Volatility in Slots

Last Updated on December 30, 2023

 Ultimate Guide to Volatility in Slot Machines

Volatility Slots Level iconVolatility or Variance is one of the few mechanisms that make a slot run. If you’re a newbie player, the slot volatility may have no meaning to you whatsoever. But experienced players will tell you that it is actually a very important factor to consider when playing online slots. You can base your entire game play based on the game variance or even plan and entire strategy to wager a bonus and make a successful withdrawal.

In simple terms the volatility factor determines the frequency of payouts in the game. In reality it can mean the difference of losing your entire bankroll in a few minutes or spinning the reels for hours at a time. But before we get into details there are two more things you need to know about slots in order to understand how volatility completes the games.

Random Number Generator

The Random Number Generator (RNG) is embedded into every slot and it gives the game its randomness. The RNG makes sure that every spin of the reels is random and in no correlation with the previous one. This is why you can hit a bonus round on the very first spin or keep hitting the reels for hours at a time with no features at all. The RNG also makes sure that there is no way to predict the outcome of the following spin. This is what makes slots fully random games, where it only comes down to luck whether you win or lose.

Return to Player

The Return to Player (RTP) value is the predicted number that the game will pay back to the players in form of wins over a period of time. In general, you have a bigger chance to win on slots that have a higher RTP value, since the game is predicted to give more than it takes. But thanks to the RNG explained above a low RTP slot can just as easily hit a bonus round early on and pay big as a high RTP one can. See the online slots with the highest RTP here.


This is where the volatility factor comes into play. It determines the frequency and the size of payouts you can expect to see in the game. Slots with a high volatility are known to provide seldom wins, but when they do come they are usually bigger in size. On the other hand, slots with low volatility are known to produce frequent payouts that are smaller in size. All of the 3 mechanisms explained here make up for a slot game. An experienced player needs only to take a look at them and determine whether the slot in question is worth playing or not. In the next section we will explain the types of volatility you can come across on slots and the payouts you should expect from each one.

High Volatility Slots

When it comes to high volatility slots the general saying is “Go big or go Home”. These slots usually have a massive payout potential, in some cases capable of producing payouts of 50,000 times the total stake or even more. Some of the high variance Megaways slots even have no maximum payout limit at all. Imagine hitting a $50k payout from a $100 deposit playing $1 per spin. That’s an insane win to hit.

Read Reviews of The Best High Volatility Slots Here

In reality the high variance slots are also known to be insatiable money eaters. You can go for hundreds of spins without hitting a bonus round. Even when one does finally come it can produce a measly 20 times the stake payout. But when you come across a highly volatile slot you also have to consider the RNG and RTP explained above. They make it possible for a bonus round to land early on and still produce a big payout. If you visit the big wins’ section across gambling forums you can see that many players have reported winning thousands of dollars within the first hundred spins on highly volatile games like Dead or Alive, Thunderstruck II, Immortal Romance, The Wish Master, Knight’s Life and many more.

You may also remember that a player from the UK won $13 million pounds on a $0.25 bet from a $30 deposit on Mega Moolah. This is why you can never know how your luck will turn out. Highly volatile slots should be approached with caution and with a bigger bankroll to increase your chances of winning big. But all it takes is for lady luck to be on your side for that mega payout to land early on.

Medium – High Volatility Slots

As you can guess from the name these slots are in between high and medium variance slots. In theory these slots should have a lower volatility than high variance slots, but they can just as easily eat a big chunk of your balance. In reality they too should be approached with a bigger bankroll and balanced bets. When you decide to play a game like this you should be ready to invest at least 300 spins chasing a good bonus round. A perfect example for a slot of this caliber is Gonzo’s Quest. If you’ve played this game before you know how frustrating it can be spinning the reels for over 200 spins without hitting a bonus round. But if you’re a loyal fan of this slot you also know that when a bonus round does come it can easily pay 500 times the stake or more.

Medium Volatility Slots

For many players’ medium volatility slots are the best ones to play with cash or with bonus money. These slots can still produce decent payouts and you don’t have to invest as much balance chasing the bonus round. A great example for medium variance slots are Koi Princess, Gorilla Kingdom, Avalon. For these games the general rule is that you need to invest about 100 spins before the bonus round comes. You can still hit payouts of about 500 times the total stake, so with some luck on your side you can easily build up a good size bankroll over a short time. You can see the 10 best Medium Volatility slots here.

Low – Medium Volatility Slots

The low-medium volatility slots are also a good fit for every bankroll. They still have the potential for some decent payouts, while the hit frequency is quite high. A good example in this category can be Go Bananas by NetEnt. The features in the slot can produce some nice payouts and they usually come every 20 spins or so. You can easily play these games on higher bets, even with a lower bankroll. Thanks to the frequent payouts you can slowly increase your balance and make a decent withdrawal.

Low Volatility Slots

Low volatility slots as the ones you can see here have the smallest risks when it comes to online slots. The frequency of payouts in these games is high, so you can spend a lot of times spinning the reels even if you are playing with a limited bankroll. Some of the most popular low volatility slots in the NetEnt portfolio are Starburst and Blood Suckers. These games are also targeted heavily by players who want to play on high bets and slowly increase their bankroll.

Slots Pay Table and Volatility

Another great way to determine the slots volatility, if the info is not available, is to simply take a look at the pay table and the bonus features. Low variance slots will have low payouts to the symbols, even for 5 of a kind wins. The top symbol payout in the game may be only 30 times the total stake. Usually low variance slots also have a simpler bonus round where you can win somewhere in the range of 150 to 200 times the stake per spin. Keep in mind that this is the top payout per spin, so even on low variance slots it’s very hard to hit.

Medium and high variance slots on the other hand have a much richer pay table. This can be seen even from the payouts from the lower symbols. On some medium and high variance slots the card symbols from 9 to A can award payouts of 10 to 20 times the stake for 5 of a kind wins. But in the bonus round these payouts can climb from 100 to 200 times the stake and much more for the higher paying symbols. So, if you’re in doubt about the volatility of some slot, simply check out the pay table. The higher the payouts are the higher the game volatility is.

You can find a list of volatility ratings for top game providers’ slots here:

All Pragmatic Play Slot Machines Volatility

All Hacksaw Gaming Slot Machines Volatility

List of Netent slots volatility

List of Games Global slots volatility

Strategy for playing slots based on volatility

A lot of experienced players base their entire strategy in accordance with the slots volatility. Mind you this is not a simple process as picking a bunch of random slots and playing them for the first time. Before you invest real money in any slot it’s always a good idea to try it out in fun play first. This way you can see the base play payouts and what you can expect to win in the features.

There are several ways to approach slots when playing based on volatility. Many players prefer to go for medium volatility slots and play on medium bets. This is a good strategy as you have a decent chance to hit the feature and it can still pay a good amount of money.

Another way is to target low volatility slots. This strategy involves a bigger bankroll, high bets and a lot of patience. On low volatility slots you will need to put in a big number of spins and slowly increase your balance over a period of time. The trick here is to bail while you’re ahead. The game can easily turn and start eating balance. So if you lose more than 200 times the stake you are playing the game on it’s a good idea to move on. With low volatility slots it’s very hard to make a comeback, since the pay table is poor and the chances are slim that you will hit the top payout per spin. It’s a good idea to play and once you reach a certain bankroll close the game and move on to another slot. Repeat the same process on a few games on high bets and you can end up with a more than decent balance.

A lot of experienced players will tell you that the best slots to play are highly volatile ones. Why?

Well as we explained before these games can produce massive payouts even on small bets. Personally I’ve had payouts of 4,000 times the total stake while playing on minimum bet on several highly volatile slots. While the general rule is that you need to invest a big number of spins on these games before you can hit a good bonus round, this isn’t always the case. The RNG can be on your side more than once and you can hit a bonus round in the first 100 spins that will deliver a 2,000 times the stake payout.

This is why many players choose to target highly volatile slots with a small bankroll and on low bets. This can be especially lucrative if you’re playing with a big bonus and managed to hit a great bonus early on. After the initial big win, you can move on to low variance slots on higher bets and easily clear the wager. If luck is still on your side, you can even increase your balance furthermore and make a bigger withdrawal.

So Which slots are best to play based on volatility?

As you can see from what we explained before there isn’t a one best choice. It all depends on your bankroll, the bet size and the expected return from each slot. You may be looking to hit a 10,000 times the stake payout while playing $4 bets with a $1k balance. In this case high and medium volatile slots are a good fit for you. On the other hand, you may want to deposit $5k and play $200 bets on low variance slots aiming to reach $10k and withdraw. It’s up to you to come up with a strategy of your own and determine which slots are the best ones for you.

You might also want to read these:

1. Most Volatile Slots

2, 30 Best Low Volatility Slots Online

3. Best Medium Volatility Slots


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