Volatility and Variation in Online Slots: A Complete Guide

Volatility and Variance in Online Slots: A Complete Guide

First thing first, in the world of online gambling, Volatility and Variation are exactly identical terms. Though, as I have noticed, online casino players tend to refer to it as Volatility more often, so I am going to stick to it in the article as well.

Volatility, along with RTP (House Edge) and Winning Hit frequency, are the most crucial parameters of any slot game, meaning they affect the overall gaming experience in a big way.

Speaking about Volatility, in general, it determines how fast a particular online slot empties your balance. However, there is much more going on so let’s elaborate on:

  • The main aspects of Volatility and why Volatility is a big deal

  • Types of Volatility and different approaches to it

  • Volatility and its impact on other crucial parameters of online slots, such as, RTP (House Edge) and Hit frequency

What’s Volatility and its two main aspects


So many guides describe Volatility as something that defines how risky a particular video slot is, which is true but not very helpful, in my opinion.

Volatility is all about how fast or slow an online slot “eats” your balance. For example, let’s say you have deposited 50 EUR and bet 1 EUR per spin. Volatility answers the question how much of a balance you are going to be left with after some number of spins. In low Volatility slots, after 100 spins, even in case of a terrible loss streak, your balance won’t be emptied. On the other hand, in high Volatility slots, you may run out of money even after 60-70 spins.

If we dive a little bit deeper, there are two main factors that determine how fast or slow an online slot “eats” the balance. They are:

  • How often you get any winnings. Low volatile slots tend to produce winnings more frequently (30-40% of spins will cause at least some winning), whereas high volatile slots let to win not too often (only 10-15% of spins are expected to be successful).

  • How big winnings are. Don’t expect big winnings in low volatile slots (since they are quite frequent), though in high volatile slots winnings are much more appealing (as it is harder to get them).

However, it is not as simple as that. Both hit frequency and the size of winnings must be considered only all together. Otherwise, it would not make sense. For example, an online slot might allow you to win quite frequently, but your balance melts down fast anyway. Why is it the case? As you may have concluded, these winnings are too small (for example, for 1 EUR per spin you get 20c of a winning), and it does not make much of a difference whether they exist or not, since your balance is contracting rapidly.

So to speak, many casino players mistakenly deem online slots that pay quite frequently as low volatile slots. When in fact they are often missing out the size of winnings. That’s why I feel like “Volatility tells how fast or slow an online slot empties your balance” reflects the nature of Volatility in the best way, because it takes into account both Hit frequency and the size of winnings.

What makes Volatility so important

Here we are going to discuss what Volatility means from the practical standpoint, and why Volatility is so important to establish whenever you are choosing a new slot game to play.

As we have learned, low volatile slots “eat” the balance relatively slowly, whereas high volatile slots do it rather quickly. Sounds like everyone should play only low volatile slots? As you have surely figured out, it is not like that. Here we can apply such a concept as “high risk and high reward vs low risk and low reward”.

Hence, high volatile slots can easily devastate your balance very quickly, but a small number of lucky players are going to be rewarded in a big way (we are speaking even about life changing money in many cases).

On the opposite side, low volatile slots keep your balance afloat, but you can not expect to get a really huge winning.

Now you can see how gaming experience is very different in low and high volatile slots. That’s why casino players should be aware of Volatility.

Different approaches to the types of Volatility

Volatility in online slots is not an exact science. It reflects subjective experience, for the most part. If the software provider has not specified the Volatility level of its slot game, then casino players are left on their own to assess it.

The same is true when it comes to the types (or grades) of Volatility. There is no consensus view across the board. However, the majority of guides separate online slots in terms of Volatility into these three groups: High, Medium and Low.

As for me, it is rather a narrow division. I prefer to introduce two additional groups: Medium-High and Medium-Low. I believe it allows us to better understand the Volatility level of a particular online slot.

Here are the 5 levels of Volatility along with a rating of online slots (in terms of RTP) for each Volatility level:

High Volatility level

A rating of online slots with high Volatility level

Medium-High Volatility level

A rating of online slots with medium-high Volatility level

Medium Volatility level

A rating of online slots with medium Volatility level

Medium-Low Volatility level

A rating of online slots with medium-low Volatility level

Low Volatility level

A rating of online slots with low Volatility level

How does Volatility interact with RTP and Hit frequency


Volatility and RTP

There is no correlation between Volatility and RTP so that they exist independently. Hence, you can easily come across high volatile slots with high RTP, high volatile slots with miserable RTP, low volatile slots with high RTP, low volatile slots with terrible RTP, and many other combinations of them.

Volatility and Hit frequency

As we have learned from the previous chapters, low volatile slots tend to have higher Hit frequency, whereas high volatile slots are more likely to have lower Hit frequency. There is a very clear correlation between two of them, no question about that. However, please be careful, as we have already discussed that it is not dogma. The size of average winnings matters no more than Hit frequency itself.

Different types of winnings and their impact on Volatility

As we all know, online slots have got different types of winnings, namely: a winning per line, a winning during Free spins round, a winning derived from a Bonus game and some others.

Is Volatility getting affected by different types of winnings differently? In fact, not at all. The only thing that matters is the size of the winning, and from where it comes plays absolutely no role.

How do software providers set Volatility level

Any online slot is nothing more than a computer program. So software providers, with the help of RNG, set different Hit frequency and the size of winnings. That’s how they implicitly affect the Volatility level of a particular slot game as well.


Hopefully you have learned something new throughout the article. I will remind one more time how Volatility is crucial for your gaming experience in online slots. The understanding of Volatility can definitely bring much more fun to the table as you are going to pick up an online slot according to your personal preferences.

If you would like to chill and hang out for some time, then low volatile slots is your place to go. Though if you are aiming at really big winnings, only high volatile slots can make it happen. But long loss streaks are to be expected.