Everything You Need to Know About High Variance Slots

We lift the lid on the concept of volatility - and explain what's needed to survive and profit in the cut-throat world of high variance slots

Slot machine variance is a concept that defines a particular slot game by the frequency and the size of its payouts.

While all machines will payout the very smallest prizes with some regularity in order to keep you interested, you will often hear of online slots being referred to as either:

Low Variance – Pay out more often, but the value of these payouts will be quite modest.


High Variance – Pay out less frequently, but when they do the value of the payout is often large.

These are not firm definitions; a particular casino slot gains a reputation for being either low or high variance after having been played often, and after its payout size and frequency has been experienced. It is rare for a developer to give any information on how a game is intended to payout.

Two high variance games will pay out with differing frequencies and prizes, but they should both pay out less often and with higher prizes than low variance slots.

High Variance Doesn’t Pay Out More Money

Variance isn’t related to the return to player (RTP), which is percentage of all money put into the machine that is paid out. The payout percentage is preset and often governed by regulations. This will not change because a slot machine is high or low variance. A machine with a 95% payout can be either high or low variance, or anywhere in between.

Why it’s Important to Understand Variance

While many players, especially new ones, are oblivious to the existence of slot variance, gaining an understanding of it can help you work out which slots games are best for you.

Managing your betting style is key when it comes to playing on both high and low variance slots. With high variance games, having the knowledge can help you out in the following ways:

  1. Moderation is a Virtue
    Lots of players simply run out of money before they hit a big win without even realising they’re playing a high variance machine. Once you know you’re playing a high variance machine, you can expect a long wait for a payout and adjust your stake accordingly. By betting smaller stakes you won’t run out of money before hitting a win. Generally you need a bigger pot to play high variance.
  2. Patience is Key
    Without knowing that you’re playing a high variance game, you can easily get frustrated by the persistent losses that naturally come. High variance slots often require a fair amount of patience before you make any returns, so knowing this beforehand will mean you have a better idea of what to expect from an online slot.
  3. Capitalising on Victory
    The frequency of a win is determined by the same probability for each spin. The previous spins have no effect on the next one. You’re always less likely to win on a high variance machine than a low one. A win can still appear anytime on either type of machine, even consecutively, but because a win is always unlikely on high variance, you should capitalise on big wins and walk away.

How to Identify High Variance

Identifying a high variance slot machine can be a tricky task on a machine you haven’t played. The only way of finding out for sure is to play a machine and experience its winning frequency for yourself. Of course, this only works if you have the time, money and inclination, or if someone has done it for you.

Reading the Paytable

A quicker but less reliable method is to read the paytable. The paytable will tell you what the payout is on each combination, plus details of any multiplier symbols, wild symbols, and bonus rounds.

This is not an exact science and these are only tips that may or may not hold true.

A slot machine with a high payout on 4/5-of-a-kind and a small payout on a the 2/3-of-a-kind might be a high variance machine when found in combination with a generous free spins bonus and a high multiplier.

However, other expert advice recommends looking solely at the 2/3 of-a-kind payout; if this is high then the game is high variance. The logic goes that a machine can’t afford to pay out frequently if the lowest possible reward is actually quite good.

Also, any machine with a multiplier symbol should be considered a possible high variance game, a likelihood that increases when the multiplier is higher.

A big jackpot might come in the form of a generous bonus round, so you should also see what the table has on offer. If it looks big then you could have found a high variance slot.

Top 5 High Variance Games

If you’re playing a popular version of slots then the likelihood is that other people will have already determined if it is high or low variance. Below are 5 of the best high variance games out there today:

Immortal Romance

Immortal Romance Slot Game

Immortal Romance Slot Game

Immortal Romance has a bonus called Wild Desire that changes each reel to a wild- this can give a massive payout based on your stake. The main bonus round also gives you four different options, each with a varying number of free spins and multipliers.

300 Shields

Collect 12 shields and you can get to a progressive bonus round that allows you to reach x300 multiplier that, when won with 5-of-a-kind, can give you an gargantuan x12,000 payout on your stake. The bonus rounds leading up to this aren’t too shabby either.

Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive Slot Game

Dead or Alive Slot Game

With only 9 win lines Dead or Alive might not sound too exciting but get 3 or more scatters and you get to the bonus round. Any wild that comes up on the 12 free spins sticks in place, if you manage to get at least one wild on each reel you get 5 extra free spins that pay out 1200 times your stake. This can mean some huge bonus wins.

Pyramid: Quest for Immortality

This differs from many other high variance games in that the big wins come within the game itself rather than the bonus rounds. The reels are shaped like a pyramid and you have 720 win lines. Winning combinations explode and cause other symbols to drop down. This is called an avalanche. Set off three of these in a row and you get an extra multiplier, which can increase up to x10. Thrown in some wilds and you’re looking at a big payout.

Raging Rhino

Raging Rhino Slot Game

Raging Rhino Slot Game

Raging Rhino has 6 reels and and 4096 win lines. It can be a frustrating game to crack, but if you have the patience and the money it can pay huge rewards. You’re looking for at least 3 diamond symbols- these cause free spins. Get 6 diamonds and your reward is 50 free spins and a x60,000 multiplier.

High Variance – High Risk – High Rewards

Playing high variance is not for everyone. You generally need:

  • Lots of money;
  • Lots of time;
  • Lots of luck.

This isn’t a trinity many people are blessed with.

But sometimes, just sometimes, someone loads up on the last point, lucks out completely and wins big almost immediately. Like staring at the sky for a shooting star, high variance often disappoints, but when it does happen, it’s spectacular.

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