the difference is only small then it will be a lower variance and you will only win smaller frequent amounts.
The exception to this rule is progressive jackpots because the prize pot isn’t static and will grow until someone randomly wins. In general, they will have high volatility but everyday winnings in the base game can be incredibly small.
Levels of Variance and their Effect on Volatility
So far, we have mentioned about there being various levels of volatility. To be exact there are 5 and each will have a different impact on both your frequency of win, and the prize pot you can expect.
High Variance Slot Games
By opting for a high variance game you can expect less frequent wins, but a larger prize pot. If you are a high roller than this would be your choice of slot because there is more risk as you wager.
Trying to determine a pattern in high variance games can be difficult, mainly because there tends to be gaps between wins. As the variance gets higher, the time between small wins and jackpot prizes gets longer. You will find that the odds of winning big can be quite low, as such you are mainly playing for the small ad hoc prizes which can be boring. But if you persist on the game then it may work out to be worthwhile, because the jackpot prizes can be pretty good. The difficulty is working out your bankroll and ensuring you have enough to wager over a longer period.
To be able to maintain your bankroll over the longer period, you will be looking for high variance slots with low bets. There are a few available, mainly from the top gaming providers NetEnt, Microgaming and Playtech. They tend to be better for players with a focus on RTP, because the odds will even out the longer you play. Sadly, the stability of high variance is hard to calculate and as such you can never quite plan how much of a balance is needed for each gaming session.
If you are looking for the big wins and you’re willing to spend the time wagering through those lost spins, then take a look at some gaming options and our site recommendations below. It will be important that you have a decent bankroll to maintain the gaming period, even if you’re only making low bets. The key to all of this is to have fun and never bet more than you can afford, mainly because highly volatile slots don’t always work as you would expect.
High Variance Slots Playtech
This incredible game developer was founded in 1999 and has created not only a huge range of slot games, but some of the favourite choices for players. Playtech’s games can be categorised as higher volatility slots with bigger RTP percentages, and we have given you a few of our favourites below. Remember if they have a progressive jackpot, it can be more difficult to establish a pattern within the game.
- Great Blue – 95.25% RTP – BoyleSports Casino
- Hot Gems – 95.99% RTP – Casino.com
- Cat Queen – 93.60% RTP – Betfair
NetEnt Slots High Volatility
If you’re unaware of NetEnt then you must be new to online gambling because they’re pretty much the leaders in slot games. Alike Playtech, they are known for higher RTP’s, but this can mean much higher volatility when you play and larger prizes.
If you’re looking for high variance games at NetEnt then you may struggle, as they are mainly on the lower side, especially the featured favourites. They also don’t have a huge range of progressive jackpots, but we have found you a few below.
- Dead or Alive – 96.80% RTP – Netbet Casino
- Gonzo’s Quest – 96.00% RTP – Leo Vegas
- Piggy Riches – 96.40% RTP – All British Casino
Microgaming Highly Volatile Slots
Another popular brand in the gambling world is Microgaming, because of their unique range of slots. Founded in 1994 they are known for their bonuses and features which keep players on their toes. In general, they tend to have a variance to suit anyone, so they are definitely an option for all gamers.
- High Society – 96.80% RTP – 888 Casino
- Immortal Romance – 96.80% RTP – Netbet Casino
- Mega Moolah – 88.12% RTP – Bet365 Casino
Medium to High Variance Slot
It may surprise you but there is a variance range of medium to high, and although it is less popular than high, it is still a mighty contender for those willing to take the risk. NetEnt is the go-to game designer for medium-high slots, as they have a greater RTP percentage than other games under the high volatility category. This basically means that you have more chance of winning because of the RTP and those wins should be in larger amounts due to the variance.
Slots with Medium Volatility
If the thought of spending a large bankroll is too much and you’re a little more cautious, then possibly medium variance is for you. This type of game gives you the opportunity to play for the higher pay outs, but with a bankroll that lasts longer than high volatility games. The middle of the road is always a good option for people who aren’t sure what they prefer, and this will give you smaller wins more frequently.
On medium variance games there are more bonus features which will enhance the excitement. Jack and the Beanstalk from NetEnt is a great example of this and one of the most popular slots online.
This option is perfect if you’re unsure about high-risk games and losing too much money, but it still provides the thrill of a decent win.
Low to Medium Variance Slot Games
Because we’re creeping towards the lower end of the scale, then we will expect to see more wins but for smaller amounts. Whether you would pick this level of variance is completely dependent on the type of player that you are. In comparison to the low variance games you have higher prize pots, but lower wagering and as such can play for longer. The Crown of Egypt from IGT is a great example of a low to medium volatility slot game, especially if you are on a tight budget and simply want to enjoy the game.
Low Variance Slot Games
We’ve reached the bottom of the scale, so obviously we’re on low variance which means small frequent wins. If you’re looking for those big wins, then this isn’t the option for you. But in low volatility you can enjoy a little something on average every 3 to 5 spins.
These are the slot games which are easier to monitor in terms of patterns and predicting wins, mainly because it tends to happen more often. So, if you’re interested in trying to work out the variance then it would be low level games that you may want to practice on, especially if you’re using the demo options. As you establish a pattern you can begin to adapt your bankroll.
These types of games are idea for new players and those of you who simply enjoy the art of spinning the reels. Because they offer lower payouts they are low risk and as such you will tend to find that the winnings will match what you’ve wagered. To combat that slightly, aim for high RTP slots which will increase your chance of winning.
How can you spot a low variance game? This is where the pay table becomes important, because if the payout is small and there is little difference between 4 and 5 symbol wins, then it will be low. The best game designer for this type of option is NetEnt, more so if you enjoy bonus features. But we always prefer to give you a few options, so here are the top low variance slots from our favourite three providers.
Low Variance Slots Playtech
We’ve already mentioned that Playtech is mainly high variance slots, but it should be noted that they are not one trick ponies. There are a small number of low-level games available, and they tend to be branded themes such as Marvel, with some pretty epic bonus features.
- The Mummy – 92.02% RTP – Casino.com
- Gladiator – 95.01% RTP – Betfair
- Pink Panther – 95.39% RTP – William Hill
NetEnt Low Volatility Slots
We’ve already mentioned that NetEnt is the go-to for low variance, especially if you’re planning on being there for a while. We have found that they offer a better RTP than the others, which should see your bankroll stretch that bit longer.
- Jack Hammer – 97.00% RTP – Leo Vegas
- Starburst – 96.10% RTP – Netbet Casino
- Subtopia – 96.1% RTP – 888 Casino
Microgaming Low Volatility Slots Gaming
We’re big fans of Microgaming and yes, they have pretty much something for everyone, but they’re not the first option we’d pick for low variance gaming. Their lower-level slots tend to be older titles which can be a little outdated, but they are well known in the gaming world so it may be worth having a look.
- Terminator – 96.62% RTP – Netbet Casino
- Bomber Girls – 95.40% RTP – 888 Casino
- Dragon’s Myth – 96.01% RTP – 32Red Casino
Difference Between Slot Volatility and RTP
Although we have mentioned RTP quite a bit in the article, we haven’t really explained what it is or how to differs to volatility.
RTP is an abbreviation of ‘Return to Player’ which is the percentage return a game will give a player as they wager. If the slot has a 97% RTP, then you should see an average payout of 97 times for every 100 spins. This isn’t 100% accurate, as the RNG will impact the payout to ensure it is random, but many players will opt for slots with high RTP’s.
When you look at the RTP percentage, you will see that it is measured in the long run, i.e., over 100’s of spins. This won’t benefit those players who can only bankroll a small number of spins for example 20 to 30; the rate will be much better over 100’s.
In contrast to that is the variance level which has more of a general impact on the results of your spins. If the volatility is lower, then the bankroll should last longer, and the gamer can determine any patterns and adjust as they play.
The optimal way to play is to look at both the volatility and the RTP when you choose a game. Higher RTP’s give you greater chances to win and the variance will help determine the patterns so you can use your bankroll more efficiently.
Which Variance or Volatility Level to Choose? High, Medium, or Low
Sadly, this isn’t something we can answer for you because it depends on what kind of games you prefer and of course your bankroll. If you’ve read all the way through then you’ll know there are benefits to each variance type, so the final decision will be down to you. Remember that ensuring you wager within your budget is important and that essentially gaming online is about having fun.
If you have previously played high risk slots with larger winnings, then you will prefer high volatility slots. If that intense thrill isn’t your bag, and you prefer relaxing and watching those reels spin, then it maybe low variance slots are for you. For those of you that are unsure then aim for the middle and work it out from there.
Summary of Slot Volatility and a Guide to High Variance Slots vs Low Variance Slots
Trying to beat the system in online gambling has been something gamers have tried for years and sadly failed. The RNG software is so sophisticated that we just have to sit back and cross our fingers for that big win.
Now volatility and variance has crept onto the scene, and they are becoming more and more popular with players. Although the strategy isn’t 100% perfect it can assist with your gaming, as it will impact whether you win or lose and by how much. The ability to adapt your bankroll using volatility gives the player an edge, but again the outcome will be affected by the RNG.
If you want to strategize as you play, then consider looking at other aspects of the game such as the pay table and whether the slot has bonus features. But the main thing to remember is to enjoy it, because there’s no point even logging on if you’re not playing for fun. As we’ve previously mentioned there is the demo option which should give you the opportunity to test the game first, but in essence it’s all trial and error. So good luck and enjoy our slot and casino suggestions.