Volatility of Slots Machines

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Volatility of slots is quite a complicated concept so we’ll start with an explanation of volatility in roulette:
  • When betting on color you can win 2 times your bet and you win quite often (18 of 37 rounds).
  • When betting on number you can win 36 times your bet but you win only in 1 in 37 rounds.
The volatility of roulette can be easily expressed in numbers from 2 to 36, depending on what type of stake you take. Higher volatility means that your individual wins will be higher. However, you will win less often and you are more likely to lose your entire budget faster.

Volatility of a slot game can’t be expressed as a single number, as you can win thousands of different win amounts as a result of the many different winning combinations.

As volatility can’t be expressed as a single number, game providers usually only classify slot into either "low", "medium", or "high" volatility categories. These categories can’t be effectively compared, nor used in any calculations, but they can give you at least a basic idea about the volatility of the game you are about to play.

Finding the real slot volatility is a very difficult task. Basically, you have to reverse-engineer the reel set of a game and properly estimate probabilities of other special game features.

Slot volatility can be roughly estimated from the paytable and the reel set. Look for the highest winning combination. What is the chance of hitting it? How much will you win?

In high volatility games you can win higher amounts, with lower stakes. And lower stakes mean that you’ll statistically lose less. This effect can easily compensate for a slightly lower RTP (return to player).

For example, lotteries often have an RTP of 50%, but the chances of winning the jackpot and becoming a multimillionaire keeps the masses playing it.

When not taking into account the lottery, slots are the most volatile type of game you can play in a casino. The advantage of high volatility can beat the high RTP of games like Blackjack or Roulette.