If you have ever consulted an online slot review, then you’ve definitely heard of RTP, variance and volatility. To an inexperienced gambler, they may appear boring or even intimidating – yet, they are of utmost importance. Overall, these casino terms relate to the way a slot game performs. Additionally, they determine how much and how frequently a player stands to win when playing that game.
Understanding how RTP and volatility interact within a slot game helps players to select the right kind of slots. Variance and RTP show how far a player’s bankroll goes, while also shaping the kind of gameplay an individual can expect.
In this guide, we will be explaining exactly what volatility and RTP mean. This also includes how players can use that knowledge to choose the slots that best suit their style of play.
What is volatility in slot games?
In the most basic terms, volatility and variance determine how risky a slot game is. Slots are classified as being low, medium or high variance. A low variance slot is less risky than a high variance slot, which has a higher chance of the player losing their bet.
Obviously, there’s a catch – otherwise, nobody would play high volatility slots at all. A game with high variance equals both the chances of high risk and high reward. You are more likely to lose your initial bet on a high-risk slot. However, you are also more likely to win a sizeable amount at the same time. This is why it is not so clear cut when it comes to which kind of game to go for. It all depends on the kind of punter you are!
What is RTP and how does it interact with volatility?
A slot’s Return to Player value determines the amount of wagered cash that will be returned to the player as wins. The average range for slots is between 94% and 98%. In practical terms, this means that £100 worth of wagers will return £94 or £98, respectively. In general, the higher the RTP, the better the chances of keeping your bankroll about the same level.
Volatility also allows players to determine how much a player is left with at the end of their session. This is where the term variance comes in. Variance manifests how much a slot varies from the theoretical RTP in one session.
Let’s take a slot with low variance and an average RTP of say 95%. This slot will pay out in small, regular wins. A £10 bankroll could easily end up at £15 by the end of a session, which comes to a Return to Player of 150%.
Moreover, players choosing high variance games will enjoy a gambling experience with more significant highs and lows. A high-variance, 95% RTP slot could pay out absolutely nothing over the first 15 spins; but it can also award a win of x1000 the initial bet after 100 spins. On balance, that works out to an RTP of 333%, which is a significant leap from the initial 95%.
Generally, high variance slots have lower RTPs than low volatility slots. This is usually because it’s more lucrative for casino operators in the long term. Although, persistent players can win significant amounts if they have the patience (and the bankroll) to follow through.
Choosing the best slot type for you
Casino players are a diverse bunch and one’s playing style may not appeal to another. For example, some have a relatively conservative bankroll. Consequently, they would aim to extend their play for as long as possible by minimising losses. This group is more likely to play casually, chasing the entertainment of slot games rather than a life-changing win.
For these players, lower variance slots hit the mark. These games allow players to sustain a healthy bankroll over the long-term. This is due to the small, frequent wins topping up their coin count. When playing this type of game, it is unlikely that a player will go more than 5 or so spins without striking a winning combination. Jackpots on low variance slots are often small.
A good example of a low volatility slot is NetEnt’s Starburst.
Other players are willing to bet large amounts in pursuit of a significant win, often referred to as high rollers. These are players with a large gambling budget that are mainly looking for the adrenaline rush of a big payout.
Slots with high volatility will quickly decimate a player’s bankroll. Although, they can also award massive wins that, to high volatility lovers, balance out the losses.
Book of Dead, by Play N Go is a popular high volatility game.
Last, but certainly not least, is the lesser-known but equally important middleman. Medium variance slots offer a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario. Here, wins are bigger than those in low variance slots and more frequent than those of high variance slots. For players with a mid-sized budget, these slots strike the perfect balance between win size and win frequency. Fortunately, many game providers have come up with several slots that fit this description.
There is an extensive range of medium variance games since the category is so popular. There is a huge range of medium variance games because the category is so popular with a large majority of players. Examples include several NetEnt titles like Gonzo’s Quest and Blood Suckers, as well as slots such as Thunderkick’s Jaguar Temple and Wolf Hunters by Yggdrasil.
Tips on making the most of variance and RTP
Now that you are well versed in how these two terms impact gameplay, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use. The following are a few hints and strategies to keep in mind when deciding which kind of slot suits you best.
1. Know the limits of each game type
If you are set on playing a low variance slot in the hopes of landing a huge payout, you will be disappointed. There’s no point – and no profit – in holding out for a big win that will never come.
Similarly, do not head into a gambling session on a high variance slot hoping for an instant bankroll boost. Different slot types are designed for different players and budgets. Hopefully, by helping you understand what each slot type offers, we have equipped you to make the best decision for you.
2. Make full use of demo play
Free Play can be a useful tool in determining a player’s strategy. Some slots are classified as low-medium or medium-high, which means that choosing how to play is not as straightforward.
Give the slot a couple of free spins on demo mode to help you figure out what strategy might work best.
3. Make (and keep to) a budget
In truth, this is sound advice for any kind of casino play. Fixing a budget and sticking to it will ensure that you don’t spend more than you intended when you play. With the thought of a big jackpot on your mind, it’s easy to get carried away and bet more than you are comfortable with.
Players should also remember that a slot’s RTP is never 100%. So, the longer you play without a win, the more you stand to lose. Recognising when it’s time to take a break is a crucial skill.
RTP and volatility are highly significant factors that affect how a slot game pays out. Of course, these are not the only characteristics to keep in mind (bonus features, production value and visual appeal). Although, variance and Return to Player give an indication of the size and frequency of wins one can expect, which is extremely useful.
Nobody gambles to lose money, but it is a reality of the industry (at least from a player’s perspective). With a well-rounded understanding of RTP and variance, we hope our readers will be able to balance the entertainment value of casino slots with their impact on the bankroll.