Slot variance explained

Added: July 4, 2022

Last updated: April 18, 2023

What is slot variance, and why is it so important?

Slot variance (also called volatility) indicates how often huge (or even mega) prizes are won when playing that slot.

A slot with a high variance has more potential to pay out huge prizes than one with low volatility. When playing low or medium variance slots, you can, on rare occasions, maybe win up to 100x to 500x of your bet.

Compare that to some high variance slots where you have winnings up to 3,000x, 5,000x or even a mind-blowing 10,000x your bet. Imagine having staked $10 a spin. In that case, you will win $100,000!

When it comes down to it, high variance slots offer you an “all or nothing” scenario. Win massive payouts or lose your shirt in a hurry.

Players that love and play the high variance slots don’t see this as a problem. They know exactly what they are up against.

This is precisely what the high variance slot players are playing for. No messing around with all these small or medium little prizes that, in the end, don’t amount to much.

High variance slots players are always chasing that one amazingly large payout, that record-setting prize.

The high variance of a slot versus high payout rate (RTP)

Don’t make the mistake of confusing the payout rate (Theoretical Return to Player or Theoretical RTP) of a slot with the variance of said slot.

The payout rate says something about how much a slot pays back to the player, on average, over the long term.

Slot variance is an entirely different beast. The variance of a slot is an indicator of how different value payments are spread out and an excellent indicator of a slot’s risk-factor. High variance equals high risk, and low variance means low risk.

It is easy to see why playing a slot with a high payout rate is always advantageous. If the slot has a payout rate of 97%, then, in the long run, $€ 97 out of every $€ 100 played is returned to the player.

In summary:

  • The payout rate tells you something about how much a slot pays back to the player.
  • The variance gives you information about the spread of the value of the payments.
  • Low variance slots: lots of small prizes and, on occasion, a medium one.
  • High variance slots: less small or medium prizes and a massive reward every once in a while.
  • Slot variance is an indicator of how risky the slot is.

Comparing the variance of low variance slots against high variance slots

We analyzed six slots: 3 popular low variance slots and three popular high variance slots.

The three low variance slots we have picked are:

The three high variance slots we have chosen are:

What is slot variance

How high are the prizes of high and low variance slots?

So often do you hear about “low variance,” “medium variance,” or “high variance” slots?

Unfortunately, explanations reach not much further than:

  • This low variance slot pays out tiny prizes only.
  • This exhilarating slot rewards huge prizes.
  • This slot pays mega prizes….

Are you not curious to know a bit more about the differences?

For example:

  • How often are large, huge or mega prizes paid out?
  • How big are the prizes?
  • How realistic is it to win such an enormous prize?

We performed hundreds of thousands of real money spins on high and low variance slots to find out more about this phenomenon.

What did we learn? Well, for starters, we learned that slot variance is not only about the maximum size of the winnings. How often these massive prizes are paid out is equally as important.

What size prizes do high variance slots payout? How often are these paid out?

Let’s start with the three high variance slots of choice: Jammin’ Jars, Book of Dead and Reactoonz.

The table below shows how often several types of prizes (from small to mega prizes) were paid out during our test runs.

What makes Jammin’ Jars an extremely high variance slot is the fact that mega prizes (1,000x your total bet or more) are paid out much more often than the two other volatile slots: Book of Dead or Reactoonz.

For example, rewards of 1,000x to 2,000x the total bet are paid out once every 20,000 spins with Jammin’ Jars. It is once every 100,000 turns for Book of Dead, and for Reactoonz, it is once every 50,000 spins.

Don’t forget that huge prizes (250x to 500x the total bet) are also paid out often by Jammin’Jars: once every 5,000 spins!

Book of Dead is a high variance slot. The chances of winning mega prizes (1,000x to 10,000x the total bet) are smaller than with Jammin’ Jars, which is the main difference with Jammin’ Jars.

Book of Dead is more a high variance slot than an extremely high variance slot, as these massive prizes are paid out less often.

Reactoonz is a spectacular slot! In more than half of the times (55% of the spins), you get a prize! Reactoonz is a high variance slot: it pays out huge and mega prizes, more often than Book of Dead. We have not observed prizes of 5,000x the total bet.

how does slot variance work

What size prizes do low variance slots payout? How often are these paid out?

The table below shows how often several prizes (from small to mega prizes) are paid out for three low variance slots: Blood Suckers, Starburst and Jumanji.

If you play Blood Suckers, don’t expect winning anything higher than 500x your bet. Never say never, but if you do, it will be a lifetime miracle.

Blood Suckers stands out for its high Theoretical RTP, which is 98%. Bloodsuckers pays out lots of medium-sized prizes (20x to 100x the total bet).

The story for Starburst is quite similar: lots of medium-sized prizes and some significant prizes. Not so, when it comes to huge rewards, let alone mega jackpots. When we spun 5,000 times with Starburst, the maximum prize we got did not even top 70x the total bet. How low is that?!

Jumanji has a bit more variance than the Blood Suckers and Starburst. Huge prizes occasionally hit when you play Jumanji: these are incredibly unusual, though. Besides, if you hit, expect something in the range of 500x to 1,000x the total bet. Certainly not a prize of, say, 5,000x the total bet.

Jumanji has more variance than Blood Suckers or Starburst, though. Jumanji is more a medium/low variance slot.

How much of the total wins are paid out in small and large prizes?

Another way to look at the differences between low and high variance slots is by looking at how much of the total prize money is paid in small, medium, large or mega prizes.

The graph below shows the differences between the six slots.

You see that for Jammin’ Jars (around 20% of the total wins are paid out in prizes of at least 500x the bet (red-coloured bars).

For Reactoonz and Book of Dead, these shares are around 8% and 4%, less but still substantial.

Looking further at Jammin’ Jars, you see that only about half of the total prize pool is paid out in prizes up to 50x the bet (see green coloured bars). Compare that to the lower variance slots of Starburst and Blood Suckers, where almost 90% of the total is paid out in the smaller prizes (up to 50x the total bet).

When is a slot low variance, and when is it considered high variance?

What makes a slot get the label of “high variance” or “low variance”?

High variance slots pay out more massive wins (of at least 1,000x the total bet) instead of low variance slots, where the most substantial prizes (seldom) exceed 250x the total stake, let alone higher than that.

Medium variance slots have a maximum prize of 250x to 500x the total bet. Rarely a prize above 500x the total bet.

Every slot has a different payout table. The highest variance slot (Jammin’ Jars) is exceptional, not only because it pays out the mega prizes, but mainly because it pays these much more often than other high variance slots.

The advantages of low variance slots are that large prizes of 20x to 100x the total bet are paid out more often than with high variance slots.

High variance slots like to save the cash for the real massive prizes!

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