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What do “volatility” and “variance” mean in slot games?

What do “volatility” and “variance” mean in slot games?


You might think in an ideal world that all slot games are the same: you decide your stake, spin the reels, and then enjoy an equal chance of winning, no matter which game you decide to play.

But that would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it!

To make things more exciting, slot game developers have produced a variety of titles that actually offer different specifications.

With some slots, you may find that you win consistently, but that the pay-outs you earn are quite small.

With other games, you might wait an eternity for a winning spin, and then when it finally comes along, you are rewarded with a handsome prize.

This general phenomenon is known as variance, and the good news is that you can work out which slots are “low” variance – e.g. can deliver small, consistent wins – and which are “high” variance – fewer, but typically more lucrative, wins. Variance is commonplace in slots both in brick-and-mortar casinos and those you find online, such as Bitcasino.

The great thing about slot variance is that you can choose which games suit your tastes and budget prior to parting with any of your hard-earned money!

What about volatility?

The word “volatile”, as you are probably aware, is generally defined as something that is unpredictable, which is a fair description of how a slot game operates.

Volatility is, in essence, the same thing as variance. Both tell us what we can expect from a particular slot, and inform us of the levels of risk that are inherent on the reels.

Here’s a quick guide to volatility:

  • High risk + big rewards = high volatility
  • Lower risk + consistent small wins = low volatility

There can be a number of features that determine why a slot game might be considered highly volatile, or otherwise.

When a title’s biggest prizes are found in bonus rounds, free spins games or via win multipliers, these will need to be triggered via a specific combination – often by matching three or more of a specified symbol on your reels.

There are slots with fixed numbers of pay lines and coin values – these also tend to be more variant, because the player cannot modify the set-up to their requirements.

Of course, the most volatile slots of all are those linked to a progressive jackpot network, where you spin the reels hoping to land a huge prize worth millions of pounds/dollars.

Which type of slot is better? This is a decision that you will have to make for yourself, but clearly, there are advantages and drawbacks to both when comparing with the other.

High variance slots

Variance and volatility are another way of saying risk. With high-risk slots, we understand that our gaming sessions might not be fruitful ones – but the rewards speak for themselves.

Think of it like buying a lottery ticket: you understand that your stake is at risk, but you wager it anyway in the hope of being rewarded with a fantastic prize.

It’s a personality thing, as much as anything else. Are you willing to sit tight and keep pressing that “spin” button, knowing that the next big win could be just around the corner?

Naturally, high volatility slots are better suited for those with larger bankrolls, who can work through the “dry spells” that accompany such games in the pursuit of that next winning spin.

The old saying “speculate to accumulate” doesn’t apply here – this is pretty much all-or-nothing gaming in which the line between risk and reward becomes blurred.

That’s because high variance slots offer pay-outs of 3000x, 5000x or even 10000x your stake – and that’s before we even go into the astronomical sums available in progressive jackpot slots!

Who should play high volatility slots?

The conditions of high volatility slots mean that they’re not for everyone. Indeed, only certain personality types can prosper playing these sorts of games:

  • Those comfortable with risk and reward
  • Those willing to wait for a win
  • Those with larger bankrolls
  • Those with strong discipline
  • Those with plenty of patience
  • Those who want the chance to win big!

Low variance slots

For everything you’ve read about high variance slots, the opposite pretty much rings true for their low volatility siblings.

These are aimed at players who enjoy the thrill of winning – where the release of endorphins that a winning spin brings is key – more than necessarily seeing slots as a way of making money.

Low variance means lower risk (i.e. your stake has more chance of making a return), and so rather than hitting the spin button with fingers crossed, it is done more in anticipation than hope. 

Be warned though, dry spells in low volatility slots can see your bankroll diminish significantly.

The modus operandi of low variance slots is entertainment. You can ring every ounce of enjoyment from your staking plan when you know that your next win should be along shortly.

If you plan on enjoying lengthy online slots sessions at Bitcasino, then low variance games are your smart choice. You will win some spins and lose some, but hopefully, you walk away with a profit in hand.

As you might expect, you’re very unlikely to win a big jackpot pay-out here. Instead, the onus is on accumulating lots of little wins that – if it’s your lucky day – could add up to a significant pay-out anyway.

Here’s another tip: if you have joined Bitcasino and armed yourself with one of our fantastic deposit bonuses, then low variance slots are a smart way to accumulate some real-money winnings to use in your account!

Who should play low volatility slots?

If you want to win a life-changing sum of cash, may we advise you to try your hand at a high variance slot?

Yes, you’re not guaranteed to win a single penny there, but you’ve got to be in it to win it, as the saying goes.

The sorts of gamers who might enjoy low volatility slots include:

  • Those who play largely for fun
  • Those who play long sessions
  • Those who are on a tighter budget
  • Those who are new to slots
  • Those who seek entertainment
  • Those who enjoy old-fashioned slots
  • Those who need to win often

Is there such a thing as medium variance slots?

If you were wondering if there was some kind of middle ground between high and low variance slots, you’re in luck!

Medium volatility games exist in that happy place somewhere in the middle, where you can enjoy a steady stream of winning spins while having the lure of a decent-sized jackpot to play for – as high as 1000x your stake, in some cases.

These titles are perfect for players who want a little bit of risk, but plenty of reward, from their slots. It’s a good way to maintain your bankroll with slow and steady gains, and if you can win big, then that’s just the icing on the cake.

Examples of each type of slot

To give you a better understanding of the line between high and low variance slots – and what a medium volatility game looks like – we thought we’d walk you through some examples taken from the Bitcasino slots library. 

The software developer Endorphina has made a large number of high variance slots, and arguably the pick of the bunch is Voodoo.

This spooky slot only has ten paylines across its five reels, so you will be waiting around for those winning spins to come along, but then there is a stonking jackpot of 20,000 coins to be won into the bargain!

With a second jackpot available of 10,000 coins, it could be well worth riding out the losing streaks in Voodoo.

If you’re looking for a low variance slot to enjoy, give Tree of Fortune a try.

Produced by the team at iSoftBet, this features the unique 243 ways to win feature, which rather than just accepting winning combinations from left-to-right on your reels, actually pays out when symbols appear in a variety of patterns.

The game doesn’t have a major jackpot – the top-paying feature, 15 free spins, is where you can accumulate wins, and so Tree of Fortune is a game in which winning small amounts regularly is key.

As medium volatility slots go, we offer plenty – and one of our favourites is Booming Games’ Big Apple Wins.

An old-style fruit machine slot, the Big Apple that the title refers to is actually New York City, in a game inspired by all things NYC related.

Most importantly, this is your standard medium variance game in that “little and often” wins are commonplace, but with scatters and wilds appearing on the reels, there is always the opportunity that you could land the 2000x big prize.

Remember, Bitcasino players can enjoy all of our slots for free in demo mode, so you can get to grips with the different variances and decide which best suits your style.

All you need to do to get involved is sign up for a new player account, which only takes a few moments, and soon you can be testing our low and high variance slots to your heart’s content!

Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock and Bitcasino


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