Slot Machine Volatility: Tips From an Expert

While slot machines are all determined by random number generators, the games each have their own level of volatility to determine whether they are high risk, high return, or relatively low return but with a better chance of smaller wins.

Slot Machine Volatility: Tips From an Expert
Slot Machine Volatility: Tips From an Expert

If you take a look at slot machine reviews, you will notice that there are a few criteria that people tend to use when explaining the slots and evaluating the chance of gaining a return when playing. 

While slot machines are all determined by random number generators, the games each have their own level of volatility to determine whether they are high risk, high return, or relatively low return but with a better chance of smaller wins.

In this guide, we’re sharing some tips on the volatility of slot games and trying to help people to understand how slots work. Do you want to play a game that has a higher volatility and hope for the jackpot or are you satisfied with a low volatility slot? 

Slot Volatility Basics

Leanna Madden, a slot volatility expert, explains that “volatility is related to risk and potential reward in gaming, higher volatility games can potentially have bigger winnings, but they don’t pay as frequently or regularly.” 

Slot volatility is a metric based on how often a win is the outcome, as well as the typical size of the wins. Slots with higher volatility may not trigger wins very often, but when they are triggered, they tend to be much higher. A slot machine that offers 3,000x or 5,000x your stake may be high volatility, and will not trigger the wins as often but will have the potential for the player to land a bigger win.

A slot that has a lower or medium volatility tends to pay out smaller wins but may do so more frequently. This means that players may get returns more often, even if they are not necessarily likely to be big returns.

It is crucial that anybody who wants to play a slot game understands that it always depends on luck, and even slots that are less volatile require some luck if you are going to win. Volatility can be seen as a way to partially control the risk, but you must remember that luck will always play a part.

Below, we have a quick breakdown of what to expect at different volatility levels. Remember, this is just a guideline and there are no guarantees it will play out as described below.

Low Volatility Slots

A low volatility slot is one that probably provides more wins for its players, though these wins are often smaller. Even if a low volatility slot has a very big potential payout or jackpot, the likelihood of triggering this is low. During gameplay, you are more likely to trigger small wins that are 1.5x or 2x the stake, which is ideal when fulfilling the wagering requirements attached to online casino bonuses."

On low volatility slots, you are less likely to go a long time without getting any sort of win at all. Long losing streaks are less common, but they can happen. 

Medium Volatility Slots

There are plenty of slots out there that can be described as having medium volatility. This means they provide a balance between the lower risk but lower wins slots, and the high risk, but potentially high return. 

With a medium volatility slot, it is still possible to get some potentially big returns, and these aren’t particularly rare, but you’re also less likely to go a long time without getting any kind of win at all. 

Medium volatility slots are also often laden with other features and may have minigames within them.

High Volatility Slot

If you see a slot that has 3,000x or 10,000x as the potential return, then it is likely to be a high volatility slot. 

These games are made in a certain way that means they are better for shooting for the stars.

Think of it like betting on a sport, these slots are the equivalent of a long shot bet. You might not win them very often, but it is likely you will get a higher return when you do strike.

A high volatility slot game can also be the kind of game where you don’t win anything for a while. You may go through relatively long sessions of playing and not land a win, but when it does come, it is likely to be higher than you would get on a low volatility slot. 

This is where the term volatility comes from in this respect. They are more unpredictable and, well… volatile. This term is also used in reference to the stock market to mean the same thing.

Not all slots fall into the low, medium or high volatility brackets perfectly, so you might hear them referred to as things like a “low-medium volatility slot”. This just means they are in an in-between place.

How to Work out Volatility

If you are looking to work out the specific volatility of a slot game, there are some quite complex sums involved. 

Fortunately, when you are looking at slot game comparisons and reviews, they will often show you a precise volatility for the slot, or at least a rough estimate.

The slot developers themselves might also record the specific volatility of that slot, scored in their own metrics, to help you make a decision.

Slot machines sometimes have a paytable, which is where you find information on the payout and how much different symbols provide if you match them as a win. If there is a certain point on the slot where the payouts become much higher, it is possible that you’re looking at a higher volatility slot.

If you are matching three, four and five of a symbol, and the payout varies hugely between matching three and matching five, it may well be that you are dealing with a very volatile slot.

If the slot has some big jackpots and payouts or potential cash prizes, then this can also be a sign that it is high volatility. This isn’t always the case, and slots do vary somewhat.

Some games have more of an option to gamble within the slot itself. For instance, a game such as 20 Ember Wilds has its own in-game risk ladder which users can alter based on their tolerance to risk. Of course, if someone is constantly risking more, then it is possible they are effectively making the game more volatile.

Check the highest betting limit on the games, as often the higher volatility games have lower maximum stakes.

Playing the game itself is often one of the best ways to understand the volatility that it offers. You can often do this without parting with any money too. Many slot developers provide a free version of the game to play as a demo. You can’t win any real money playing a demo, but you get an idea of how frequently the game provides wins and the kind of payouts it can offer.

Are Volatility and RTP Related?

The volatility of a slot machine is related to the RTP, but not directly. The RTP rate is an important consideration for players, so you should check the specifics of any slot you are going to play. 

If a slot has an RTP of 95%, it means that over a long enough time span, for every $100 wagered, $95 of that goes back into a pot for users to potentially win. It doesn’t guarantee that any returns will come back to a specific player, but it does means that the casino will pay out that percentage in prizes over time.

Games with either high or medium volatilities can have similar RTPs. If you think of it as a pot of winnings, a slot that has a 95% RTP may mean that the prizes build up over a longer time and trigger less frequently, but they’re bigger when they come. A lower volatility slot may give a pretty steady trickle of smaller wins.

A higher RTP is a good thing in general, and though it should be part of the consideration for anybody looking to play slot games, it isn’t directly linked to volatility. RTP has more to do with how much profit the casino and slot game company will be taking. 

Choosing What’s Right for You

If you just want to play a slot game for a little while and try and get some steady returns or a longer spell of gaming, then lower volatility options may be the choice. If you are looking to shoot for the stars and hope to get a jackpot or a big return, then it is possible that you might choose something with higher volatility. This is especially true if you are happy to write off the original sum and hope for a return rather than expect anything back.


One thing that certainly exists in the world of online slots is choice. Consumers can opt for the type of slot they want, and this includes theme, design and even the volatility of the slot. Our expert tips will help you to understand this volatility and how it might impact the outcome of your game.

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