A Brief Explanation of Variance in Slot Machines
If you’ve played slots long enough, you have likely heard terms such as ‘low variance’ or high volatility’ whether from other players or in slot reviews. Essentially, variance is the average size and frequency of the payouts of a slot. A slot that is classed as low variance will pay out often but in smaller sums. Conversely, a highly volatile slot will rarely payout, but when it does, will pay out bigger sums. As you’re probably guessing, a medium slot is somewhere in the middle of the two.
- Low Variance/Volatility: You win all the time but usually with small rewards.
- Medium Variance/Volatility: You win a little less frequently but with bigger rewards.
- High Variance/Volatility: It takes longer to record wins but there is a chance at landing monster wins.
This, of course, leads us to further questions. For one, you’re probably wondering which variance is best? Secondly, how to learn the variance of a slot in the first place? To answer the first question, it depends on the size of your bankroll and how brave you’re feeling. High rollers with deep pockets always go for high variance slots. If you’re trying to wager a small no deposit bonus, however, low variance slots usually work the best. As for the latter, you can often get a feel for the variance of a slot by having a quick look at the slots paytable. Plus, while not always the case, some iGaming developers make the variance of their slots known.
Determining the Variance of a Video Slot
Other than playing the slot and getting a feel for the variance, you can pick up telltale signs when looking at the paytable. If you notice that 5-symbol wins are as much as 10 times the size of 4-symbol wins, you’re most likely playing a high variance slot. If the gap is close to 3 times, you’re playing a slot closer to the low end of variance. 5 to 7 times would indicate a medium variance slot. While the paytable is sometimes a good indicator, you shouldn’t rely on it all the time. This is because there are other factors too. The number of symbols, paylines, and whether the slot has a jackpot also need consideration.
Your best bet is to read reviews (especially ours) written by experts that have played the slots and formed an opinion of the variance. Our reviewers always play each slot extensively before giving their views. To give you a head start, we have listed a few slots in each of the high, medium, and low variance categories!
What about variance on jackpot slots? See our guide to progressive jackpot slot variance here. It explains why it so difficult to run through your variance and land a life-changing win. I mean, if it was that easy to win 4-, 5-, 6- or 7-figure wins, then we’d all be playing jackpot slots instead of working!