Slot RTP, Volatility, and Variance Explained

What is RTP, volatility, and variance? Read our guide to these terms and learn how they affect your chances to win and how big of a payout you get in return.

Slots are the top in online casinos. That’s not a surprise – they’re fun, rewarding, and there are literally thousands to pick from.

From three-reel classic slots to modern video slots with hundreds of paylines, there’s a sea of slots out there to dive in. Even if you’re a beginner, you will find a game to enjoy, especially since most slots have pretty low minimum bets.

When playing slots, however, new players might be a bit confused over some of the technical terms. There are paylines, reels, scatters, and wilds, but those are simple terms you can learn more about in the game’s guide.

What the guide won’t tell you are terms such as volatility, RTP, and variance. While some players believe they’re one and the same, they’re very different, and aren’t there just for show.

As a matter of fact, slot variance and volatility impact your chances to win and how much you win as well. It’s similar with RTP, the number that shows the return to player percentage. Let’s see what these terms actually represent and how they impact your slot wins.

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What’s Slots RTP?

Short for return to player percentage, RTP indicates how much of your bets you can expect in return over a pre-determined number. For example, a slot with an RTP of 96% may return 96% of every $100 you bet.

This isn’t a promise – it’s a theoretical feature only. Slot games with low volatility usually have a higher RTP, while high-variance slot games have a lower RTP. Keep this in mind the next time you’re spinning slots.

What is Slot Machine Volatility?

When you check out the specs of a slot machine, you’ll see one of three volatility levels – low, medium, or high. A slot’s volatility can also be a combination of the first or last two.

The volatility is closely linked to the gameplay. It tells you how often you can expect wins in that particular slot machine over time. In simpler terms, it assesses the risk of losing a bet in a slot game.

  • Low volatility slots: low volatility slots are very popular among players these days. They shell out wins frequently, but that’s balances with the smaller payouts.

Slot games such as Starburst will give you wins frequently, but those will be on the lower side.

  • Medium volatility slots: medium-variance slot games pay varied wins. This means that you can expect frequent smaller wins and the occasional big one.

The latter occurs much more often than in highly volatile (or extremely volatile) slots.

  • High volatility slots: you shouldn’t expect frequent wins in slots with high volatility. These are the games you should play very carefully, as betting big on them can burn through your bankroll.

While not a rule, the higher the winning potential of the slot, the higher its volatility will be. Recently, slot developers have begun ranking their high volatility slots with a scale. Some are highly volatile, others are extremely volatile.

With these slots, you’ll experience dry patches for a long time, but when you win, you’ll win big.

Now that you know more about slot volatility and how it affects your chances, let’s talk a bit about slot variance.

What is Video Slot Variance?

Video Slot variance is pretty similar to slot volatility. It’s more or less the same term, except variance describes the expected return of your investment, this time not bound by time. Variance helps players figure out the eventual return in the long run, compared to volatility which relies on short-term winnings.

Casino terminology doesn’t make a difference between the two. They’re often used interchangeably, with volatility being used more frequently.

How Do They Affect My Winnings?

Theoretically, a player could use the frequency of winnings to determine the volatility of a slot machine. But, things are more complex than that.

Every slot has a volatility index that determines its variance. This index calculates the sum of each combinations and tells you how often it appears in the long run. Most game developers publish this information – some don’t.

If a slot game doesn’t state its volatility (variance), you can determine it on your own. To do this, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Prizes: what kind of prizes can you win in the game? Are they typically small? If a slots top prize is something in the range of 200x-300x your bet, it will most likely be on the low variance side.
  • Min/Max. Bet: games with high variance usually have smaller max. bets. If their maximum bets were high, paired with the long dry spells, it would be a catastrophe for a player’s bankroll.
  • Bonus Features: what kind of features does the slot game have? The bigger the bonus count, the higher the volatility. That’s not a rule, but it appears to be the case for most slot machines nowadays.

All this information is usually available in the game’s guide. By checking it out and giving the demo a run, you could easily realize how often and how big a slot pays.

Conclusion

Slot variance, volatility, and RTP are the three most important slot terms from a technical point of view. While you won’t see them straight from the delightful visuals and the catchy audio, they’re embedded deeply in the math model that determines your winning chances and payouts.

We hope that our guide helped you learn what each one represents. It shouldn’t be hard to realize, and after trying out a few slots with different RTPs and volatility, you will be able to catch up on the terms’ meaning.

FAQs

Slot volatility is a term that suggests how often or rare you can win on slots, or how big or small your wins might be.

No, they aren’t. In layman’s terms, volatility reveals the unpredictable nature of long-term results, while variance calculates the risk in the long run.

Slot RTP measures the rewards a player can win on a slot game and presents it in a percentage form. It describes the amount players can expect from a game over a large number of spins, typically $100 in value.

The slot RTP is usually specified under the game’s guide. Casinos will often display the numbers themselves on the splash screens.

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Chris GrandCasino & Games Reviewer

As a content writer specializing in iGaming, my goal is to keep players informed about the latest industry trends and game releases. I also strive to deliver honest and insightful content that adds value to players' experience.