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Understanding Slots Variance, Volatility and RTP

As an online slots player, you must have seen the terms “variance”, “volatility”, and “RTP” mentioned in the slots reviews or directly in the games. But, do you really know what these terms mean and how they have an impact on the whole gameplay? If your answer is no, then you’re at the right place. It’s very important to find and play the right slot with variance and RTP that will suit your preferences. For that reason, here at SlotsWise, we’re going to explain to you what Variance, Volatility and RTP mean in detail.

On this page, you’ll learn more about:

  • What does Variance mean in online slots
  • Types of Variance
  • How to determine the Variance of a slot
  • How to choose the right slot variance
  • Volatility vs Variance
  • What is RTP
  • How RTP works
  • How to make the most of Variance and RTP

So let’s get started!

What Does Variance Mean in Online Slots?

Simply said, the variance in online slots tells you how often you are likely to hit winning combinations and what will be the size of your winnings. It basically determines how risky an online slot game is to play. The variance indicates whether the online slot you want to play is a high risk, medium risk, or a low-risk game. It will give you a better idea of how much you will win or lose while playing a particular slot game. Of course, if you have a small budget for online slots, you’ll want to play games that are low-risk, or if you enjoy taking risks and have a bigger budget, you’ll want to play games that produce less frequent wins but with higher prizes. That’s why the variance is an important factor when choosing which online slot to play next. 

To understand the variance in online slots easier, here is an example. If you play the lottery and buy 20 lottery tickets, chances are that you’ll win nothing and will lose £20. But, if you buy 20 scratchcards, there are more chances that you’ll get at least a couple of small wins. This makes the lottery a high variance game when compared to the scratchcards. The same logic applies to online slots. If a slot game takes an average of 300 spins to land a bonus, you can expect a lot bigger winnings from it than from a game that lands bonuses on every 50 spins. For that reason, before you start playing an online slot, ask yourself what you are looking for. Do you want to double your money? Or you want to have some fun and play with smaller bets? The slot’s variance will help you make your final decision.

Types of Variance

Since the variance is an indication of the risk that an online slot has, there are a couple of different types of variance that slot games have. To help you better understand the variance in slots, we’ve listed 5 types of variance below:


The high-variance slots are ideal for players who want to take risks. These games give you fewer payouts and sometimes you might even not win anything, but when you do, the payouts are bigger and worth waiting. The high variance slots usually have big jackpots attached to them. The payouts of these games often go up to 1,000x to 10,000x your stake. One of the main disadvantages of high variance slots is that it can be hard to predict what to expect, which makes it difficult to estimate the budget you’ll need for playing.

We advise you to play high variance slots if you have a long-term reward in mind and if you have enough funds to ensure you’ll spin for a longer period without winning. These games are also suitable for players who are ready to stop playing once they’ve reached the limit they’ve set, regardless of whether they’ve lost or won. 

So, here are a couple of tips that will help you prepare your strategy for playing high variance slots:

  • Prepare your budget and stick to it;
  • Choose high variance slots with higher RTP (Read more about RTP below);
  • Don’t play with high expectations;
  • Take breaks when you need them;
  • Start with smaller bets and increase them as you progress.

Some of the most popular slots with high variance include Dead or Alive from NetEnt, Immortal Romance from Microgaming, and Book of Dead from Play N Go. These games also come with an average RTP which indicates fair and transparent gameplay. Plus, they usually come with some attractive bonus features such as free spins and multipliers.


The medium-high variance slots are very popular among players. They get the best from both high and medium variance slots. Still, due to their relatively high win frequency, these slots are more to the high variance part than they are to the medium variance. This means that you’ll still get less frequent but more valuable winnings.

Some of the most popular medium-high variance slots are Gonzo’s Quest and Finn’s Golden Tavern from NetEnt. These games are very popular among players and they come with great payout potential, so you can end up winning thousands of pounds.


Probably the most popular group of online slots among players are the medium variance slots. As the name suggests, the medium variance slots are something between high variance and low variance games. Unlike high variance slots, these games offer relatively smaller but more frequent payouts. Also, on the contrary to the low variance slots, these games will give you a much higher payout. Moreover, these games come with plenty of bonus features that can give you some decent wins.

The medium variance slots are a great option for players who want to play more exciting games but still don’t want to take a lot of risk. Another great benefit of these slots is that you can play them for much longer with your budget, compared to the high variance games. With medium variance slots, you can expect both mid and low-sized winnings while still taking advantage of the possibility of winning massive jackpots. Just like the high variance slots, so does the medium variance games require you to set your budget according to your preferences. Also, it’s always better if you choose a medium variance slot game with higher RTP.

Some of the most popular medium variance slots include Thunderstruck II from Microgaming, Jumanji from NetEnt, and Reel Rush, also from NetEnt. If you set your budget properly, you can play these games for hours with the possibility to trigger bonus features and hit big winnings.


The group of low-medium variance slots is composed of games that offer lower-value winnings which are more frequent than the medium variance games. These games are very enjoyable and you can have long and fun sessions if you manage your budget properly. The low-medium variance slots are ideal for players who have a tighter budget but look for longer gameplay sessions.

Some of the most popular low-medium variance slot games include Crown of Egypt from IGT, as well as Berryburst and Asgardians Stones from NetEnt. These games are excellent examples of action-filled games with more frequent winnings. They are ideal for players who look for a fun and relaxed gaming experience.


The low variance slots are the complete opposite of the high variance slots as they offer more frequent but lower value winnings. That is the reason why these games are the most popular among the new players. The low variance slots are of course lower-risk games with fast-paced and exciting gameplay. They also have smaller betting options which make them ideal for players who don’t want to spend much on online slots.

With low variance slots, you can expect plenty of low-value winning combinations on every five to 10 spins on average. If you choose to play a low variance game, you can expect wins from 10x to 100x your stake, which is still great. They will keep you playing longer even when you don’t have a large budget.

The Starburst slot from NetEnt, which is one of the most popular online slots of all times, is a low variance game. Other popular slots with low variance are Big Bad Wolf from Quickspin, Blood Suckers from NetEnt, and Cash of Kingdoms from Slingshot Studios.

How To Determine The Variance of a Slot

Usually, when developers release a new online slot, they will tell you the variance that it has. When we review an online slot and want to find out its variance, we play hundreds of spins in order to see how frequently it is going to reward us. However, you can determine the variance of a slot on your own, especially if you know the frequency of symbol combinations and the value attached to them. So, here are a couple of factors which will help you to determine the variance of a slot game:

  • One of the main indicators for determining the slot’s variance is the paytable. When you open an online slot, check its paytable and look at the difference between the payout of 4 and 5 of a kind symbols on a payline. If you see that 4 symbols on a payline give lower amounts, while 5 of a king pay out a lot more, then it’s a high variance slot.
  • Another way you can determine the slot’s variance is to look at the maximum bet per spin available. For example, high variance slots have the opportunity to land bigger winnings, so they might come with smaller maximum bets.
  • Before playing an online slot for real money, you can always play it in the demo version and test out its variance. If you land frequent winnings with lower value, then you’re playing a low variance slot. If you don’t land many winnings but when you win, you win big, then it’s a high variance slot.
  • Finally, you can look at the prizes that are offered in the game. If you see huge prizes and jackpots, it is probably a medium or high variance slot.

How To Choose The Right Slot Variance For You?

Of course, choosing the right slot according to its theme, provider, and bonus features is important, but you should always consider its variance when deciding which slot game you’re going to play next. For that reason, we’ve put a couple of points you should take into consideration when choosing the right slot variance for you.

Play high variance slots if you:

  • Have a large budget;
  • Want to take risks;
  • Don’t mind waiting too long for bigger winnings;
  • Don’t mind waiting too long for bonus features to be triggered;
  • Are ready to stop playing when you’ve used all your budget.

Play medium-high variance slots if you:

  • Have played medium variance slots and are ready to take more risks;
  • Look for bigger winnings;
  • Look for a balance between the size of your win and the win frequency.

Play medium variance slots if you:

  • Have a limited budget but want to win bigger prizes;
  • Want to play slots with many bonus features;
  • Like to play for fun but also want to win;
  • Are a new player but are confident enough to risk.

Play low-medium variance slots if you:

  • Are interested in the bonus features;
  • Are new to the world of online slots but want to take your gameplay on the next level;
  • Want to have fun with more excitement.

Play low variance slots if you:

  • Play with a small budget;
  • Want to have fun;
  • Don’t want taking big risks;
  • Want to play for a longer time;
  • Want to win often, even if the wins are small;
  • Don’t want to wait too long for bonus features to be triggered.

Volatility vs Variance: Is There a Difference?

When you start playing online slots, you’ll notice that terms “Volatility” and “Variance” refer to the same thing. In fact, that is true - both terms refer to the combination of three main features of online slots: the game’s level of risk, the amount paid and the frequency of the payouts. Both volatility and variance determine the behaviour and gameplay of a slot.

However, there are some slight differences between volatility and variance that slot experts want to pay attention to. Variance is a statistical term that was first used in poker games and has been transferred to slot games too. On the other hand, volatility is widely used in finance for evaluating financial instruments. All in all, no matter if you decide to use the term “volatility” or “variance” for describing the frequency of the payouts in online slots, the answer will be the same.

What is RTP?

Alongside variance, the Return to Player percentage (RTP) is another important factor to take into consideration when choosing the best online slot for you. The RTP, also known as the Payout Percentage, is a term used to describe the theoretical payout percentage that is being returned to the player. It’s actually very simple to explain what RTP is. 

As its title suggests, RTP returns the amount of percentage determined by the developers to the players, while keeping the rest for themselves. All reputable slot developers make sure that RTP percentages of all slots are clearly displayed in the statistics of their online slot games. Moreover, here at SlotsWise, we always include the RTP percentages in our Slot Reviews.

The RTP is calculated by taking the total amount returned to players, divided by the total amount gambled by players. Also, please note that the RTP is calculated over the long term, not per wager. After all, online slots are built with a Random Number Generator, but the RTP percentage gives us helpful information. 

The higher the percentage is, the more amount players can win over a longer period of time. For example, if you play a game that has a 96% RTP and you put in £100, you can expect to win £96 back, while the rest £4 go to the developer of the slot, the company or whatsoever.

The Return to Player doesn’t have a direct relationship with the variance, but the variance of a slot can impact your chances of getting the theoretical returns. For example, if you play a high variance slot with 96% RTP, you will land less frequent wins but they could be over 1000x your stake. But, if you play a low variance slot with the same 96% RTP, you will get smaller but frequent wins and get close to the theoretical £96 minimum limit. Generally, low variance slots have higher RTPs while high variance slots have lower RTPs.

Hit Frequency

Another term you might come across when playing at online casinos is the Hit Frequency. It describes how often a machine will stop on a winning combination. For example, if a machine has a hit frequency of 30%, it means that the machine will stop on a winning combination about 30% of the time. So, the hit frequency refers to how often (on average) a winning combination will come up. On the other hand, RTP refers to the percentage of all money wagered will be returned to you over time.

How to Make the Most of Variance and RTP

If you want to play the best online slot for your needs and preferences, always make sure that you make the most out of the game’s variance and RTP percentage. Here are a number of factors to take into account when deciding which online slot is the best choice for your style of play.

  • Play demo games before playing for real money, free games are always beneficial and helpful to determine your strategy;
  • Set a budget and stick to it, and always know when it’s time to quit. Never spend more than you can afford! It’s necessary to take time to prepare a budget that you can afford to spend on slots, in order to stay away from financial trouble. You can track your spending by looking at your transactions at any time;
  • Search for the variance and RTP of each game, as there’s no point in waiting for a big win on a low variance slot, or expecting frequent wins when playing a high variance slot;
  • Always play at trusted online casinos where slots are tested and certified for fair play and honest payouts!

New Online Slots With Different Variance And RTP

Now that you’ve learnt more about Variance, Volatility and RTP, it’s time for you to start playing your favourite games. Here at SlotsWise, we have a regularly updated list of new online slots. They come with different themes, bonus features, mechanics, as well as with different Variance and RTP. So, make sure to visit our page and try some games for free, in order to find the best one for you. Alternatively, if you want to learn more about a certain slot you like, read our Slot Reviews.

In Conclusion

Variance and RTP are one of the most important factors when choosing the best online slot for you. Depending on what type of slot player you are, you might want to risk and win big or want to stay low and have fun with games that produce small prizes. For that reason, remember to always check these factors before playing a certain slot. Also, remember that at the end of the day, online slots are built with a Random Number Generator so it depends on how lucky you are in terms of whether you’ll win or not. Our aim here is to help you balance your budget and entertainment when playing online slots.

At SlotsWise, you can always find the best new slot sites in the UK where you can register and play your favourite games. These slots websites offer hundreds of online slots to choose from, and you can easily find the Variance and the RTP percentage of every game you’re interested in playing. So, feel free to go through our list, read our casino reviews and claim your welcome bonus. Good luck playing!