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JULY 2022

Volatility and Variance in Online Slots Explained

Read this detailed guide and win more through your favorite slot machines


The Complete Guide to Variance and Volatility of Online Slot Machines

Read this detailed guide and win more through your favorite slot machines

Written by: Ricki Kristensen | The review was last updated: 26 Jan 2022

You would surely have noticed while betting on online slot machines that the results of gambling sessions are never similar. There is never any consistency in the results, and you can never predict anything about the outcome of a bet. You might leave the game a millionaire, or you might go broke within just some minutes.

The results of slot machines are very inconsistent, in comparison to the results of other casino games like Baccarat and Blackjack, as in these games, you usually win around half of the time, though it is never a guarantee.

You would surely have read and heard people say that the volatility and variance rating of slot machines is very high, but you might not know what do these terms exactly mean. 

Read this detailed article further, and you will completely understand what volatility is and what is variance, and how do these terms affect your gambling session.

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What is Variance and Volatility in slot machines?

In slot machines, volatility is the measure of how often you are likely to get a win in the game, how likely are you to get a winning combination which will give you a payout, and consequently, what would be its size. This volatility in a casino slot machine can be understood as the risk factor which is associated with the game. Volatility determines how often are you expected to win and how much can you probably win. Thus, it is simply a factor determining how are you likely to perform in a game.

Volatility in casino games is often aligned with the return-to-player rate (RTP), which is a percentage of money that players win in a game in the long term.

The games which are highly volatile are the ones where you don't land wins very often, but when they do, their amount is usually very high, and it kind of compensates for the rare wins. On the other hand, slot games with low volatility ratings give regular wins to the players, but they usually give low payouts. The format and the form of the casinos do not matter. Whether it is online or offline, the concept of volatility and variance remains the same.

Most of the games you play in your favorite casinos will disclose the volatility rating well in advance. However, there are some casino games that don't publicize a fixed payout rating or percentage. Usually, you will see that online casinos rate games on a volatility scale, which measures the volatility of a slot from 1 to 5. So, if you play a game with a 0 or 1 star volatility, it means that you are going to get regular small-sized wins. A highly volatile game with 4 or 5 stars on the volatility scale, on the other hand, will give you a very explosive gambling experience, where you will get some very high payouts, but they would be rare to land.

It might be possible that you get comfortable with games with a certain level of volatility. For Example, you might like highly volatile games, and you will prefer such games over games with low volatility. So, it is always better to play a game through the free version before playing the game with actual money. Most of the games from popular providers are available here at BETO.com, and you can play them for free to practice.

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What is the difference between RTP, Volatility, and Variance?

5 Lions Megaways (Pragmatic Play)

The highly volatile online slot machine 5 Lions Megaways

Free game

The highly volatile online slot machine 5 Lions Megaways

To understand how a highly volatile slot actually feels like in real life, click the game on the left to test the 5 Lion Megaways slot machine. It is a slot machine with a very high variance rating and volatility rating.

If you are into slots and online betting, you will understand that the RTP of a game has a major to play in the mind of a gambler when he is choosing a game to play. Some people just simply prefer games with high volatility ratings over low volatile games, and some players like low volatile games over higher volatility titles. More or less, it is just a matter of personal preference.

Through this article, you will understand what do these terms actually mean in the context of iGaming, and how can you use these terms to decide whether a game is made for you or not.

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Understanding the math behind online slot machines

Find yourself a slot machine that fits your volatility appetite and feels comfortable

Find yourself a slot machine that fits your volatility appetite and feels comfortable

The Return to Player Percentage of a game is the actual mathematical return of a game, and it is measured in terms of your winnings which you get on your deposit on a specific game. Note that the RTP is calculated over a long period of time, and it never guarantees any profit. Your actual winnings totally depend on your luck.

To understand the concept of RTP better, take this practical example:

Consider a slot machine. It has an RTP of 94%, which means that in that slot game, the house will have an edge of 6%. So, if you start playing on this slot machine, then you are most likely to get a payout of around 94%. Or, if you play on the slot with a starting balance of €100, you are most likely to end the game with a remaining balance of €94. In this example, the remaining €6 will be the profit margin of the casino.

Volatility is somewhat a different concept than RTP. However, both of them are related. Volatility is the measure of risk in a specific game. A game with a high volatility rating will give you very high payouts, like 100x or 500x worth of payouts. These may even increase to 1,000x or 5,000x or even more. However, the twist is that in high volatility games, the hit rate is very low, and you don't land wins very easily. On the other hand, in low volatility games, there is not much risk, and you land wins very frequently. In low volatility games, the average sizes of payouts are not very high, which is because of the high win rate.

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Which types of games you should play totally depends on you. If you like playing explosive games with high bets, then you should go ahead with some high volatility slots. If you are one of those who like to play it safe with a small bet, then you should play some low volatility slots. Every type of games have their own fun, and you should try all of them before selecting a favourite.

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Volatility VS Variance in iGaming

It is super fun and rewarding to win on high variance slots

It is super fun and rewarding to win on high variance slots

In the casino world, you might have seen that the two terms, Volatility and Variance, are often used in place of each other. You should note that these two terms are not synonymous, and they have different meanings in context to the outside world.

You will notice that the term Volatility is often used in economics and finance. It is used to express terms related to the risks and options in stocks. The term Variance can be termed as a proper gambling concept, it is often used in Texas Hold'em Poker games, and it is also gaining popularity through its use in slot machines.

In the iGaming sense, both of these terms mean the same, the risk factor which is present in a specific game. Volatility or Variance in a game will tell you about the level of risk you will experience in a game. It will also give you an idea about your expected hit rate and the average size of the payouts.

Still, there is a slight difference between the two terms, and the term Variance means the distribution of wins over a long term. In its contrast, Volatility means the distribution of wins in a short time.

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Does Volatility go hand in hand with RTP?

Both the terms Volatility and RTP will directly affect your gambling experience, but these two metrics are very different from each other. As you must have read before, the term Volatility refers to the risk factor that comes with a slot machine. Volatility affects the hit rate of a game and the average sizes of payouts. Most gamblers feel that high volatility games are fun, and they add excitement to the games. However, these games are very risky as well, and you should bet on them only when you have a lot of money to keep playing the game for many turns.

However, RTP is a metric that tells you about the probable return you will get on your invested money in a game after a gambling session. RTP is expressed in the form of a percentage. This percentage is the likely return you are most likely to get on your bet money over the long term. Usually, the RTP of casino games ranges between 93% to 98%, and there is no fixed standard regarding the RTP of a specific genre of games. However, the RTP of individual games is often separately calculated, and you can check that in the details of a game. High RTP games would obviously be more beneficial for you, as you are likely to win more money back, so make sure you play a game with a good RTP.

Sample Gameplay of 5 Lions Megaways, a very high volatility slot

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Online Gambling - Volatility vs Risk

You can very easily determine the volatility of a slot,  just play a game a couple of times, and you will understand how the game will pay you out. You can also look at the special features of a game to assess its volatility rating. The games with a high number of special features tend to have a higher volatility rating than games with low special features. It is like this because a high number of special features gives you chances to win big payouts, as they are very rewarding.

Consider this example to understand how the risk factor in online casino games works:

Assume you are playing an online game, and it has a bonus feature in the game with an average hit rate of one in 500,000 spins. This bonus will obviously give you a better reward than a reward that hits once in almost every 50 spins. Like this, you will get many rewards in real money casino games, and they will have different hit rates. You should analyze these rewards, as hitting even one of them can give you a very rewarding payout, one that can easily cover your spinning costs.

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Which kind of online slots should you prefer?

It is not a complex process to decide which game you should play. It is just a matter of personal choice. You should introspect and think about your gambling preference, your expected level of excitement will help you decide which game would suit you best. However, there are some factors which you should keep in mind while deciding on a game to gamble.

Suppose you are thinking about playing a very volatile game. In that case, you should keep in mind that you might not win very frequently, as it is in all the high volatility games, the wins would definitely be higher and better than the low volatility games, but there would surely be some risk. Another thing you should keep in mind is that you should try to avoid high volatility games if you are playing on a small budget, as these games can take some time to land a great win, and you might run out of money till that happens.

If you are playing on a game with low volatility, then a small budget won't be a problem, as you are likely to land wins regularly. However, keep in mind that the size of the wins might not be very large, and your gameplay won't be as exciting as the high volatility slots.

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Levels of Volatility in Online Slot Machines

In the world of online slot machines, the variance level of slots can be broadly categorized into 3 levels, high variance, medium variance, and low variance. These variance levels are similar for land-based physical slot machines and online slots. These variance levels are similar for land-based physical slot machines and online jackpot slot machines. Make sure you try games of all variance ratings before selecting a favourite level.

For the seasoned gamblers, for the players who have been betting in casinos for a while, the slot variance can be divided into 5 different levels. These levels are mentioned below, and some points are written regarding the player who decides to play a game with the respective volatility rating:

Volatility level - 1 Very Low Risk
  • A conservative and safe gambler
  • Someone who enjoys the gameplay more than the payouts
  • A player who loves regular wins
  • A gambler with a rather limited gambling balance

Volatility level - 2 Low Risk
  • A little careful player
  • Someone who likes easy wins
  • A gambler with a limited payroll

Volatility level - 3 Medium Risk
  • Someone who likes taking small risks
  • A player with a standard level of starting money
  • Someone who enjoys a balanced gameplay
  • A gambler who doesn't say no to jackpots

Volatility level - 4 Medium to High Risk
  • A risk-taker who often likes to play big
  • A slot-player who is willing to risk money, hoping for a Jackpot
  • A gambler that usually wants to alternate between big wins and small wins

Volatility level - 5 High Risk
  • A player who loves risks
  • A gambler who is willing to wait for Jackpots
  • A high roller
  • A gambler with a lot of money to invest in a game

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How the Variance in Online Slots affected?

It can be difficult to calculate variance in online slots

It can be difficult to calculate variance in online slots

A slot machine is a very dynamic game. Slot machines are available in all forms and formats. Online slot machines are usually loaded with special features and bonuses like Scatter Symbols, Free Spins, Progressive Jackpots, and Fixed Jackpots. The availability of these features in online games surely pumps up the gameplay and gambling experience, but these features also affect the variance of the slot and the risk associated with that particular game.

The games that don't have many special features will give you very balanced gameplay, as you will regularly keep winning small amounts of wins. These wins will keep on replenishing your gaming balance, and you will see that even after hours of gameplay, your balance might look the same. Such games have low special features and would be low volatility games.

On the other hand, the games with a lot of cool special features will have a very high variance rating. This is so because these special features are very rewarding, and triggering one of these features even once can give you loads of payouts. Thus, it is not possible to give you regular wins with such high payout levels, and the hit rate on such slots tens to be very low.

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3 Main factors that affect the variance rating of your slot machine

The Paytable of the Game

The main thing that affects the volatility of your slot would be the size of the wins. You can analyze this after looking at the paytable of a specific game. The paytable has the details of the wins which you get after landing specific combinations on online slot machines. If the paytable of a slot shows that you can get very high wins on a slot, then you are looking at a game with a high volatility rating. On the other hand, if the paytable of the slot shows that the size of payouts on a slot is comparatively small, then the game has a low level of volatility.

Bonuses and Special Features

Special Bonuses and Boosters are the best things about online slot machines. These special game enhancers add a solid punch and thrill to the game. You can get a variety of special features in a slot machine, including bonus games, mini-games, free spins, respins, scatter, and wild symbols. There is a clear relation between the number of special features in a game and the volatility rating of the game. If there are many special features in a game, then the hit rate of that game would be low, and the volatility rating would be very high. Similarly, if a game does not have special features or has just the basic features with low payouts, then the hit rate would be comparatively high, and the volatility will be very low.

Bet Size

The bet size is another very important factor in determining the variance of a casino slot machine. It is very important while determining the variance as your end winnings directly depend on the size of the initial bet. So, the high volatility games will have a high minimum bet requirement, while the low volatility games will let you play on the slot with a minimum starting bet.

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The main objective of Online Slots is to have fun

Understanding volatility makes online slots more entertaining.

Understanding volatility makes online slots more entertaining.

After understanding all these things about online slot machines, you have now become an expert on the volatility and variance in slots. You can now effectively judge games from their volatility rating and RTP, which will help you in selecting your favourite online slot machine.

There is a whole world of online slots out there, and you can choose games with any volatility rating. In the end, volatility is a personal choice, and you can choose any game with any variance rating as long as you enjoy it.

To find a great game, just keep trying various games with different volatility ratings, and you will eventually find a game that perfectly satisfies your gambling appetite. A lot of games are available here at BETO.com as free versions, and you can play them without depositing any money. These games let you feel the variance levels of games without asking you to risk your hard-earned money.

We hope that this article helped you in understanding what volatility and variance actually mean and how can they affect your gambling experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Variance and Volatility in online slot machines

You must have read the terms Volatility and Variance multiplier times in online casinos and have wondered what these terms actually mean? To help you understand these concepts clearly, we have curated this FAQ section for you. We have answered the most asked slots questions about the volatility and variance in online slot machines.

What does volatility mean in online slots?

Volatility in online slots is the metric of risk in slots. Volatility gives you an idea about the frequency of payouts of a specific game and the average size of the wins. Volatility is a metric that is measured over the short term, and you can feel its effect in a game very quickly.

Do games with high volatility ratings pay you more?

When you play a game with a high volatility rating, the size of the wins is usually very large, which means that when a win is landed, you will get a lot of money in the form of winnings. However, the frequency of these wins is very low, which is due to the huge payout size. So, the average RTP at the end of the game is pretty standard.

Do games with low volatility ratings pay you less?

No, it is not that a low volatility slot will pay you less than a high volatility slot. It is just that in a low volatility slot, the average size of the payouts will not be as large as those from high volatility games. However, the frequency of wins on low volatility games is very high, and in the end, you should get a generous payout.

How to determine the volatility of an online slot?

It is not hard to get an idea about a slot machine's volatility. Generally, the volatility ratings of online slots are mentioned in the technical details of a slot machine, and you can read it in any online casino. However, if you don't find the volatility rating off a game directly mentioned, you can take an idea regarding the RTP through the slot's paytable, its number of special features, and the bet sizes of the slot machine.

Which online slots are the most balanced in terms of risk to payout ratio?

Regarding the risk to payout ratio, the medium volatility slots are generally the most balanced and stable ones. These are the most balanced slot machines, in these games, the size of the wins is neither very high nor very less, and the hit rate is also decent. These can be called the median volatility games between high volatility slots and low volatility slots.

How much money can I win on high volatility slots?

High variance games are super rewarding, and you can win payouts even worth 50,000x your bet amount. However, the hit rate on these slots is very less, and the probability of winning the top jackpot in the game is very small. So, make sure you make your bets very carefully.

Is the RTP a more important metric in slot machines than the Volatility rating?

In slot machines, the RTP and the Volatility both are very important metrics, and they both tell you a lot about the slot machines. However, these are two very different concepts, the RTP tells you how much you are likely to win in a slot machine, and the Volatility tells you about the average payout size and hit rate of the slot. So, the RTP does not affect the Volatility of the slot and vice versa. The RTP of a high volatility slot and a low volatility slot can be the same.

How to find myself the game with the perfect volatility rating?

There is nothing like the perfect volatility rating. Different volatility games have their own characteristics, and every level has its own pros and cons. The best way to find a suitable volatility rating game for yourself is to keep trying games with different volatility ratings. Lots of games are available here at BETO.com as free versions, and you can try them and find yourself a game that suits your gambling appetite perfectly.