The topic of volatility is not very intuitive for players when it comes to how it works for online slots. The basic idea is that it’s a measure of what the swings will be like in terms of long losing sessions between wins, but it also tells you a lot about how you should handle bankroll management and other aspects of how you actually go about playing your favorite games.
We’re going to break this idea down for you in a way that is easy to understand, show how it applies to online slots and show what you can do about it to make your sessions go as smoothly as possible.
Slot Volatility on a Conceptual Level
The basic concept of volatility is that it tells you how long it will take, on average, for things to “even out” in terms of how often each of the possible results of gambling will take. For example, let’s say we’re flipping a fair coin, and if it’s heads, you win $3, and if it’s tails, you lose $1. On average, you’d be winning $1 per flip in the long run, and you wouldn’t have to deal with big swings at all with this proposition.
Now suppose we’re rolling a fair, six-sided die. If it rolls a six, then you win $11, and if it rolls any other number, you lose $1. Again, you’ll average winning $1 per roll over the long run. However, you’ll have much greater swings in the short run. You’ll notice that with the more value added to the top end of a payout schedule, the less likely it is to win, and that’s what drives the volatility up, conceptually speaking.
If you can understand the basic difference between these two examples of gambling on simple events, then you can extend that to see how it works in the context of an online slot.
Characteristics of High-Volatility Online Slots
You can tell that a game has a higher volatility than average by looking at the pay table and how the bonus features work in most cases. What you’re looking for is how there are a lot of top-tier payouts grouped at the high end of the payout schedule, especially features that have a lot of extras like big multipliers or additional ways to win. This is like the big prize for winning in the dice game. The bigger the prizes and the less likely you are to win, the higher the volatility.
Progressive jackpot games are a perfect example of this, and that’s why they are generally considered to be the games with the highest volatility that you can find in the industry as a whole. Whenever you can win a six-figure, seven-figure or even eight-figure payout on a fairly small wager, then it’s clear that the volatility is going to be extremely high because so much value is tied up in a payout that’s particularly unlikely to hit.
How Low-Volatility Slots Differ
Oh the far opposite end of the spectrum, you have games that have a particularly low volatility. One of the first things to look at is what the top payouts look like. They are normally much lower with the top individual payout being 1,000x or lower. Additionally, there will virtually never be a progressive jackpot available.
Another important sign of a low-volatility slot is when the hit-rate is significantly higher. You’ll get a lot of smaller wins and mid-sized wins that make up for the value that it seems like you’re missing out on from not having the larger payouts available. It tends to provide a more relaxing style of gameplay, but different players have different wants and needs, and some prefer one level of volatility over the other.
Bankroll Management and Volatility
Players should use a somewhat different bankroll management strategy depending on the volatility of the games that they’re playing. The main adjustment you should make is that you should play with a smaller bet size per spin the higher the volatility of the game happens to be, with all else being equal. The reason for this is easier to understand if you really get the difference between the coin-flipping and die-rolling examples given up above.
When the volatility of a game is higher, it makes you have longer losing streaks before you hit some wins that “catch up” your account balance. Likewise, when the volatility is lower, you don’t have those long swings that can wipe out your account balance. This is why you need to be more conservative with your bet sizing when it comes to high-volatility online slots so that you give the game time to hit some wins and bring your account balance back up.
Which Level of Volatility Should You Prefer?
Your own preferences on volatility will be a function of your preferences on play style. If you’re the type of player who wants a smooth, relaxing experience, then you’ll probably prefer low-volatility slots. However, if you want a chance to win a huge jackpot, and you’re willing to run through your entire account balance trying, then high-volatility games are going to be what you want to go with. It’s largely a stylistic decision, and you’re completely able to pick out whichever approach works best for you. In short, there is no right or wrong answer.
How to Use This Information
If you want to use this information to have the best sessions possible, then there are a few things you’ll need to do. First, adjust your bet sizing according to if you’re playing a high-volatility or low-volatility slot. Second, pick out the types of games you want to play based on how their volatility affects your preferred play styles. If you do these two things, you’ll have much more enjoyable slot sessions, and you’ll get more out of your play. These are the best two things that you can do to make adjustments based on the volatility of the games you play, and they’re very important adjustments to make.