Slot Variance – Low vs High Volatility Slots

Slot variance or volatility estimates how much and how frequently a slot pays. There are low, medium and high variance slots, with important differences between them.

In this page, you will learn what is volatility, how variance differs in slots, find a top list of the most popular low and high variance slots in the US, and more!

What Does Volatility Mean in Slots?

Volatility in slots roughly measures the frequency and size of payouts of any individual slot.

It’s important to note that volatility and variance are the same thing, but the two terms are used interchangeably. Volatility is a term also used in different casino games besides slots, to highlight how (un)predictable and risky they are.

A low volatility slot typically pays out more frequently, but in lesser amounts. You will also get more “filler wins” in low variance slots, which will reward you less than or equal to your stake. In high variance slots, it’s the opposite story; less wins, bigger wins, and more risk! Also, high variance slots have a much higher winning potential, and some combinations can multiply your stake by the thousands.

However, slot variance isn’t an exact science. Often times players have to estimate it themselves, because many game suppliers don’t release this information to the public.

Have a look at popular high variance slots on the US market.

Top 5 high variance slots
SlotProviderRTP
Dead or AliveNetEnt

96.82%
bonanza logo
Bonanza
Big Time Gaming

96.00%
88 fortunes logo
88 Fortunes
Bally

96.00%
Raging Rhino Megaways
WMS

96.18%
Gonzo’s Quest Megaways

NetEnt

96.00%

Check out the top-rated low variance slots from the experience of thousands of players.

Top 5 low variance slots
SlotProviderRTP
Blood Suckers

NetEnt

98%
Guns ‘N Roses

NetEnt

96.98%
Jimi Hendrix

NetEnt

96.90%
Jumanji

NetEnt

96.33%
Starburst

NetEnt

96.01%

Remember, you can click on any slot to get more info and recommended casinos.

Types of Slots Variance

As we outlined, there are different types and sub-types of slot variance. These affect payout rate, size and gameplay in their own way.

Let’s have a look at all the types and explain which one is best for you.

  • low volatility
    Low

    Great for players looking to wager a bonus or enjoy casual game sessions with a limited budget. Low variance slots aren’t without risk overall, but compared to high variance slots you’ll see the result difference in the short and long run.

  • low-medium volatility
    Low-Medium

    Low to medium variance games are for players looking to step it up a notch and look for slightly higher wins, but still within full control of a fairly limited budget. There are many good low to medium variance slots suitable for wagering bonuses as well.

  • medium volatility
    Medium

    Medium variance slots offer a mix of both worlds and are suited for all types of players. As you can tell, the game’s payout output is somewhere between low and high variance slots, offering fairly frequent payouts, and a solid win ceiling.

  • medium-high volatility
    Medium-High

    Medium to high slots are also just called high variance slots. These games should be tackled with a higher budget and time-investment.

  • high volatility
    High

    High variance slots are built for the ultimate risk-takers or high rollers. These games can be merciless for extended periods of time with series of unrewarding wins. However, their payout potential is unmatched, with jackpots that rival many progressive slots in payout size.

We mentioned that slot volatility isn’t an exact science. What’s also true is that slots are always unpredictable, as they are inherently games of pure luck. This means that a low variance slot can be very rewarding, and even a high variance slots can dish out frequent wins for a period of gameplay.

What Can Affect Slot Variance?

Let’s have a look at what affects slot variance, which will help you identify slot variance by yourself.

Symbol Payouts

While slot RTP is always a factor to consider, the symbol payouts decide the bulk of a game’s variance score. In fact, many times you can recognize a slot’s variance by looking at the payouts.

If there are big differences in payouts for 3, 4 and 5 of the same symbol combinations in a slot, it’s a good indicator of a high variance slot.

What’s more, relatively low payouts for 4 or 5 of a kind symbol are a strong indicator of a low variance slot. Even if the difference is big between 3, 4 and 5 symbol payouts, the overall value should be look at first.

Let’s have a look at some real-world examples by taking the highest-paying regular symbol as a reference payout for the payout values.

Blood Suckers by NetEnt
3 of a kind – Vampire symbol

20 coins

4 of a kind – Vampire symbol

40 coins

5 of a kind – Vampire symbol

200 coins

Guns N’ Roses by NetEnt
3 of a kind – Axl Rose symbol

30 coins

4 of a kind – Axl Rose symbol

150 coins

5 of a kind – Axl Rose symbol

750 coins

Dolphin Reef by NextGen
3 of a kind – Goldfish symbol

100 coins

4 of a kind – Goldfish symbol

500 coins

5 of a kind – Goldfish symbol

5000 coins

Raging Rhino Megaways by WMS
3 of a kind – Raging Rhino symbol

60 coins

4 of a kind – Raging Rhino symbol

100 coins

5 of a kind – Raging Rhino symbol

200 coins

6 of a kind – Raging Rhino symbol

500 coins

Bonanza by Big Time Gaming
3 of a kind - Purple Gems

200 coins

4 of a kind - Purple Gems

400 coins

5 of a kind - Purple Gems

1000 coins

6 of a kind - Purple Gems

2000 coins

Bonus Game and Maximum Payouts

The bonus game usually holds the highest winning potential out of any slot. However, this is especially true for high variance slots. In slots like Dead or Alive I by NetEnt, the bonus game is where virtually all the winning potential is hidden.

Slot bonus games also extend the maximum payout, leaving the door open to a much higher winning potential compared to the base game. In fact, it’s precisely this maximum payout that serves as a good indicator of a slot’s variance.

SlotVarianceMaximum Payout
Blood SuckersLow1,014x stake
Guns ‘N RosesLow-Medium1,250x stake
The Wish MasterMedium4,500x stake
Raging Rhino MegawaysMedium-High12,500x stake
Monopoly MegawaysHigh14,700x stake

RTP

RTP and Variance work close together, and each is dependent on the other. You can’t have a low variance slot with an RTP of 90% – it’s mathematically impossible. In contrast, high-variance, high RTP slots exist, such as NetEnt’s Mega Joker with an RTP of 99%. However, that’s because Mega Joker is a 3-reel slot, and most slots of this type are medium to high variance.

As such, it’s important that the RTP stays within acceptable margins (95.90% – 97%) where it can be considered a minimal factor. A slot with an industry standard RTP can tweak the variance using all the remaining gameplay mechanics, such as symbol payouts and bonus games.

SlotVarianceRTP
Blood SuckersLow98.00%
Jimi HendrixLow-Medium96.90%
Dolphin ReefMedium96.00%
Gonzo’s Quest MegawaysMedium-High96.00%
Monopoly MegawaysHigh96.50%

The table above confirms that the RTP is seemingly random, while the slot volatility varies wildly from game to game.

Here are our key takeaways:

  • A slot with a super high RTP is almost guaranteed low variance (over 97.50% RTP)
  • A slot with a super low RTP is guaranteed high variance or it’s a bad slot (less than 94% RTP)
  • Normal RTP values (95% – 97%) make RTP mostly irrelevant in determining slot variance
  • Progressive slots are an exception and low RTP is normal for this slot (88% – 94%)

How Important is Variance When Choosing a Slot?

Is variance the ultimate deciding factor when choosing a slot? By investigating the most popular slots across the bet US online casinos, we pulled some useful data.

Top 10 most popular slots at US online casinos
SlotVarianceRTP
88 FortunesMedium-High96%
StarburstLow-Medium96.01%
Raging Rhino MegawaysHigh96.18%
BonanzaHigh96%
Monopoly MegawaysHigh96.5%
CleopatraMedium95.02%
MegaJackpots: CleopatraHigh92.48%
Divine FortuneMedium96.59%
Mercy of the GodsMedium96.64%
Gonzo’s QuestMedium96%

This table leaves an easy conclusion; there is no strong preference for any variance type by players across US online casinos. In fact, it seems like RTP and Variance are not at all in the driver’s seat when players are deciding which game to play.

Best High Variance Slots

Here are the best high variance slots, hand-picked by our experts and US online casino players.

Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive is a classic. This extremely-high volatile slot made a name for itself precisely because of its volatility and unforgiving nature. Most of this slot’s winning potential, as well as the highest possible payout, are in the bonus round.

The slot’s bonus round is rarely activated, but it can be extremely rewarding. You start out with 7 re-triggerable free spins, during which Sticky Wilds can appear and stay for the entire duration of the free spins round. These Sticky Wilds also multiply all winnings by 3X.

As you can tell, this game’s bonus round can quickly accumulate huge wins thanks to its unique Sticky Wild symbols. Although, some serious time and money investment may be required.

Bonanza

Bonanza is the first Megaways slot, produced by BTG, and it paved the way for the high-variance Megaways slot era. This slot type opened the door to dozens of Megaways games with unprecedented winning potential.

Bonanza itself can reward you a max win of 26,000x your stake, remaining one of the highest paying games to this day.

The game has up to 117,649 ways to win and an estimated 33% hit frequency, meaning 1 out of 3 spins will hit on average.

88 Fortunes

88 Fortunes is a lesser-known slot by Bally, but it is immensely popular at US online casinos. This game has 5 reels and 243 ways to win. On the surface, it doesn’t look like a high variance game at all. There’s a Fu-Bat Jackpot feature, as well as free spins which can be triggered indefinitely.

This slot’s high variance is pulled from its rewarding free spins game and jackpot, whereas the base game won’t be as fruitful in the long run. As such, it poses a similar layout to NetEnt’s Dead or Alive. However, 88 Fortunes’ base game can still pay out 2,761X your stake, which is why some consider this one a medium to high variance slot.

Raging Rhino Megaways

Created by WMS, this 117,649 ways to win Megaways slot is based on the original Raging Rhino, but this time with a Megaways license from Big Time Gaming.

The slot became an instant classic and it’s high-variance traits can be seen a mile away. The base game expands and offers dynamic ways to win in the thousands. However, the bonus round is where the action really kicks up a few notches.

In the bonus round, you can get unlimited free spins and multipliers of up to 5X, which increase with each successive winning spin!

Gonzo’s Quest Megaways

This re-imagining in Megaways form of the original classic hit Gonzo’s Quest was produced together by Red Tiger Gaming and NetEnt. As such, it’s a nearly perfect high variance slot game in all regards. The game has a maximum win of 21,000x your stake, as well as Unbreakable Wilds, Avalanche Reels and powerful Multipliers.

Many of the highest-paying mechanics are in the bonus round, which further escalate this slot’s volatility, on top of it’s already volatile Megaways foundation.

Best Low Variance Slots

Have a look at the other side of the coin and browse the top-rated low variance slots in the US.

Blood Suckers

Blood Suckers is synonymous with low variance slots. This game has one of the highest RTP on the market, with an RTP of 98%! If the RTP isn’t enough of an indicator, the gameplay certainly is.

This slot has a super-high hit rate, which applies to the base game and bonus round as well. You will find relatively frequent bonus round triggers in this game, of which there are two. There’s also a random trigger in the base game which dishes out random coin pay outs.

All in all, a perfect slot for casual players and wagering bonuses. Though, be warned that many casinos restrict Blood Suckers from wagering.

Guns ‘N Roses

Guns ‘N Roses was the first rock ‘n roll slot introduction by NetEnt. This game’s been made accessible to all players thanks to its rewarding and entertaining gameplay.

It’s one of the few games where your payouts don’t completely depend on the bonus round. That’s because Guns ‘N Roses is packed with features!

There are two random triggers in the base game, and 4 different bonus rounds! As such, this game can be well worth your while as it can reward casual gameplay, but high-risk endeavors through the bonus features as well.

Jimi Hendrix

The next in line after Guns ‘N Roses was no other than, Jimi Hendrix, another low to medium volatility slot accessible to everyone.

The Jimi Hendrix slot is especially good for wagering, because it has potential for big wins while maintaining a solid hit frequency.

Look forward to the Re-spins, Wild Transformations, Pick ‘n Click feature and Free Spins round. Jimi Hendrix promises good times and lots of various bonus payouts on a lucky day.

Jumanji

Based on the movie adaption of Jumanji, this action-packed slot machine by NetEnt features 16 paylines and a modest maximum win of 504x your stake. It was designed as a low variance slot from the ground-up, and it clearly shows.

The slot’s base game is rich with features; you have random Re-spins, Sticky Wilds and random coin payouts as well!

Trigger 3+ scatters to enter the bonus round and win free spins or coins, where the major prizes lie in wait. There are many more features packed in Jumanji, but we’ll let you discover all the goodies by yourself. We know for a fact it’s one of our favorite low volatility slot games.

Starburst

Starburst doesn’t need explanation to many. It’s the most popular slot in online gaming, hands down. It’s also one of the simplest games out there – accessible to even the most casual players.

Starburst doesn’t have a bonus round. In fact, the entire slot is based around re-spins and Stacked Wilds, which reward consecutive wins. The winning potential is quite high in Starburst, even though it’s considered a low to medium variance slot. There’s also an abundance of free spins offer for this slot game, given it’s popularity. However, we’ve yet to see free spins bonuses take off in the US.

Conclusion

When all is said and done, we mustn’t forget the most important factor – luck! Variance and RTP will always have a say, but as slots are complete games of chance, and we recommend you play games that you like. It can’t hurt to look at the fine print, but at the end of the day, you can win big on any slot, and come out with emptyhanded from the “safest” low-variance slot!

FAQs

Volatility in slots determines a slot’s hit rate and payout size in the long run. Volatility is a rough estimation and not an exact science. Many publishers release volatility information, but many don’t. However, there are ways to determine volatility by looking at the paytable and general gameplay.

High variance in slots means that that slot has a high winning potential, but it’s also riskier to play compared to low and medium variance slots. That’s because high variance slots typically require a longer investment of time and money before players see the returns.

The slot variance is calculated by looking at the slot paytable, bonus features and RTP. What’s more, many gaming providers release the variance information on their official website, or within the slot itself in the information tab.

The best low volatility slots are popular games in the US market like Starburst, Jumanji and Jimi Hendrix. Low volatility slots are great for casual players and bonus wagering, presenting prospective players with less risk compared to highly volatile games.

Without a doubt, the best high volatility slots are Megaways slots such as Bonanza and Monopoly. These games have the highest win ceiling out of any other slot type on the market. We’ve also analyzed many non-Megaways slots with a high volatility, such as NetEnt’s Dead or Alive.

This depends on your playstyle, budget, and expectations. Low volatility slots are good for casual players, limited budgets, and safer bonus wagering. High volatility slots are great for big wins, but this comes at a cost. They’re more suited to adventurous players and high-rollers, at least over the long run.