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What is mobile slot volatility & variance?

Updated Jun 19th, 2024

The volatility or variance of a slot (two terms, same meaning) basically asks one simple question “How risky is this slot machine?”

By risk, we mean the chances of walking away with cash in our pockets. Suddenly, slot machine volatility is becoming a fascinating subject.

Now, you might think you would want to play low-risk machines or low-volatility slots.

But if it were as simple as that, we would put five stars to the low variance slots and one star to the high variance slots and be done with the mobile slot reviews. “These slots are the slots that pay out more!” How easy, but less exciting, gambling would be.

Of course, it’s not like that at all. All forms of gambling involve risk as every mobile casino game has a house edge. Yet you’ll notice we have a good selection of five-star mobile slots that fit both low and high-volatility categories.

Which you prefer will depend on the kind of player you are and what you are expecting to get from mobile slot games. As such, we try to recognise mobile slot machines that are the best of their types and let you decide which is for you.

How can slot variance affect how I play mobile slots?

Have you noticed how some slot games seem to give you wins every other spin, and some don’t give you anything for 50 spins? How often and how much a slot pays out is directly related to its variance and its House Edge or Return to Player Rate.

Below, we explain the different types of volatility slots and give you some examples of the kind of slot machines best suited for you.

What is a low volatility mobile slot?

Low volatility slots are great fun for players who don’t have a huge amount of cash to spare. Whether that’s because you are more of a casual gambler or are waiting for payday, good low-volatility slots allow you to stretch your budget to the max.

Why? Low volatility slots will give you lots of little payouts often. Every three to 5 spins, you’ll get a little something, even if it’s just a token gesture of your bet back.

When you do get a decent win, it will probably bring you a little over your starting budget, so you can keep spinning.

Starburst - Example Low Volatility Slot
Starburst - Example Low Volatility Slot

The trick to playing low volatility slots is finding those with a fairly good maximum win. Generally, if you can walk away with about 20% on top of your starting balance, we recommend you consider calling it a night. That’s a good win on a low variance slot.

That’s because these tend to have lower jackpot amounts than high volatility slots. The wins here are not huge, but that’s why they are low risk slots; the maximum amount you can win is not huge, but you’re less likely to lose it all in a few spins.

Good examples of low volatility slots: Potion Commotion, Fruit Shop, Halloweenies, Mermaid Millions, Mr Vegas, Balloonies, Enchanted CrystalsStarburst.

What is a medium volatility mobile slot?

Medium volatility slots are our favourites. You can tell we edge towards the riskier slots, right? Well, those who sit right bang in the middle are the best in our world. They tend to pay out big enough from time to time to keep you going (though you can go for about 20-30 spins without seeing a penny… beware!) but still have the hope of a large jackpot.

You’ll need to know how to budget your cash. Medium volatility slots are, in many ways, more unpredictable than high volatility slots. Probably because in the back of your mind, you’ll be expecting to get equal amounts of little and big wins, and sometimes they don’t come, or seem to come every two spins, and it will frustrate some players not to know what to expect.

Rainbow Riches - Example Medium Volatility Slot
Rainbow Riches - Example Medium Volatility Slot

At least you know where you stand with the other two slot volatilities. Walking that middle ground is risky business. With these mobile slots, it’s always best to decide how much you are going to bet before going in and stick to it. If you get about 30% or 40% on top of your starting bet… hurray! Now, it’s time to walk away.

Good examples of medium volatility slots: South ParkThunderstruck II, Jack Hammer, Super Safari, The Incredible Hulk, Aliens, Rainbow Riches, Game of Thrones.

What is a high volatility mobile slot?

These are the high-thrill machines. The jackpot slots. The contenders and rock’n roll slot games that give two fingers up to life, live fast and die young.

But boy, can they create some awe-inspiring music to shatter the soul. With just one spin, you can get anything from 300x your bet upwards to 200,000x your stake like in the Starburst XXXtreme slot. That’s a sweet melody you hear. The ching, ching, ching of a mega win rolling across your screen as the win gets bigger and bigger…. and BIGGER.

Starburst XXXtreme - Example High Volatility Slot
Starburst XXXtreme - Example High Volatility Slot

What’s that you also hear? Silence? Aaaah yes… Much like the rock’n roll stars we know and love, high volatility slots are not very reliable. They have big in-game jackpots that are beautifully tempting and wonderful. But patience is the key here. You’ll end up playing quite a few spins where it feels you are not winning much of anything at all. A decent casino bankroll that ensures you can play at least a minimum of 150 spins is key here.

Ever heard of the saying ‘No Risk, No Rewards’? Slot machines with high variance need patience, and you have to be ok with the thought that on this particular gaming session, you could walk away with nothing. But when you do win, you end up in our Big Slot Winners stories with stars in your eyes.

Good examples of high volatility slots: Great Blue, Gonzo’s Quest, Twin Spin, Kitty GlitterIsis, 300 Shields, Crown of Egypt, Book of Ra Deluxe, Starburst XXXtreme.

The Impact of Low and High Volatility

Differences in Payout Frequency

Low volatility slots offer frequent but smaller wins, while high volatility slots provide less frequent but larger payouts. For low volatility games, the wins come more often, keeping you engaged with consistent small victories. Conversely, high volatility slots have longer gaps between wins, leading to a higher level of anticipation for the next big win.

Effect on Bankroll Management

Low volatility slots are generally considered less risky for bankroll management as they provide a steady stream of smaller wins, allowing you to sustain your gameplay for longer periods. On the other hand, high volatility slots require careful bankroll management due to the potential for long dry spells without significant wins.

Player Preferences for Each Type

Some players prefer low volatility slots as they enjoy the regularity of small wins and prolonged gameplay without depleting their funds quickly. Conversely, others are drawn to high volatility slots like the Money Train 4 slot because of the excitement and potential for substantial payouts despite the intermittent nature of these rewards.

Understanding Slot Volatility

Determining Factors Influencing Slot Variance

Slot variance, also known as slot volatility, is influenced by several key factors. These include the game’s mathematical design, such as the number of symbols on each reel and the probability of landing winning combinations. The presence of bonus features like free spins and multipliers can significantly impact a slot’s variance.

Impact on Overall Casino Experience

The variance of a slot game can greatly affect your overall casino experience. High volatility slots offer the potential for substantial wins but with less frequent payouts, creating an exhilarating yet risky gameplay experience. On the other hand, low variance slots provide more frequent wins but with smaller payouts, offering a more stable and predictable gaming experience.

Influence on Game Popularity

Slot variance plays a crucial role in determining a game’s popularity among players. High volatility slots often attract thrill-seeking players who are drawn to the excitement of chasing big wins. Conversely, low volatility slots appeal to those who prefer extended playtime and more consistent small wins.

Knowledge Enhancement Benefits

Understanding slot variance empowers players to make informed decisions about their gaming preferences. By grasping the concept of slot volatility, you can strategically choose games that align with their risk tolerance and desired gameplay experience.

How you can tell the slot machine volatility

Well, we won’t lie, it’s not always easy. Casino software providers do not tend to like revealing the variance of their slots. It’s not like they give us a huge advantage in playing other than knowing how to budget our wallets.

Whenever possible, we go to the source and find out from the supplier. Some software like Pragmatic Play slots clearly states the volatility within the paytable, along with the max win and RTP, letting you know what you’re getting into before you spin.

If we can’t get the information, we play. And play. And play some more. Then, we look at a few signs that can give away the slot machine’s volatility rating.

You can make a judgement call for yourself based on these little tips:

  • Does it pay out little and often over the course of 150 spins? Low variance.
  • High in-game jackpots? Probably at least a mid to high variance slot.
  • Is the difference between a 4-of-a-kind win and a 5-of-a-kind win at least 10 to 15 times more? High volatility. If only 3x to 5x more, then lower volatility.
  • Even if you are only winning small amounts, when you do win big, is it at least 40x to 50x your bet? Mid to high variance.

The best advice we can give you is to play at least 200 spins. I know we say 150, but 200 is safer. That way, you can see if any big wins were a one-off or not.

Of course, only some have the cash to play every slot for 200 spins. We are not suggesting that because that’s certainly not what we do. We gamble on all the slots we play, but we recommend you start how we do:

  • Play mobile slots for free first
  • Put auto-spin on if you have it
  • Look at how the slot plays and its average payouts

You’ll soon start recognising some patterns.

Why you could be wrong

Because some mobile slots are just there to take your money and run, they play like a high volatility slot, but when they do pay out, it’s such a small amount you might as well have given the money away.

This is why you should also always look at a slot machine return to player rate, or in our reviews, the House Edge. We’ve written a whole section on it so you understand why this is important and how it’s tied closely to the slot volatility.

Alternatively, have a read our list of mobile slots reviews. We give our opinion on both these subjects, and if you’re not sure even after reading, ask us.

Write a comment. We will be more than happy to respond and improve our mobile slot reviews. After all, we are not writing these as a sadistic writing exercise; we write them so you can use our experience to pick the video slots that will bring you the most fun.

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How does slot volatility affect my chances of winning?

Slot volatility directly impacts both the frequency and size of potential wins. Low volatility slots offer more frequent but smaller wins, while high volatility slots provide less frequent but larger payouts.

Are there specific strategies for playing low or high volatility slots?

Yes, there are different slot strategies for each type. For low volatility slots, it’s advisable to aim for consistent smaller wins by playing longer sessions with moderate bets. On the other hand, high volatility slots may require patience as they often involve longer dry spells before hitting substantial wins.


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