Most people follow a predictable pattern when they go to their favorite casino to play slots. They head straight for their favorites. If you ask why, the answer will almost always be – because I win on those machines.
Without even realizing, those folks are referring to the volatility of the slots. Some people like certain slots because sometimes they win big, others like them because they get to play a long time. In the end, it’s all about the volatility.
What is Slots Volatility
In the most general terms, slots volatility determines how often the player wins large payouts, combined with the overall risk assessed of the slot machine. Or, in other words, what are your chances of winning big when you play that particular video slot. The higher the volatility of a video slot, the better your chances of enjoying a large payout. This could be during regular play, a bonus feature that the slot machine offers, or during free games.
One thing you should know, however, is that the volatility also affects your risk of losing. You can think of the volatility of a slot machine as a swinging pendulum. The low volatility slots swing that pendulum a little to the losing side and then a little to the winning side. The higher the volatility, the larger those swings become. Therefore, with a high volatility slot you can catch the slot on the winning side of the “swing” and make out like a bandit, or on the losing side and go through your bankroll in no time with little to show for it. High risk – high reward.
Both at the offline and online casinos, the video slots will be classified into three levels of volatility: low, medium and high. Let’s take a look at each of them, along with some video slots that fall in those categories.
Low volatility slot machines
The low volatility slots are those which often give you a payout of some kind with nearly every spin of the reels. The payouts however are generally small, albeit steady. The bottom of the pay-table will offer payouts much smaller than your original bet, and this is where you will see a large chunk of your wins. Think of the “9s” and “10s” nearly every video slots has as its base payout combination.
This is not to say that low volatility slots are bad, guaranteed losers, or not worth playing. They will get you the chance to come out a winner, but it will be at a smaller scale and take a long time to achieve.
When do we recommend low volatility slots:
- If your bankroll is small – if you don’t want to risk a lot of your hard earned money, the low volatility slots are the ones to choose. They will have the lowest wager levels (think penny slots) available for selection, and the fact that they give wins all the time gives you a decent chance of winning some money.
- If you want to stretch your play with least risk – you don’t have to be broke to play the low volatility video slots. As a matter of fact, if you are broke – don’t gamble at all! But if your goal is to get the most gameplay out of your money, always choose low volatility slots. If you are stingy with your money and you just want to play some casino games for fun, this is the way to do it. The low volatility will keep you playing much longer than anything else available out there.
- For progressive jackpots – the slots with progressive jackpots are another excellent candidate for low volatility. Because you get to play much longer with the same amount of money, your chance of winning a progressive jackpot is higher. It’s a great way to give those jackpots a shot, without risking a lot.
Examples of low volatility slots
Here are some examples of low volatility video slots:
High volatility video slots
The high volatility slots are those which don’t pay as often, but when they do, boy, hold on to your hat! This type of slot machines are perfect for the player looking to win as much as possible, but you will also have to be prepared to deal with the fickle nature of the high volatility slot. As we mentioned earlier, with the high volatility slots that win/lose pendulum swings mighty high in each direction. So make sure you understand that while the wins can be sweet, the loses could also pile up in record time.
For example, with a high volatility video slot, you may have 10 spins in a row without winning anything at all. Or if you spin the reels 100 times, at the end of those spins you may have had payouts just enough to barely cover a quarter of the money you put in. But then, all of a sudden you hit that bonus feature and you quadruple your starting bankroll. If you’ve ever heard of people talking about “feeding the machine”, this is the type of slot they had in mind. You have to “feed” the machine with money before you get something worth bragging about. But remember, the high volatility slot machine can always outlast you, so don’t even think about chasing your losses.
Our tips for playing high volatility slots
The number one rule for playing high volatility slots is not to chase your losses. Like we said, the slot machine can last way longer than your bankroll. The huge payouts this type of slots give have to come out of the losses of the people playing them. So our best advice is – don’t find yourself in a situation where you feel you are in too deep. Set a specific budget in mind and stick to it religiously.
Another excellent advice is to be disciplined enough to walk away. Not only from your losses, but from your wins, as well. Always remember the pendulum swinging, so as soon as you hit big, walk away from a high volatility slot machine. Or you will not only lose your winnings, but your bankroll, as well. Even if you just started playing the machine and got a good payout on a bonus feature or free games – just take your winnings and walk away. Find a different slot machine to play, if you want, but don’t stick around thinking it’s just the beginning.
And finally, you can use the “test” strategy with the high volatility video slots. What we mean by that is simply trying a few spins, just testing if that particular slot is ready to pay. Play a few spins and see if the slot will pay the big bucks. For example, if the video slot has a bonus feature, test it if it will give it to you right away, and if not, move on to another slot.
Examples of high volatility slots
Medium volatility slots
The medium volatility slots fall in between the other two types. They don’t give as large of payouts as the high volatility slots, but they keep you playing longer than them. Sometimes the medium volatility slots could be a good transition for the folks who prefer playing the low volatility but are seeking a bit larger wins than they could provide.
Examples of medium volatility slots
Should I play high or low volatility slots
This question is very hard to answer objectively and it will mostly depend on the level of risk the player is willing to take. The low volatility slots will let you play much longer, although it is very hard to get those top-of-the-payout-table combinations. This doesn’t mean you can’t win a lot, but while the smaller wins are frequent, the large ones occur very rarely.
On the other side, choose high volatility slots if you are risk-tolerant and you are looking for big payouts. It won’t happen as often, but when it does, it is huge. You need to be able to recognize that once you get that payout, it’s over and that you must move on, otherwise you risk losing everything.
Our rule of thumb is that if you are happy with doubling your bankroll and calling it quits, then you should look for low volatility slots. If you are looking for something bigger, the high volatility slots may be your cup of tea.
Payout percentage vs Volatility
A slot’s payout percentage and its volatility are often used interchangeably by some people, but that is incorrect. While they do relate to one another, they are two completely different things. Unlike volatility, which we already explained, the payout percentage indicates how much of the money a slot machine takes as bets is returned to the players as wins.
You may see some people claiming that the lower the payout percentage, sometimes referred to as Return To Player (or RTP), the more volatile a video slot is, but we have fond no evidence for this. Payout percentage, i.e. RTP, is measured over a very long span, some are measured over the course of a year, others based on one million spins (or dollars). And then there are those that are based on the lifetime of the slot machine, which we find ridiculous and completely misleading.
So, it’s not impossible for a video slot or have a high payout percentage, yet also be of the high volatility type. It just means that the slot machine will spend longer time “taking money” than “giving money back”. For instance, out of 10 players, maybe only one will win big, while the rest will walk away with a loss. We advise against assuming that a video slot with high payout percentage is a low volatility slot and vice versa.
How to know if a video slot is high or low volatility
After all this, you may be wondering, how do I know if a video slot is low or high volatility? There are a couple of ways to go about it: you can check to see if the slot’s volatility is published, or you can play it and find out.
Most online casinos and even the developers of the slots will often publish the volatility of their slot. You can see this on the pictures above – the casino will tell you if the slot machine is high volatility, for example. It’s a good business practice, as it steers the player towards the slots they like to play and the ones they would get the most enjoyment out of. This, in turn, keeps the customers of the casino happy. You can find out if your preferred casino publishes the volatility of their slots by simply visiting the slots section of their website.
Discover through play
If the information is not available either on the casino website or the developer’s website, then the only choice you have left is to simply play the slot and get a feel for it. With the large number of different video slots available at the modern-day casino, players tend to be brand-loyal. So the chances are that you will play many of the casino’s slots and with time you will get the feel for their volatility level, especially the ones you find most enjoyable.
Use the casino bonuses to your advantage
We would like to close this guide with some bonus information. Whether you choose to play high or low volatility slots, you can gain a great advantage by using the casino bonus. Every online casino today will offer a bonus when you fund your account: welcome bonuses for new customers, match bonuses for deposits, even no deposit bonuses, and all of them can be used to your benefit, regardless of the volatility your prefer.
For example, if you want to try some high volatility slots, but don’t feel like shouldering all the high risk that comes with them, using the casino bonuses is the perfect way to unload most of that risk. Take the 400% welcome bonus Las Vegas USA casino is offering to new customers. If you deposit $100, you get another $400 in free money, in essence offloading 80% of the risk back to the casino. This would be the perfect time to try your luck with a high volatility slot.
Or, let’s say that you prefer low volatility slots. As we know, casino bonuses come with wagering requirements that must be met, before you can withdraw your winnings from the bonus chips. A low volatility slot is the best vessel to carry you over those playthrough requirements, since one tends to play longer with lower risk. So regardless of your volatility tolerance, combining it with a bonus offer is an excellent way to improve your chances of leaving the casino a winner.