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Slots Volatility

The beauty of online slots is that there are thousands available in all shapes and sizes. You can play for record-breaking progressive jackpots if you have the bankroll, or bet a few pennies on Classic fruit machine-style games with one or two paylines.

Different online slots have different paylines, betting sizes, and jackpots. But slots also vary hugely on the frequency with which they pay out. The difference between slots' payout frequencies is the volatility.

What is Volatility?

Volatility in slots refers the frequency and size of the payouts. Slots can award huge jackpots once in a blue moon or reward players with 'small and often' wins.

Essentially, the volatility relates to the payouts and the way symbols are arranged on the reels. You might get lots of Scatters (hence they land on the reels regularly) but the payouts aren't as good.

Volatility can be categorised in three ways: High, Low and Medium:

  • High Volatility: Take a standard 5-reel slot from NetEnt. You might have 25 paylines with all sorts of Wilds, Scatters and bonus icons. While those bonus icons and Wilds pay big jackpots, they don't hit all that often, and nor do the standard paylines. The slot can be described as having high volatility.
  • Example: Mega Moolah (Microgaming) - Microgaming's progressive jackpot slot, Mega Moolah, has been a popular game with slots players for years. The draw is the four-tier progressive which can, at random, award prizes from £10 to £1 million - at MINIMUM. But with a randomly-triggered jackpot, and Wild jackpots at 15,000 coins, Mega Moolah is definitely at the high-end of the volatility scale.

  • Low Volatility: Now let's take a 9-payline slot from Novomatic. There are lots of low-paying non-bonus icons that hit regularly to give the player lots of small wins. Bonuses might be restricted to a single Wild and nothing else. These types of slots are regarded as low-volatility.
  • Example: Break Da Bank (Microgaming) - At the other end of the scale, the 5-payline Break da Bank is a classic 3-reel slot with just four symbols that form winning combinations. Any three BAR symbols on a payline pays five coins, which means you'll be hitting lots of small, regular wins. With so few paylines and bonus features (just the single Wild icon), the volatility is pretty low.

  • Medium Volatility: If a slot has medium volatility, it comes in the middle of the Low and High-Volatility slots. You might hit a nice run of low-paying winning symbols before triggering a free spins round with retriggerable spins or a multiplier. The jackpots won't pay too much, but the regular symbols hit often enough to give your bankroll a decent boost long-term.
  • Example: Dead or Alive (NetEnt) - NetEnt is no stranger to medium-volatile slots. Dead or Alive is a good example as its jackpots are fairly standard (200-1000 coins for jackpots). There's also a Sticky Wild feature in the base game, and a basic Free Spins bonus which pays 2x on each win.

So, how do you know how volatile a slot is before you play? A top tip is to check the paytable and looking at the symbol payouts. Every symbol has its own jackpot: if a symbol has a 250 or 300-coin jackpot or less, the slot is more likely to be low-volatile (i.e. the symbol will form lots of winning combinations). If the symbol has a jackpot worth 10,000 coins (like a Wild), the slot is more likely to be high-volatile.

Similarly, you can look at the value of the lowest-paying symbol. If the lowest-paying jackpots are quite low it will be a low-volatility slot. If the lowest-paying combo pays high, it's a high-volatility game.

High Volatility vs. Low Volatility

Avoiding volatility is really about personal choice. You might be comfortable losing £100 in order to have a shot at winning £500 in one go. Alternatively, you might want to take a few £1 wins and take your winnings without going broke. At the same time, you won't end up a millionaire.

Luckily, at most online casinos you'll be able to try slots for free. Free-play slots give you a chance to test the volatility of the game. You can gamble with 100 free-play spins to test how often the bonus rounds tend to come around. You can also read the paytables to see how much the highest-paying symbols dish out.

Making the Right Plays

Every online slot has a Return to Player (RTP) percentage programmed into the game maths. The RTP is a theoretical long-term payout made by the slot to players.

For example, a slot with an RTP of 95% will pay out - over the long term - £95 for every £100 gambled. Of course, slots can pay out big jackpots before you wager that much, and it's possible to 'hit and run' before losing cash.

RTPs are more accurate if a slot is less volatile. For example, a classic low-volatility slot without any bonus rounds will likely pay out roughly what the long-term RTP says it will.

High Volatility, Big Coins: Players can affect the volatility of their favourite slots by making sensible plays. If small wins are few and far between, it's no point betting at small coin levels.

If a slot has big jackpots, hit the maximum number of coins, and the biggest coin bet your budget will allow. Your losing streaks will be long, but once they end it could be a big payday.

Choosing the Right Online Slots

Volatility isn't an exact science in slots. High-volatility slots that don't hit very often may pay out massive jackpots quite quickly, but as it's random you'll have no idea when.

A good plan is to split your bankroll between high and low-volatility slots. Save 20% of your roll on a volatile game with a progressive jackpot. Meanwhile, keep the majority of your money for 'bread n' butter' slots that reward regular, small wins.

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