Low vs High Volatility Online Slots

by Tim | Jan 25, 2023

Low vs High Volatility Online Slots

Whether you play slots online regularly or you’re thinking about giving the reels a spin for the first time at a mobile online casino, you’ll want to know more about slot volatility, or variance, which has an impact on both gameplay and the outcome of each spin. 

Slot volatility explained

Trying to decide which online slot games to play based on your personal preferences and your bankroll? While you’ll probably be comparing slots according to their theme, jackpot, maximum win and unique features, you definitely shouldn’t overlook a game’s volatility rating. 

Most game reviews and overviews will rate a title’s volatility or variance as “high,” “medium” or “low,” although there are also games rated as “low to medium” and “medium to high.” Ultimately, the slot’s volatility rating is a measurement that tells you how often you’re likely to land a winning combination while playing the game and, when you do, how big the average payout size is likely to be. Let’s break it down further.

  • High volatility slots: Wins are few and far between when playing slots online with a high volatility rating. But when you do land a winning combination, the size of the payout will usually be quite large, which means a high variance slot may result in a bigger reward over time.
  • Medium volatility slots: Medium volatility slots mean you’re more likely to land a winning combination than when playing a high volatility slot but less likely to win than if you chose a low volatility slot. So, it’s a case of average risk and average reward. You’ll also typically enjoy a balance between smaller, more frequent wins and larger, less frequent wins. 
  • Low volatility slots: These slot titles land winning combinations more often than games with high or medium volatility, but because the risk is lower, the rewards will also be lower.

Finding the volatility of your favourite slot

If you already have a favourite online slot machine, you might be wondering how to find out its variance. Keep in mind that not all online casinos measure variance/volatility in the same way, which can be confusing. Instead of a straightforward “high,” “medium” or “low” rating, some mobile online casinos will give their games a variance rating of between 5 and 1. This works similarly to the high to low breakdown we covered above: 4 to 5 is medium to high risk, 3 is medium risk and 1 to 2 is low to medium risk. Other times, the volatility of a game may be broken down as, for example, two wins in 200 spins (for a high-volatility slot).

The relationship between slot volatility and RTP

The other term connected to the performance of online slot games that you’ll often see is the “return to player” (RTP). This rating is expressed as a percentage (with the industry average being around 96%) and is calculated from thousands of theoretical spins in any given slot title. This figure represents the average percentage of your bets that are likely to be “returned” to you as winnings when playing over a long period. Together with volatility, RTP has a significant influence on the type of gameplay you’ll enjoy when exploring a specific online casino slot. 

If you look for a volatility or RTP rating on your favourite game but can’t find it, don’t be alarmed. There is no regulation that requires that this information is made available to the public, although leading game developers do tend to provide it. This is because slots are games of chance and their outcomes are completely random. So, volatility ratings are simply a way of giving you an idea of a game’s track record, which tends to average out at one level or another.

If it’s important to you to get an idea of a game’s volatility, then be sure to look at the paytable before getting started. If the promised prizes are large, the title more than likely has a high variance. Meanwhile, smaller prizes tend to indicate that a title has a low variance.

Also, keep in mind that games offering more bonus features tend to have high volatility. So, if a bonus feature comes up once in every 250,000 spins, this would typically reward a player with a more significant amount compared to a winning line that pops up once in every 100 spins.

Slot variance categories

The calculations are simpler than you might think. The variance of a game can be worked out in this way:

  • A payout ratio that is more than 10,000x your bet value = high variance
  • A payout ratio that is between 5,000x and 10,000x your bet value = medium variance
  • A payout ratio that is less than 5,000x the value of your bet per spin = low variance

Choosing a slot game based on volatility

Choosing a slot game based on its volatility is a good idea in certain instances – although it’s definitely not the only aspect to look at when comparing online slot machines. For example, if you only have a short time to play, it’s best to scope out a low-volatility slot to ensure at least a few satisfying wins before it’s time to log off again. If you’re treating yourself to an evening of slots, then you’ll have a lot more time to go in pursuit of those larger, less frequent wins.

Another thing to consider is the size of your bankroll. A smaller bankroll will go further when playing low-volatility slots, while a bigger bankroll is best suited to high-volatility slots (unless you’re hoping to play for an especially long time.)

The slot that you choose also depends on the type of player you are. For example, if you tend to enjoy online slots recreationally only from time to time, you’ll probably have a lot more fun playing slots with low variance. On the other hand, if you’re someone who plays slots online more often, then you’ll probably get a bigger thrill from trying your luck in highly volatile games. 

Still can’t make up your mind? There are plenty of no deposit slots in the UK, as well as demo versions of popular slots, allowing you to play for free to really get a feel for the game before parting with any of your hard-earned money. 

Our pick of titles with varying levels of volatility

Now you know more about volatility, you’re in a position to decide the level of risk you’d like to take when you play slots. We’ll give you some pointers further down, but for now, here are a few slot titles we can recommend. 

High volatility

If you have a sizable bankroll and you enjoy plenty of bonus features and increased risk, try Medusa. This Ancient Greek-inspired slot from NYX has you battling the mythical Medusa as you spin to win some handsome cash rewards. This 5-reel slot has 25 paylines and more bonus features than ever seen in a snake-themed game, including its Turned to Stone respins, Once Bitten bonus and Pegasus bonus. Or take your chances on Montezuma Megaways by WMS Gaming for some 6-reel action and up to 117,649 ways to win. This jungle-themed slot machine also offers a cascading reels feature to boost your winnings and further enhance the excitement. 

Medium volatility

Hailing from Pariplay is a 5-reel, 25-payline slot called Sharknado features high-end sound and visuals. The game includes randomly added exploding wilds, a special Sharknado mode that boosts wins by up to 5x and a free spins bonus round. Stakes start at 0.25 coins per spin and rise to 25, and it’s a good title to try if you’re interested in playing a medium-volatility slot. Another popular medium volatility title is Piggy Riches by NetEnt. This cartoon-style slot offers an RTP of 96.38%, 15 paylines and the potential to profit from a 6x multiplier during the free spins round.  

Low volatility

A man plays an online slot on a tablet and the screen shows three cherry symbols.

The imaginatively titled video slot Esqueleto Explosivo runs on Thunderkick software and features a Mexican Day of the Dead theme. It offers 5-reel action and 17 paylines, with small but more frequent wins likely owing to the game’s low volatility. You’ll also enjoy NetEnt’s low variance Cash Noire, with its 96.06% RTP and exciting bonus features. Watch out for the avalanche feature to help you land more winning combinations!  

Remember, when choosing whether to play low vs high-volatility titles, consider your personal preferences, the level of risk you wish to take and – of course – the size of your bankroll.

If you enjoy games that offer a number of exciting features, such as scatters or free spins, progressive and fixed jackpots and bonuses for specific paylines, opt for high-volatility titles that require more risk (and sometimes higher coin sizes) for bigger rewards.

If you prefer hours of slot action – with accompanying lower risk – over the chance of big wins, you’ll want to stick to low-volatility games. Or you might like to mix things up a bit, depending on the time you have to play and the amount of money you have available. Play your favourite slots your way!

Play the best online slots at The Phone Casino

Whether you prefer to play low-, medium- or high-volatility slots, The Phone Casino features some of the best online and mobile casino games, including slots, blackjack, roulette, scratch cards and many more. By simply registering with us, you can play free bonus no deposit slots wherever and whenever you like! Oh, and be sure to take advantage of our 100 free spins every day – no deposit or playthrough required! 


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