Slots Volatility Explained

Understanding Slots Volatility

You've probably heard the term "slot volatility" mentioned at your favourite online casino before. While it's not a particularly difficult concept to get your head around, if you're new to gambling on the internet, its meaning might not be immediately obvious. That's why we put together this article. It should explain to newcomers to online gambling all about volatility in relation to slots.

By the end you should know:

  1. Exactly what slot volatility means
  2. All about the different slot volatility ratings, with examples of popular games from each and which player types they might suit
  3. How to determine the volatility of a slot
  4. How to use the volatility of different slots to maximise your winning potential

With a lot to cover today, we better get started already!

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What is Volatility in Relation to Slots?

The volatility of an online slot refers to the size of prizes it is capable of paying in relation to the frequency it pays them. Whereas the slot's RTP rating will determine just how much on average the machine is supposed to pay, volatility tells you if you should expect small prizes frequently or larger prizes less often.


To explain the concept further, let's consider two rather extreme examples. The first is a game with huge volatility. The second is one with much lower volatility. Both of our hypothetical slots have an RTP rating of 96%.

Our highly volatile slot only pays out on average once every 100 spins. When it does, it awards a prize of 96x the total bet. Playing this game will involve very long periods where you don't win anything but occasionally, you'll take a nice pay-out.

Our much less volatile slot pays out more frequently. However, the prizes it awards are much lower. In fact, on 48 spins out of 100 it pays out at 1:1. In this game, you'll never enjoy the juicy pay-out of the previous example. However, any dry spells of no winnings will be much, much shorter.

In reality, no two slots are this extreme in their volatility. They'd not be much fun to play if they were! Since modern slots usually have many win lines, different value symbols, interesting bonus features, and other dynamics that make them enjoyable for punters, volatility is never quite as simplistic as in our examples. While these gameplay features mean it's tricky to work out volatility for yourself, just remember that the term refers to the frequency and size of prizes to expect from a casino game.

Slot Volatility Ratings

Designers of online slots use different generic ratings for their games. Usually, they'll label their games high, medium, or low volatility. Some companies add medium/high and medium/low to their classifications too. We go into more detail on each rating below.

High Volatility Slots Explained

High volatility slots aren't for everyone. They've been designed to pay players larger prizes less frequently. This means that you're more likely to find yourself making many losing spins between hitting larger pay-outs.

That said, some players love highly volatile slots. For them, the thrill comes from chasing those largest prizes. These players are all about the winning and the chance to win big on high volatility slots provides the enjoyment.

Just about every online slot design company creates highly volatile slots. Newer titles include: Quickspin's Titan Thunder: Wrath of Hades and Thunderkick's Crystal Quest: Deep Jungle. Meanwhile, older high volatility titles include WMS's Raging Rhino and Novomatic's Mega Joker.

Keep in mind that high volatility slots were specifically designed to pay higher winnings on a less frequent basis.

When is it Good to Play High Volatility Slots?

If you're happy taking a bigger gamble, high volatility slots can be very enjoyable. We've listed some occasions where you might prefer this higher risk/higher reward form of online casino game, as well as different player types that are more likely to appreciate them.

  1. Players with a big appetite for risk
  2. Those with a "go big or go home" attitude
  3. If only big wins provide you with the thrills you seek
  4. If you have a large bankroll that can withstand prolonged periods without winning
  5. If you're chasing the very biggest money but don't want to bet big

Low Volatility Slots Explained

Low volatility slots present players with less risk. For this reason, they're often popular with those newer to online slots. However, unlike the hypothetical example we detailed above, low volatility slots can still pay decent prizes. Just don't expect to see 10,000x your total bet or anything like that!

There are loads of online slots that are classified as low volatility. More recent examples include: Microgaming's Le Kaffee Bar and Yggdrasil's All-Star Knockout. Meanwhile, older titles that pay frequent smaller prizes include NetEnt's Blood Suckers and the rocking Jimi Hendrix slot.

Lower volatility online slots award smaller prizes more frequently. Dry spells without winnings will be much shorter. However, you're probably not going to drop any huge prizes.

When is it Good to Play Low Volatility Slots?

Just like high volatility slots, there are certain times that lower volatility games might be more appealing to you. There are also different player types that might prefer this less risky slot experience.

  1. Newcomers to online gambling. Low volatility slots allow players to experience online slots with less risk
  2. If you don't need the chance to win big to enjoy slots
  3. If you're playing for fun rather than life changing money
  4. You have a small appetite for risk
  5. You're playing through the wagering requirements of a bonus
  6. You don't have a large bankroll to ride out longer periods without winning
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Is There A Middle Ground?

Medium volatility slots represent something of a compromise between high and low volatility slots. The average prize will be larger than that seen on low volatility games and you'll win more frequently than you will on high volatility slots. You can think of medium volatility slots as paying average prizes at an average frequency.

Slot Volatility: Subdivisions

Along with those classifications mentioned above, some iGaming firms will group slots in volatility subdivisions. Examples include Low/Medium volatility games and Medium/High volatility games. The former will be more volatile than the relevant manufacturer's lower volatility games but be less volatile than its medium volatility titles. Meanwhile, the latter will be somewhere between the manufacturer's medium and high volatility slots.

  • When you feel like taking a risk
  • When you have a large bank roll
  • If you're fine with taking a large downswing and stopping playing
  • You're an experienced player that understands volatility well
  • You're all about the biggest wins!
  • Book of Dead (Play 'n Go)
  • Game of Thrones (Microgaming)
  • 300 Shields (NextGen Gaming)
  • Reactoonz (Play ‘n Go)
  • You enjoy larger than average wins but want to limit risk
  • Your budget is higher than average
  • You've recently graduated from playing medium volatility games
  • Gonzo's Quest (NetEnt)
  • King Kong Fury (NextGen Gaming)
  • Finn's Golden Tavern (NetEnt)
  • You like an even balance between risk and potential reward
  • You're an intermediate player who's ready to take on greater risk
  • You have an average sized bank roll
  • Having fun playing and winning decent prizes are equally important
  • Ace of Spades (Play 'n Go)
  • Admiral Nelson (Amatic)
  • Wolf Gold (Pragmatic Play)
  • You've quite a small bankroll but feel like taking a risk
  • Having fun on slots is most important but the occasional decent win is appealing
  • You've played lots of low volatility slots and are ready to up your game
  • Triggering interesting bonuses is important to you
  • Mega Fortune Dreams (NetEnt)
  • Asgardian Stones (NetEnt)
  • Gemix (Play 'n Go)
  • Cats & Cash (Play 'n Go)
  • You're playing off a smaller bankroll
  • Big wins aren't as important as memorable bonus features
  • You like to play long sessions
  • You're a beginner to online slots
  • You're risk averse
  • To complete the wagering requirement of a casino bonus
  • Starburst (NetEnt)
  • Enchanted Garden II (Real Time Gaming)
  • Wild Scarabs (Microgaming)
  • Bloodsuckers II (NetEnt)

Determining Volatility

As mentioned, it's not always easy to determine volatility by actually playing a game. Small sample sizes and confirmation bias can make it seem like a game is high or low volatility when it's actually the opposite. In reality, it would take many thousands of spins on a game to categorically state the volatility of the slot you're playing. You could try playing pokies in free play or demo mode and documenting your wins versus the number of spins you take but it will take a long time!

Fortunately, there are some very easy ways of determining the volatility of a specific slot machine. The easiest by far is to check with the company that designed the game. Head to the section of their website that details their games. You should find information sheets about each of the titles that company offers. Find the relevant sheet for the title you're playing and check for its volatility rating. You'll often find it as part of the game's specification details.

Although many do, some companies don't actually list the volatility of their slots. In this case, one thing you can do to get an idea of its volatility is to compare some of the pay-outs for the game listed on its pay table.

Look at the difference between four-of-a-kind and five-of-a-kind pay-outs awarded for the same symbols. If the prize for five-of-a-kind is 10 or more times greater than that for four-of-a-kind, you're likely playing a highly volatility game. If it's between five and 10 times greater, it's probably a medium volatility game. Finally, if it's five or fewer times greater, it's likely a low volatility slot.

Another indicator might be to look at the maximum bet size permitted on a game. While it's not always the case, a small maximum bet can indicate a higher volatility game. This is because it's common for slots with the largest prizes to only accept smaller bets.

Using Volatility to Maximise Winning Potential

The volatility of a slot has no bearing on its overall pay-out potential. That's determined by its return to player (RTP) rating. Volatility will only give you an indication of how often you should expect pay-outs and the sort of sizes the prizes will be. That said, there are a few occasions where your choice of slot volatility may indeed impact your overall winning potential.

We've detailed them below:

  1. Favour low volatility slots if you have a smaller bankroll. Little wins more often will reduce your chances of completely busting out
  2. If you have a small bankroll and still want to play high volatility slots, drop your stakes. You want to give yourself as many chances as possible to spike that big win
  3. When completing wagering requirements associated with an online casino bonus, you should opt for low volatility games. The prolonged winless periods of higher volatility games may mean you bust out before you get through the wagering requirement
  4. To play a slot at the volatility the designer claims it is, always use the maximum number of win lines available on the slot machine. Playing with fewer win lines will reduce the frequency of you hitting wins
  5. When playing through a casino bonus, use the lowest stake possible to complete wagering. This will reduce the size of bankroll swings that can cause you to bust out early

Slot Volatility: Really Not that Complicated!

Although precisely working out the volatility of a slot can be quite an involved process, the concept of slot volatility isn't too difficult to understand. It's all about the size of prizes and the frequency at which you should expect them. Lower volatility online casino games will pay smaller prizes more frequently and higher volatility titles will feature the occasional big win and longer periods without paying out.

Armed with your new knowledge of slot volatility, you should now have a much better idea of which games you want to play next time you log in to an online casino. If you've been getting fed up at endless dry spells on the slots, why not drop down to a lower volatility game? Alternatively, if the prizes on the games you usually play are uninspiring, you can always increase the volatility and chase those bigger wins. Happy gaming!

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