Slot Variance Explained

Variance is a concept that is used to determine how frequently and how much a slot game will pay out. For players, slot machine variance is not a concept that is often considered, but it’s worth thinking about the next time you’re playing a game.

Low Variance Slots

An excellent starting point is to define low variance slots, as these are extremely common at casino sites. Fundamentally, these are slot games where you will win quite frequently, but those wins will be at relatively low levels.

Key Characteristics

Considering the factors above, it’s a valuable exercise to highlight the key characteristics for low variance:

  • Win frequency: High
  • Payout value: Low
  • Jackpot potential: Low
  • Risk level: Low

Why Play Low Variance?

Okay, so now that the basics have been outlined, it’s time to present the case for why you would want to play these slots:

  • Clearing bonus funds: Low variance slot games are designed to turn over your balance and deliver frequent winnings. You might be up for a while and you might be down for a while, or vice versa. This is a perfect type of slot for clearing, let’s say, a £10 at 40x wagering requirements for a value of £400.
  • Avoiding risk: These slots typically offer extremely small entry costs in terms of wagering. This appeals to players using a small bankroll and wishing to make the most of their stake.

Why Would You Not?

Having understand the positives, it’s now time to go in the other direction and discuss a couple of the drawbacks:

  • Drawn-out gaming: These slots are going to have you playing for much longer, which isn’t for everyone. Plus, they are also often known to be low on special features, so there might not be much to stick around for – make sure to check.
  • Low rewards: The lure of a 500x jackpot mightn’t be exciting for every player. Additionally, those jackpots aren’t paid out all that often on low variance slots. Instead, it tends to be the lower and midlevel rewards that land.

High Variance Slots

For the sake of simplicity, you should think of high variance slots as being the absolute opposite to low variance. By nature, these are slots where you will win much less often. When you do, though, the winnings might be very handsome indeed.

Key Characteristics

To break down the nature of these slots, it helps to see their key characteristics clearly presented:

  • Win frequency: Low
  • Payout value: High
  • Jackpot potential: High
  • Risk level: High

Why Play High Variance?

The case for high variance is very different to low variance, as you can see from the advantages below:

  • Big-time winnings: High variance slots can offer huge multipliers in the base game alone, and that’s before taking into consideration the progressive jackpot and special features that might be available. You will win less often, but the promise of possibly winning hundreds of thousands of pounds might drive you on.
  • More exciting slots: These slots are typically at a more advanced level where software developers focus a higher percentage of their resources on creating them. As a result, you will probably encounter better themes, licenses, and bonuses.

Why Would You Not?

High variance is obviously a flashier way to play, but it’s not going to suit everyone. For instance, here are some cases against wagering on these types of online slots:

  • To clear bonus funds: The value of bonus funds is in their ability to be gradually cleared through long-term wagering at a low level of risk. A high variance slot is much more likely to cause you to blow all of your funds in the space of an hour.
  • When using bonus funds: If you can clear bonus funds, then you have extra cash. However, they will become a hindrance if you are playing high variance slots. Let’s say that you win £1,000 with a £20 bonus at 50x wagering requirements. You would have to wager £1,000 before you would receive those winnings.

Tips for Determining Variance

As a closing section, you are going to receive some helpful tips for figuring out whether your slot machine is high or low variance:

  • Look at the paytable: If the jackpot doesn’t break 500x, then you are in the realm of low variance.
  • Check the lowest wager: On a slot with 25 unfixed paylines and a £0.01 minimum line bet, you are playing at low variance.
  • Monitor your winnings: Are you churning wins of £0.12, £0.27, and £0.21 like it’s nobody’s business? This is a sure-fire indicator of low variance.
  • RTP doesn’t matter: When comparing a 93.0% and a 97.0% return to player percentage, it can have no bearing on variance. A 97.0% slot could still be high variance based on its winnings.

Variance essentially boils down to risk, payouts, and frequency. Consider each of those factors and you will quickly determine which type of slot you are playing.