What is Slot Variance and Why Does it Matter?

What is Slot Variance and Why Does it Matter?
Published: fri 8 nov 2019

Why You Should Care About Variance in Slots

The word variance is one that is being seen with increasing regularity in reviews and articles which discuss online slot games, but what exactly is slot variance and why does it matter?

Slot Variance in a Nutshell

All slot games, whether they are in a traditional offline casino or at an online venue, pay a certain percentage of revenues back to players in the form of cash prizes. Many games state the minimum ‘return to player’ figure as a percentage, so a game which declares ‘96% RTP’ would pay $96 to players for every $100 taken in the form of bets.

Of course, the figure which is returned to players in the form of prizes is an overall one, so a 96% game won’t automatically pay out $96 just as soon as players have put $100 into it. If that were the case, the whole element of surprise would be completely missing. Instead, some games will pay lots of smaller prizes on a more frequent basis to pay out 96% overall, whilst others will pay out fewer smaller prizes but then deliver larger prizes over a longer period of time.

This rate and frequency at which money is returned to players varies from game to game, and that is the ‘slot variance’ which we hear so much about.

Why Does it Matter?

Understanding this concept of slot variance is important because it can help you to choose games which best suit your own attitude towards risk and reward. Knowing that a machine pays 85%, 90% or even 98% of revenues back to players isn’t nearly as useful as knowing the manner in which that cash will be delivered.

For this reason, developers have started including information about the ‘variance’ of their games in an effort to help players make more informed decisions about which titles to play. The main slot variance categories are known as Low, High and Medium.
  • Low Variance slots are ones which pay plenty of smaller prizes to players on a fairly frequent basis. This makes them ideal for those who are new to slots, or have a low tolerance to risk, and would prefer to win at least a few times in a gaming session even if those wins aren’t necessarily big. For anyone who plays slots for the pure entertainment value they offer, low variance slots can be a good choice.
  • High Variance slots lie at the opposite end of the scale to their low variance counterparts. These games don’t pay out very many smaller prizes, and they don’t pay out very often, but when the prizes do come along, they will tend to be considerably bigger than those in a low variance game. This makes high variance slots a particularly good choice for those who are primarily playing in order to have a shot at winning big money, even if that means missing out on smaller wins.
  • Medium Variance slots are those which lie somewhere in the middle of the two extremes just described. These games are aimed at the ‘average’ online slot player who would like to win at least something during his or her gaming session, but who also wants the chance of winning a decent amount of money. If the extremes of low and high variance aren’t for you then medium variance games might be a better fit.

Choose Your Own Variance

A growing number of online slot titles are putting variance into the hands of the player by allowing them to choose between several variance options, even if only at certain points of the game. For example, if you were to play the recently released Conan slot from NetEnt and you managed to trigger the free spins feature, you would be given a choice of three modes, two of low to medium volatility and the other of medium to high volatility.

As awareness of slot volatility increases, so we can expect options such as this to become even more commonly available. In the meantime, think about what kind of variance best suits you as a player and then be sure to bear your preference in mind the next time you are looking for a slot to play.

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