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Slot Volatility and How it Affects Gameplay and Profits



As the laws surrounding gaming have relaxed in the states, positive public opinion has increased. 69% of Americans believe gaming positively affects the economy. More than 50% of the population has a favorable view of the industry as a whole, and 60% see it as creating quality work positions.

Yet despite these positive numbers and the fact that more than 85% of Americans will gamble at least once, in their lifetimes, there is still a misunderstanding between casinos and players.

Even regular players fail to understand simple but important terms such as the drop, the handle, the vig or house edge, RTP, and the hold. While many people may feel it is unnecessary to learn such terms, some could help improve the chances of winning.

One such term is slot volatility. What is this, and how does it affect gameplay or wins and losses?

What Is Slot Volatility?

A visit to an online casinó is likely to result in a large selection of slots being displayed. These types of games are typically the most popular in online casinos and traditional gaming venues.

Slots have various payouts and jackpots, and the frequency and size of which are determined by certain factors. One of which is known as slot volatility. This is an important aspect that anyone playing slots should try to understand.

There are three types of slot volatility, ranging from low through medium to high. They refer to how often payouts may occur in some ways but also how big the wins are likely to be.

High volatility means that there will be infrequent but much higher payouts. These machines are the riskiest option to play but have the promise of a genuinely large payday.

Low volatility machines are the ones that keep players the longest in some ways. They have smaller jackpots, but they pay out frequently. Small wins paying out often can keep the player pumping in dollars until the bankroll is gone.

Medium volatility clearly sits in the middle. These are the machines that offer a jackpot that is substantial but still payout more often than high-risk machines.

How Can You Spot Which Slots Have High Or Low Volatility?

There are certain requirements of casinos both online and on land, or water for that matter. For example, return to player percentages have to be clearly shown. Licensing accreditation also needs to be displayed.

Yet, slot volatility isn’t always easy to discover. One high-risk way to find out what volatility a slot machine has is to play it hundreds of times. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, and you would face dropping a considerable amount of cash into the slot.

Another way is to look at the jackpot and other prizes. If a machine is promising a huge jackpot, possibly with progressive jackpots too, then it may have high volatility. If the other smaller prizes are still higher than the average machine, this will be another indicator.

Many people like these machines because payouts are more substantial. The frequency needs to be considered, though, if you are a casual player who prefers to make their money and game time last longer.

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Is Volatility The Same As Slot Variation?

Volatility can be used to measure the results of a slot machine, as can variance. Volatility is usually linked to short-term results, though, whereas variance isn’t restricted in such ways.

Variance refers to how likely the wins and losses of a slot machine could change. You could look at slot machine A and slot machine B. Both have a holding line of 10%, but slot A has shown this figure jumping as much as -4% and +4%, whereas slot B has only had a deviation of + or – 1% over the last few months.

This means that slot machine A has a higher variance. The holding line refers to the percentage that the casino expects to retain as a profit.

Variance refers to long-term winning combinations as opposed to the short-term risks that volatility brings.

How Can Slot Volatility And Variance Affect Wins And Losses?

One of the myths surrounding slot machines is that if one has just paid out, it won’t do so again. This isn’t necessarily true.

Volatility and variance come into play in this area. The variance shows that over a long period, the slot machine should hold an expected amount of profit for the casino. However, volatility ensures that there is some risk in the short term of unexpected wins or losses.

Because variance accounts only for the long-term, it doesn’t take any consideration of the possibility of more than one jackpot happening in a short period. It only factors in the longer-term results.

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Does Rtp Play A Part In This?

RTP refers to the return to the player and is the percentage of money that is expected to be paid out. There is a standard lack of understanding of RTP, and how it can affect wins or losses.

Many players believe that an RTP of 90% will mean that they should see this percentage of their money returned to them. This isn’t the case exactly.

One could assume that if $1000 was put into one machine over the course of a few months and no one else played the game, then approximately 90% should come back. But as RTP looks at the long term, and many players will use the same machine, it is far more likely that some individuals will lose all their money while others will take some winnings home.

The link between variance and RTP is as such: If the variance is measured at 10% on a slot machine, then the corresponding RTP must be 90%.


One of the keys to making a successful gambling strategy is to understand the likelihood of a payout from the various casino games. The house edge, and the RTP, are vital information when playing cards or slots.

Understanding slot volatility and variance can also help you to determine the chances of winning or losing. The problem with volatility is discovering which machines are high or low.

Prize sizes often give clues, but the best way may be to search for online reviews. Looking for the RTP or variance will at least give you some knowledge of the long-term payout chances if you cannot discover the volatility.

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