Slot Volatility vs. Theoretical Payback Percentages

Most people who play slots for entertainment pick their favorite games on the basis of themes, bonus features, and jackpot size. And while these are all relevant factors to consider when playing for fun, aspects like theoretical return percentages and volatility should also be taken into account.

Unfortunately, some slot players leave them out of the equation. Others use the two terms interchangeably although they denote two separate concepts. However, both are of equal importance is you are looking to maximize the profits you generate when you spin the reels. The following article can help you make a distinction between the two.

Is Slot Volatility the Same as Slot Variance?

While in the company of keen slot players, you are likely to hear the term volatility a lot. But what does it mean? In the context of slots, and gambling in general, volatility denotes the level of risk inherent to a given game. It indicates the chances of a player ending their reel-spinning session with a busted bankroll.

Players often use the words “volatility” and “variance” interchangeably because both are a measurement of the distribution of the spins' outcomes. There is, however, a difference between the two.

Volatility has more to do with the playing experience itself. It denotes how frequently a slot player wins and what amounts. It measures the changes in a set of outcomes over the short term. Slots fall into three main categories when grouped on the basis of volatility.

Low Volatility Slots
Medium Volatility Slots
High Volatility Slots

How to Spot Low-Volatility Games

Landbased casinos are not in the habit of revealing information about the volatility and hit frequency of their slots. This is not the case if one is playing online, though. Certain online gambling operators would readily share the volatility levels and the payout percentages of their reel-based games. Occasionally there are even filters that allow you to sift out the games based on volatility.

If this information is unavailable, however, the only way to get an idea about the volatility of a given slot is to play it for a while. Here are several more hints that could help you spot the games with low volatility:

Fixed Jackpots
Coin Denomination
Play With Demo Credits

Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Low-Volatility Slots

Let's sum up volatility by listing the advantages and disadvantages of playing less riskier slots. Of course, the biggest positive such games can offer is that they deliver a steady flow of payouts although they also have several downsides as you will see below.

Low-Volatility Slots - The Advantages
Low-Volatility Slots – The Disadvantages

You will win more often

The payouts are frequent but smaller

You can play on a budget with a smaller bankroll

Low-volatility slots usually have fewer bonus games and special features

There will be no long dry spells to frustrate you

The jackpots are normally smaller

Frequent, yet small wins will extend your playing session

You will often win less than you have staked

Level results are more in line with your expected statistical averages

The excitement of potentially winning life-changing prizes is absent

Payback Percentages in Slot Games

The term payback percentage, or return to player (RTP), denotes what percentage of all money wagered on a given slot is paid back to players over the long run. We can view the payback percentage as the flip side of the house edge.

Slot Payback Percentages Explained
Payback Percentages and Expected Value in Slots
Payback Percentages and the Two Laws
Coin Denominations and Advertised Payback Percentages
How Volatility and Payback Percentages Interact
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