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 cutthroat 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.

What is Slot Variance/Volatility?

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

Low Variance — which pay out more often, but the value of these payouts will be quite modest. Low variance slots are a fantastic option for beginners, or for players who are looking for a more steady, low-risk and low-reward gambling experience.

Medium Variance — which pay out more often than high variance slots, at higher values than low variance slots. Medium variants slots are arguably the most popular, offering the best of both worlds, although beginners and high-rollers alike will likely prefer playing on the low and high variance ends of the spectrum respectively.

High Variance — which pay out less frequently, but when they do the value of the payout is often large. These slots are recommended for high rollers; it takes a well-laden pot to make the most of high variance slots, but the potential is always there to win a considerable payout.

You may also come across medium-high and low-medium volatility, and these function as you would expect based on the three core variances above.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t 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 and discussed between players. It’s rare for a developer to divulge information on how a game is intended to pay out beyond the return to player (RTP) percentage, which is a regulatory necessity for UK-licensed gambling sites.

Volatility is a sliding scale, and no two slots are alike regardless of how their variances have been defined, but it’s safe to assume that there will be a marked difference in how high and low volatility slots pay out. For example: 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.

Variance Does Not Affect RTP

Variance isn’t directly related to RTP, which is the percentage of all money put into the machine that is paid out over time. The payout percentage is preset and often governed by strict regulations, and it doesn’t change whether a slot machine is high or low variance. For example, a machine with a 95% RTP rate can be 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. If you’re a new player with a small pot to play with, high variance slots are almost certainly a bad pick. Conversely, high rollers looking to wager and win big will find themselves out of position on a low variance game.

Selecting a slot that suits you, and managing your betting style to reflect the game’s variance, are 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:

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 small stakes you won’t run out of money before hitting a win. Generally speaking, you need a bigger pot to play high variance, but extending your play with shrewd wagering is nonetheless recommended.

Patience is Key

Without knowing that you’re playing a high variance game, you can easily get frustrated by the persistent but natural losses. 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 a high variance online slot.

Capitalising on Victory

The frequency of a win is determined by the same probability for each spin, meaning 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 when they come and walk away once you’ve struck lucky.

How to Identify High Variance

Identifying a high variance slot machine can be a tricky task on a machine you haven’t played before. 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. Read on for a quick guide on judging volatility.

Check in with the Community

Slot reviews, including those you’ll find on TopRatedCasinos, will often give a clear indication of a slot’s volatility, so these are a great place to start. The iGaming community is broad and vocal, too, so referring to quick Google searches and message boards are also a good way to gauge other players’ experiences of an individual slot.

Read the Paytable

Before playing, and in addition to finding out what the community’s sentiment is around a slot’s volatility, the paytable can be a strong indicator of how frequent and large the payouts will be.

The paytable will tell you what the payout is on each combination, plus details of any multiplier symbols, wild symbols and bonus rounds.

A slot machine with a high payout on 4/5-of-a-kind and a small payout on 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.

Bear in mind that this is not an exact science, and these tips are for not a guaranteed way to gauge a slot’s volatility.

Check the Developer’s Website

While rare, it’s not unheard of that a developer will give an indication of a slot’s volatility on its website. Navigate to the developer site for the slot in question, which should contain a full catalogue of their available games. Head to the section detailing RTP, and the developer may include Low, Medium, or High to indicate the game’s volatility.

Top 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 is a selection of the best high variance games out there in ‘January.

Rich Wilde and the Book of Dead

Since its 2016 release, Rich Wilde and the Book of Dead has become a mainstay across the UK’s online slots scene. Often offered as the restricted game for free spins with online casino welcome bonuses, a rarity for slots with high payout potential, Book of Dead sees the eponymous Rich Wilde take on Osiris and Anubis in this 5×3 title. Play N’ Go has set the RTP at 96.21% with high volatility, and there’s a huge range of stake options—with a maximum of 50 coins—as you can alter the number of lines as well as the number of coins played on each spin. Its multiplier can reach x10,000 in the bonus rounds. With the max win of £500,000, Book of Dead has the potential to crown a big winner.

300 Shields

This 5-reel slot from NextGen features 25 paylines and a fun Spartan theme. 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, with plenty of free spins and wins up for grabs.

Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive Slot Game

Dead or Alive Slot Game

With only 9 win lines, the Old West-themed Dead or Alive might not sound too exciting — unless you get 3 or more scatters and reach the bonus round, that is. Any wild that comes up on the 12 free spins sticks in place, so if you manage to get at least one wild on each reel you get 5 extra free spins that pay out 1,200x your stake. This can mean some huge bonus wins on this high variance slot. Its developer, NetEnt, marks this slot as high volatility on its website, so be prepared for a few droughts as you seek a big win.

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 paylines to aim for. Winning combinations explode and cause other symbols to drop down thanks to NetEnt’s signature Avalanche feature. Set off three of these in a row and you get an extra multiplier, which can increase up to x10. Throw in some wilds and you’re looking at a big payout on this 96.48% RTP slot.

Raging Rhino

Raging Rhino Slot Game

Raging Rhino Slot Game

Scientific Games’ Raging Rhino has 6 reels, 4 rows and 4,096 win lines. This safari-themed slot game can be frustrating to crack thanks to its high volatility, but if you have the patience and the budget, it can offer huge rewards. You’ll be looking for at least 3 diamond symbols as these will deliver your free spins. Get 6 diamonds and your reward is 50 free spins and a x60,000 multiplier — a great opportunity for a potentially massive payout. Stakes start at 40p and rise to £60 for those with the steeliest of nerves, and its Any Way feature means you can claim a winning payline no matter what rows your symbols have landed on, provided they’re on adjacent reels.

Royal Mint Megaways

Big Time Gaming prides itself on big payouts, and Royal Mint Megaways delivers. This 6×6 slot, new in 2020, features an RTP of 96.48% alongside high volatility, and 117,649 paylines. Players will quickly find that gemstones are the high-scoring symbols, while a selection of top-end playing cards fill out the low value symbols. The slot also comes loaded with two bonus rounds based on free spins, with the first offering an unlimited multiplier that starts at x1 and rises by 1 with each win, and a second ‘Heartstopper’ bonus round that is earned over a long play session. Four scatter symbols will add 1 gold bar to the player’s tally, with the Heartstopper round triggering after 40 gold bars have been collected, offering a free spins bonus round that starts with a x2 multiplier which rises by 2 with each win.

High Variance – High Risk – High Rewards

The key takeaway should be that high variance slots are not for everyone. Generally speaking, new players or those with a small pot to play with are better suited to low volatility slots, where there will be more wins at lower values, without the inherent dry runs that high volatility slots often deliver over a play session.

If you have the capital, time, and experience to make the most of high variance slots titles, however, and you’re playing slots with ambitions of winning big, get started with one of our recommended titles at a top rated casino today.