What Does Volatility Mean in Slots?

Casino players need to be smart about the games they choose. Some people go for a game that requires skills and strategies to win because it is easier to manipulate the house edge. Others opt for games based on chance and luck, like roulette and slot machines. However, even slot machines need to be chosen according to certain criteria, like RTP (return to player), payouts, bonus features, risk, or minimum bet. 


This can sound like a lot, but slots volatility is one of slot machines' most important yet often forgotten features. Few people know about slot volatility, let alone what high and low-volatility slots are. Given the sheer number of slot machines found at casino sites, it is helpful to understand the factors that shape the game's outcome. In this page, we will break down volatility for you and discuss its impact on the results of your games, shaping your payout and winnings accordingly. 

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According to our Editorial Guide
This page is written by
Seánie O'Brien
Seánie O'BrienCasino Adviser
Fact checked by
Rebecca Mackay
Rebecca MackayHead of Content

What is slot volatility, and how does it operate? Slot volatility varies between different slots, revealing the frequency and average payout amounts. The volatility of slots can span from low to high, offering diverse gameplay styles for varying gambling preferences. In this informative video, as your host I will thoroughly explore the impact of volatility on different slots, highlight where these games can be found, and assist you in selecting the optimal level of volatility that aligns with your preferred playing style.

What is Volatility in Slots?

Slot volatility describes how often and how much a slot pays out on average. In other words, it represents how frequently a slot triggers wins and the average size of prizes and rewards corresponding to it. Slot volatility can be high, which means that the payout is high by further spread apart, or it can be low, which means that payouts are small but frequent - often won in quick succession. 

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Low volatility slots require a little more patience with the reels. The slot volatility is also called slot variance. Whether the slot machine is online or land-based, volatility or variance will determine the odds of pulling up the winning combination and consequently winning the jackpot, the bonuses, or the prize money. They will also determine all the risks involved in the game. 

Quick Facts About Slots Volatility

  1. Slot volatility refers to how often a slot triggers a winning combination and the size of prizes and payouts. 

  2. Slots are of three main types: high, medium, and low.

  3. High variance slots: less frequent wins, big rewards.

  4. Medium variance slots: slightly more frequent wins, decent-sized rewards.

  5. Low variance slots: frequent wins, small rewards.

Slot Volatility Terms

When determining slot volatility to choose a slot, it's important to understand the other terms accompanying the decision.

Volatility vs Variance

Keep in mind that volatility and variance are synonymous in the casino world. They both refer to the risk/reward ratio in slot games and give the players an idea of what to expect in payout and winning combinations when playing. 

However, there is a slight difference here - variance represents the distribution of winning combinations over a long period, while volatility refers to the risks involved in the game over a short term. Nonetheless, both terms refer to the same thing and shouldn't be confused too much.

Volatility vs Risk 

Volatility shapes the risk of slot games. Volatility is why you win the money you do and how often you win it in a casino game. To figure out a game's volatility, you have no choice but to play a few rounds - you don't have to play for money; you can also do so for points or coins. 

In contrast, if you don't want to play, you can check other features to assess the risk factors, like bonuses. Some casinos also have a paytable that indicates the symbols and their payout. However, not all casinos have this information available for everyone to see. 

For example, a slot game with a bonus feature that springs up every 500,000 spins most likely rewards a heavier amount compared to the winning line that comes up more often, like after every 100 spins. 

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Volatility vs House Edge 

A casino's house edge is very different from the volatility of a game. Both matter a great deal, and both shape the outcome of the game in the end. But, house edge refers to the casino's mathematical advantage over the player. Also known as the casino advantage, it's the percentage of the player's bet that the casino will pocket as profit.

Slot machines have a high house edge, but volatility can be used to your advantage when you decide which game to play. High-volatility games can beat out the house edge in one swift move, or you can do it over time with low-volatility slots. 

Volatility vs RTP 

All casino games have an RTP or return-to-player percentage. RTP refers to the game's theoretical payout percentage. The higher the RTP, the lower the house edge. For instance, if you wager €100 on a slot machine with an RTP of 94%, you will get €94 as winnings while the casino keeps €6. 

However, remember that RTP is theoretical, and players might get different results over the hundreds and thousands of games played. Volatility is separate from RTP, but both impact the game's payout structure. The question is, which of these is important for the player's experience?

Volatility is arguably the most important factor for the player's experience in any game, as the player will see how the maths model shapes gameplay upfront. However, for some, it's RTP. After all, people who choose slots with a high RTP are more likely to win than those who choose slots with a low RTP. 

But players who like the fun of a high volatility slot won't mind sacrificing a little RTP for even a chance to win the jackpot or big prizes. It eventually comes down to the player's priorities and bankroll or budget.

Different Types of Slot Volatility 

The different levels of slot volatility are:

  1. low volatility 

  2. medium-low volatility 

  3. medium volatility 

  4. medium-high volatility 

  5. high volatility

As demonstrated, the range is from high to low. The level of variance shapes the frequency and the size of wins. 

The lower the slot volatility, the more frequent the wins, but with a low jackpot. You have a bigger chance of winning jackpots with high-volatility games, but your wins won't be as frequent. 

Although they are rarely heard of, there are slots with medium, medium-low or medium-high volatility. Let's demonstrate how this works:

Low Volatility Slots

You can often win on low volatility slots but with small jackpots that range from 250x to 500x the bet. The wins aren't as exhilarating as high volatility slots where you win large amounts of money. Still, they deliver steady payouts, which makes their chances more appealing to players. 

This is how a low-volatility slot machine works: A player begins with €100 at a low volatility slot. He places €5 bets at a time and can expect to win often with that money, with small wins ranging between €1 to €10. 

Low volatility slots have the following benefits and disadvantages:

  • Low risk
  • Easier bankroll management
  • Smaller losses
  • Longer playtime
  • Low reward
  • Less thrill and fun
  • Won't make you rich

Low Volatility Slot Games

These are harder to find than high and medium-volatility games for obvious reasons. But some examples of low volatility slots include:

  • Starburst 
  • Irish magic
  • American gold rush 
  • Lucky cherry 
  • Big bad wolf 
  • Blood suckers two

Medium Volatility Slots

These are usually found at an online casino site. As the name suggests, the game strikes a balance between low-volatility and high-volatility machines. 

These games are slightly closer to the high-volatility group in the frequency of winning combinations and the payout size. 

For some, these are the best of both worlds. They offer everything: highly anticipated wins and bonus features with a slightly lower risk. This type of slot is for people who want to play for fun but still want to win a decent hand here and there.  

The pros and cons of medium volatility slots are:

  • Higher wins
  • Low risk
  • Bonus features
  • Frustrating to play

Medium Volatility Slot Games

A nice middle ground between high and low volatility slots, you can score big and small wins with a medium variance slot game. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Divine Fortune
  • 88 fortunes 
  • Monopoly Megaways 
  • Thunderstruck two 
  • Jumanji 
  • North storm

High Volatility Slots

The last option to play with is high variance slots. This category is for people who dream big. High volatility slots are the way to go if you want to become a millionaire overnight. 

However, these are high-risk machines that do not always pay off. But when they do, players can expect to win big and live large. Unfortunately, not everyone can play high-volatility slots. You can only play these if you have a massive account or a big bankroll. You also need patience and time to chase after the big win. With this machine, you can win 3000x to 10,000x the wager placed.

This is how it works: A player who bets €1 spins 99 times but never wins, but then he bags a €500 payout on the 100th spin. 

The advantages and disadvantage of a high volatility slot are:

  • Winning big
  • Some have highly lucrative bonus features that can help boost the bankroll
  • High risk
  • Requires time & money
  • May never pay off
  • You lose more money playing this game than any other game

High Volatility Slot Games

These are some of the most popular games at online casinos. They are relatively easy to find and include games like:

  • Dead or Alive 
  • Book of Dead
  • Immortal Romance 
  • Buffalo Slot 
  • Gonzo's Quest 
  • Mercy of the Gods

Other Variance Options

Medium-high Volatility

Relatively popular, this variation has substantial value wins, and they have a high frequency. Some of the games include:

  • King Kong Fury 
  • Finn's Gold Tavern

These games come with highly anticipated wins but can be quite frustrating to play for most. 

Low-medium Volatility

These are lower-risk games with low-value winning combinations. However, the payout is frequently compared to medium-variance slot games. Examples include:

  • Crown of Egypt 
  • Twin Spin
  • Sevens High 
  • Go Bananas

This slot is enjoyable if you budget well for a lengthy gameplay session.

How to Determine Volatility

This information is not easily available for obvious reasons. However, the volatility of a slot is apparent after you spend some time playing the game. 

Slot game players also have inclinations and gambling styles. Therefore, they might be attracted to one type over the other. However, this doesn't mean that one is better than the other. Rather, it's all subjective and a matter of preference.

Given that volatility is determined through play, it is best to play for free for coins before you decide to play with real money. In addition, it is best to check out paytables to see what types of prizes are available. The game falls in the high/medium categories if substantial prizes are offered. However, the game falls in the lower category if smaller prizes are offered.

Choosing the Right Slot Volatility 

One must consider risk appetite and gaming objectives when choosing a slot game. If looking for frequent but smaller payouts, a low volatility slot may be suitable. However, if willing to take higher risks to win big, a high volatility slot may be more appropriate. Read on as we go through the factors influencing choosing the right slot volatility.

High

Play high volatility slots if:
  1. You like taking risks
  2. You have a large bankroll
  3. You want to win big no matter what 
  4. You don't care if wins are infrequent
  5. You don't mind long gameplay to trigger bonus features 
  6. You know when to stop i.e when your bankroll finishes

Medium

You should play these if:
  1. You want to strike a balance between fun and winning
  2. You are a new player but are confident enough to take some risks
  3. Your bankroll is limited but can be stretched to take risks
  4. You like to win often and win big
  5. You appreciate bonus rounds and free spins

Low

Play low volatility slots if:
  1. You have a small bankroll
  2. You want to play for a long time
  3. You want to have fun
  4. You want to win big
  5. You want features to be triggered quickly

Our Verdict on Slot Volatility

In conclusion, slot volatility is crucial when selecting a game to play. It determines the frequency and size of payouts and the level of risk involved. Understanding the volatility level of a slot can assist players in making informed decisions and optimizing their gaming experience.

FAQs About Slot Volatility

How is slot volatility calculated?

Volatility is the frequency of wins and the winning value per spin over a while. 

Do high-volatility slots pay more?

Yes, they do. However, bigger payouts happen less often compared to smaller payouts.

Do low-volatility slots pay less?

Yes, low-variance slots pay less, but they pay out more frequently than medium or high-variance slots.  

How can I figure out the volatility of a game?

You should play the game for free to figure it out, or you can study the paytable and the bonus features of the game.

Casino Mentor

Seánie has plenty of experience in the casino world and enjoys sharing this accumulated knowledge. He offers great tips and tricks for players to enjoy casinos safely.

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