What Defines Loose Slot Machines: RTP or Volatility?

Casino Slot Machines in a Row, Money Pile with Green Arrows Going Up and Down
If you’re into casino gambling, then you’ve likely seen ads for loose slot machines. For example, a casino will claim that they have the “loosest slots” in the area.

You can probably figure out that loose slots indicate casino slot games that are generous with payouts. But what exactly defines a loose slot machine? Is it return to player (RTP) or volatility?

I’m going to discuss more on this topic by covering RTP vs volatility in depth. I’ll also come to a conclusion on which term better defines a loose slot machine.

What Is RTP?

Return to player refers to how much a slot is programmed to pay back to the average player. If a game has 95% RTP, for example, then it’ll pay $0.95 on the dollar to the average gambler.

However, slot machines don’t offer such clean structures. They’re not like baccarat, where they pay players around 50% of the time.

Instead, slot machines are among the most volatile games in the casino. You can never predict when your next prize is coming with slots. Therefore, you want to think about RTP’s validity in the short run.

Payout percentages indicate how much a game is programmed to pay over countless hours. You’re unlikely to hit the exact payout percentage of a slot machine in a given session. Instead, you’ll either lose or win far more than the stated RTP.

What Is Volatility in Relation to Slot Machines?

Row of Casino Slot Machines, Red Arrow Going Up and Down
Volatility is a measure of risk. It essentially defines how often a slot machine will pay over a specific period of time.

This term is often confused with variance in slot machine games. The latter also measures the risk of a slot machine, but it’s not bound by a certain length of time.

Volatility and variance are both worth considering for slot machines. But chances are that you’re more concerned with how much risk you’re assuming in a given session.

The most volatile slot machines pay less frequently than the average game. They make up for low hit frequency by offering more big prizes.

The most volatile slots pay more often than the typical slot machine. However, they also have smaller jackpots and/or fewer bonuses.

How Should a Loose Slot Be Measured?

Casinos don’t offer any explanation when they throw out the term “loose slot machines.” You and I are tasked with filling in the blanks.

For my take, low volatility is a better measure of loose slots than RTP. After all, I’m more concerned with how much money is paid in a certain session versus how much I stand to make over time.

I can’t be certain what exactly casinos are indicating when they advertise loose slots. Most are likely referring to the RTP, which can play a small factor in short-term winnings.

However, a game with 99% payback may not pay much in a single session if it has a large jackpot or multiple bonuses. Meanwhile, a slot with just 90% RTP could offer far more prizes in a lone session.

How Can You Find Loose Slots?

I’ve just established my belief that loose slot machines should refer to low volatility. The only problem, though, is that the majority of slots don’t offer any indication of their volatility.

In most cases, you’ll have to look at multiple factors to determine how frequently a slot pays. Here are the main aspects that you should focus on when doing so.

Jackpot Size

Many gamblers flock to slot machines with big progressive jackpots. After all, they want a chance at life-changing money.

But the trade-off is that games with large jackpots don’t usually pay very often. Developers (e.g. Microgaming, RealTime Gaming) need to seed such slots with a large amount of money in order to draw gamblers.

Reels on Slot Machine, Yellow Caution Symbol, $500,000 Text

For example, a provider might front the initial $500,000 of a jackpot. The players, through their bets, may push the jackpot to millions of dollars.

But the key thing to focus on is how much the developer seeds the jackpot with. The more money they have to pay, the less often the slot will pay. After all, the provider needs to recoup some of their initial costs.

Number of Small and Large Payouts

Jackpots aren’t the only big prizes that slot machines can offer. Some games also feature multiple other big payouts ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 coins.

Just like progressive jackpots, large prizes can increase a game’s volatility. You might have more chances to win big on these machines, but you won’t be getting paid as frequently.

In contrast, certain slots may offer an abundance of smaller prizes. These games are your best bet for wining often in the short term.


Bonuses are often viewed as entertaining features that spice up the action. However, they’re notable beyond just keeping you glued to the reels.

Multiple bonuses can lead to more volatility. This is especially true when one or more of the features offer huge payouts.

Again, developers need to recoup some of the money that they lose through large wins. Therefore, bonus-filled slot machines must pay less often.

Volatility Rating

In an ideal situation, you’ll choose a slot machine that offers a volatility rating. These ratings indicate exactly how frequently a game pays, which negates the need to look over all of the factors covered above.

You can simply navigate to a slot machine’s help screen to see if it has a volatility rating. So, you’ll know the exact payout frequency of the game.

Unfortunately, most slots don’t have such a rating. Therefore, you’ll most likely need to check out the jackpot, number of small and big pads, and bonuses to make this determination.


Casino Slot Machine Reel, Final Thoughts Text in Red
You can form your own opinion on whether RTP or volatility is the better way to judge loose slot machines. But again, I strongly believe that volatility should be viewed as the most important determinant.

Low volatility offers you a stronger chance to win more frequently with a given slot machine. Meanwhile, high volatility lowers the odds of you winning frequent payouts.

If I go into a casino looking for loose slot machines, then I’m expecting to win quite a bit. I’m not, however, looking for a game that may have high RTP but is also stingy in the short term.

Assuming you agree, then you’ll want to focus on the different factors that can help you spot low volatility. When you know this information, you don’t even need to rely on casino advertisements about loose slots.

To recap, the main factors to consider include:

  • Jackpot size
  • The amount of large payouts
  • The amount of small payouts
  • The number of bonus features
A game with a huge jackpot can’t afford to pay players on a frequent basis. After all, the developer of that top prize wants to earn back their investment and more.

Likewise, a slot that features several big non-jackpot prizes won’t pay out very frequently. This is yet another situation where the provider is looking to make money back for the big prizes they’re offering.

Finally, bonus features also play an important role in volatility. While bonuses may be entertaining, they can also lower the payout frequency.

You may ultimately decide that loose slots are those with the highest RTP. This line of thinking is good when you have a few favorite slot machines and want to know which one(s) will pay the best over time.

If you’re just heading to the casino for quick trip, though, then you should look for the least volatile slots. These games are more likely to provide payouts over the course of a single session.