What Does Volatility Mean In Slots

What Does Volatility Mean In Slots
✍️ Written by
Sarah Ryan
🗓 Updated
May 19th 2023

Whether you’re a typical square bettor or amongst the sharpest and luckiest of lucky casino sharps, you probably know that slots are among the most volatile, randomized games you can play at the casino. After all, unlike a game like poker or blackjack, you’re not competing with a house dealer or any other players.

Unlike sports betting or political betting, you aren’t afforded the luxury of readily discernible odds, past precedent, or prior trends that can be used to inform your next decision with (most) slots. Slots are about as high-risk as high-risk casino games come, and that risk is often dictated by a mysterious, dreaded force that dictates a slot game’s win frequency: volatility.

As you can imagine, slots are especially volatile casino games when it comes to the frequency or infrequency of wins. The volatility of these games should tell you how much bankroll/juice you expect to be squeezed out of a single session, relative to the potential reward. Understanding how volatility influences slots games will help you better understand:

  • How often the game spins a winning combo

  • The amount that the winning combo(s) will pay out

  • An (online or offline) slot game’s overall risks 

With that in mind, and without any further ado, let’s break down the differing forms of volatility, and their differing impacts on slot games.

What Is Volatility In Slot Machines? 

You know that fine print on a contract or terms of service that you should probably read before agreeing to a deal, but you usually skim over? Slot machine volatility is sort of like that. Here are some key factors to consider when contemplating a slot’s volatility level:

  • Budget/Bankroll/Juice: Whatever you call it, you obviously won’t want to wager more of it than you can comfortably afford to lose.

  • Playtime: How long can you expect to play, earn, or lose over a given session? 

  • Risk: How risky is a game? How likely are you to lose relative to your likelihood of winning?

  • Player Experience: How familiar are you with casino games and slots games in general?

  • Win Frequency: How often do winning combinations line up in the right places at the right time?

  • Return Amount: How much can you potentially get back relative to how much you put in?

Differing levels of slot game volatility will affect these different factors in a multitude of different ways. Here’s how.

Types Of Volatility

There are several different types of volatility in slots games, but in essence, they can be boiled down to five categories:

  • Low volatility slots games

  • Low-to-medium volatility slots

  • Medium volatility slots games

  • Medium-to-high volatility slots

  • High volatility slots games

As the name implies, high volatility slots games entail the highest potential risks, but with those risks come the highest potential rewards. Your best bet at approaching these high volatility slots, and the lowest risk to your bottom line, will be relying on generous no-deposit and deposit match bonuses that afford you free bonus cash to wager.

Be sure to read the wagering requirement bonus over carefully though, as you might have a hard time clearing it. Make sure you’re able to fulfill the bonuses’ wagering requirements prior to its time frame running out! Conversely, you might also want to consider using these promos for medium-to-high volatility slots, which have a marginally higher win frequency and still generally pay out decent returns on lucky spins.

Medium, medium-to-low, and low volatility slots are all better categories for bankroll management, of course, but each subsequent category pays out less than the last. Ultimately, your preferred slot volatility level will depend on your own level of personal experience with slots games, and the level of risk you’re personally willing to incur for a potential reward. 

Now that you understand the basic fundamentals of volatility, it’s important to understand that volatility is merely one of a whole trifecta of forces potentially working against you at the slots. Besides volatility, the house has two more invisible weapons up its sleeve: variance and return-to-player percentage.

Volatility vs. RTP vs. Variance

Most slot games don’t publicly list their specific level of volatility. But another oft-public metric you can use to infer an online slot game’s volatility level is through the game’s return-to-player percentage, or RTP for short. This refers to the average expected return of a slot game over a long-enough timeframe. So with that said, which slot machines are low volatility?

Contrary to what you might assume, higher-volatility slot games tend to have a more moderate RTP, whereas low and medium-volatility slots tend to have a higher return-to-player rate. Likewise, while volatility refers to short-term risks, variance is another metric that can be used to discern a game’s long-term results, or in this case, a game’s frequency of winning combinations in the long run. 

Unlike volatility, slot variance and return-to-player percentage are generally consistent across games, no matter how the games are programmed. No matter which volatility slot game you ultimately decide to spin with, go with the one that offers the best balance for your bankroll, play time, and risks you’re comfortable taking on. 


We hope this guide offered a helpful breakdown of the importance of volatility in slots games, and we hope we can point you toward helpful bonuses to play with no risk to your bottom line.

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About the author
Sarah Ryan
Sarah Ryan
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Sarah's our Copy Editor. With a long career in hospitality, Sarah knows entertainment & gaming like none other!

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