Pros & Cons of High Volatility Slot Machines

Row of Casino Slot Machines, Caution Volatility Ahead Sign
Slot machines don’t pay as consistently as most casino games. Instead, your results can vary greatly from one session to the next.

Casino slots are considered volatile due to these highly diversified results. You may win a couple of big payouts one hour, then lose hundreds of dollars the next hour.

It can feel like all of these games are extremely sporadic. However, online slots differ from each other in terms of volatility too.

You may gravitate towards high-volatility slots without knowing it. These games usually have larger jackpots and more bonuses, which makes them attractive.

But you should know the pros and cons of such games before playing them. Keep reading to see the advantages and disadvantages along with more on volatility itself.

What Is Volatility in Slot Machines?

Volatility is a measurement of how much short-term results differ from a statistical mean. Results are highly volatile when they vary wildly from the average.

Mobile Slot Machine Game, Icon of Guy Balancing PercentagesRegarding slots, this term often describes how explosive results are when measured against return to player (RTP).

Here’s an example:

  • You play two different slot machines for three sessions each.
  • Slot #1 offers 95% RTP.
  • You have one great session and two terrible sessions on this game.
  • Slot #2 offers 90% RTP.
  • You have two decent sessions and one below-average sessions with this game.
  • Slot #1 appears to have the higher volatility.

Slot machines don’t pay as consistently as many other games. They offer a wide discrepancy between the top and bottom prizes.

Here’s a simple pay table to explain:

3 Vampires = 5,000 coins
3 Witches = 500 coins
3 Mummies = 100 coins
3 Werewolves = 50 coins
3 Swamp Creatures = 25 coins
3 Ghosts = 10 coins
3 Bats = 1 coin

All casinos, both brick and mortar and online casinos, would lose a fortune if this game paid as often as online blackjack, for example. After all, it offers prizes that are much larger than the average bet.

Online slots must be volatile by nature to compensate for big payouts at the top. While these varied results can be frustrating, they’re a necessary evil in order for large jackpots to exist.

High vs. Low Volatility Slots

Many gamblers commonly associate all slot machines with extreme results. This line of thinking isn’t wrong to a degree.

However, not all slots are the same with regard to volatility. Some offer more-severe winning and losing streaks than others.

Slot machines with big progressive jackpots are highly volatile. They don’t pay out as often in order to compensate for their large jackpots.

Meanwhile, slots with smaller top prizes normally have less volatility. These games can afford to pay more often, because their prize structures aren’t as extreme.

The type of volatility you prefer all depends upon your individual tastes. You may be perfectly comfortable with winning less often as long as you have a chance at a huge jackpot. Or you might prefer the consistent payouts that a low-volatility game offers.

Two Methods for Figuring Out Slots Volatility

You don’t have many options for determining volatility in online slot machines or even brick and mortar slots. In fact, there are really only two ways to figure this out:

  • Look at the help/info screen.
  • Look at the pay table.

Slot Machine Screen Showing Info Button

Some casino slots developers offer a volatility rating for their games. You simply need to visit the help/info stream to see this rating.

For Example:
Pragmatic Play uses a rating system that ranges from 1-5 lightning bolts. Five lightning bolts indicate a very volatile slot machine.

The problem, though, is that most slots don’t have such a rating. In this case, you need to go with the second option that involves looking at the pay table.

You should consider multiple factors when estimating a game’s volatility.

Here are the aspects that can indicate high variance:

  • Large jackpot
  • Multiple big non-jackpot prizes (e.g. 500 coins or more).
  • Few small prizes (e.g. 10 coins or less).
  • Three or more bonus features

A slot machine doesn’t necessarily need all of these traits to be volatile. However, 2-3 of these aspects can indicate potentially extreme results.

Using these factors to determine volatility isn’t a perfect science. However, you can improve the process by understanding how each element correlates to the industry.

A large jackpot is generally anything worth $100,000 or above. Big progressive slot machines must pay less to account for their massive prizes.

When looking at progressive jackpots, always consider the “seed” amount rather than the current value. Developers only care about what they must seed a progressive jackpot with when setting a game’s volatility – not how much these prizes grow to.

Here’s an example:

  • Microgaming seeds Mega Moolah’s progressive jackpot at $1 million.
  • This prize grows to $10 million.
  • Microgaming only cares about the $1 million with regard to a game’s volatility.
  • The extra $9 million comes from players’ bets, rather than Microgaming’s pocket.

The number of large and small payouts is self-explanatory with regard to volatility. A game with more big payouts, versus small, can’t deliver as many low prizes.

Extra bonus features provide more chances to collect big payouts. Online slots with all of these features won’t pay as frequently.

Pros of High Volatility Slot Machines

I mentioned earlier that slots with high variance are popular among players. Their big jackpots are a huge selling point.

However, this is just one example of why volatile slot machines are worth playing. Check out all of the main benefits below.

You Can Win Big Jackpots

No other online casino and land-based game provides the chance to get rich as quickly as slot machines. Of course, you have to be playing the right slots in order to win big.

I mentioned earlier that high-volatility slots normally offer the largest jackpots. Some of these games feature prizes worth seven or even eight figures.

Megabucks, which is found in Las Vegas casinos, once paid a jackpot worth $39.7 million. It’s delivered plenty of other eight-figure prizes in its existence too.

Mega Moolah Jackpot Wheel Slot Machine Screen Microgaming’s Mega Moolah online slot has paid a jackpot worth almost $22 million. This windfall is just one of the many life-changing prizes that Mega Moolah has awarded.

Low volatility slot machines can also offer decent-sized payouts. However, they’ll never come close to the multimillion-dollar prizes that are available in games with higher volatility.

You’ll Have Access to More Bonus Features

Slot bonuses have become highly advanced over the years. Some slots now feature detailed mini games that serve as bonuses.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing a racing themed slot.
  • You trigger a bonus with three scatter symbols.
  • You’re taken to a second screen that features a racetrack and multiple cars.
  • You must pick one of the cars.
  • The hope is that your chosen car wins the race and offers the biggest prize.

Of course, the casino slots world is filled with plenty of other types of bonuses. Free spins, scatter payouts, click-me features, and cascading reels are just some of what’s available.

Many gamblers are initially attracted to slot machines because they want to spin the reels and win big. However, bonuses are part of what keep them coming back.

Larger Regular Wins

Jackpots get all of the attention in the slots world. However, the chances of winning these prizes are very slim.

Large non-jackpot prizes are the most-realistic route to casino slots riches. More big payouts increases your odds of getting notable wins.

Most slots don’t offer many payouts worth 500 coins or more. But you can still find games that feature multiple bigger prizes.

Cons of Low Volatility Slot Machines

Chasing huge jackpots and triggering bonuses is exciting. But more-volatile slot machines are far from perfect.

They feature several downsides that may make you reconsider playing them. Here are the biggest drawbacks to these slot machines.

You Won’t Win as Much

Hot streaks, where you rack up plenty of small payouts in a short time span, can be almost as satisfying as hitting jackpots. Unfortunately, you won’t experience this joy much with high-volatility games.

These slots don’t pay with anywhere near the same frequency as less-volatile machines. You’ll experience more losing streaks as a result.

Slot Machine Displaying Three Skulls, Thumbs Down

It’s never fun sitting at a slot machine and losing over and over. You have to accept this scenario more frequently, though, with high-variance games.

These Slots Make Bankroll Management Harder

Bankroll management is a crucial aspect to getting more entertainment out of slot machines. Properly managing your bankroll allows you to prepare for potential losses and avoid betting too much.

But highly volatile games make this process harder. You don’t know what to expect as much, which makes it more difficult to judge the amount of funds you’ll need.

Assuming you don’t hit a big payout, you’ll generally lose 200-300 betting units (average bet size) per slots session. More-volatile games are at the higher end of this range.

You can still make a bankroll plan for these types of casino slots. Just remember, though, that your plan has greater potential to go off track.

High Volatility Leads to High Emotions

Playing slots with extreme payout percentages can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you might win thousands of dollars, only to lose it all throughout the next few days.

Some gamblers crave these drastic emotional swings. They enjoy experiencing the highs and battling through the low points. You shouldn’t, however, play volatile casino slots if you’re not of the same mindset.

Online casinos are filled with plenty of other games that will give you thrills without causing near-panic attacks.

RTP Means Less with These Slots

Row of Slot Machines, Guy Day Dreaming of Stacks of Money
RTP is a great way to judge how much you can expect to win back from slot machines. However, it carries less short-term significance when more volatility is introduced.

Payout percentages merely indicate what a slot machine will pay over time. It’s not a good indication of what you can look forward to winning within the next few sessions.

You’ll have even less of a clue when it comes to volatile slot machines. Even if one of these games has 97% RTP, it could deliver 25% to 300% payback in the short run.

Your Bankroll Will Run Out Quicker

Most slot machines pay back between $0.92 and $0.96 on the dollar. They’re not terrible wagers on a per-bet basis.

However, slots can quickly drain your bankroll when account for the speed of play. This fact is only truer with really volatile slot machines.

You of course still have the potential to win big and pad your bankroll. But you also have to account for the increased chance that you’ll lose everything.

Should You Play Slots with High Volatility?

Slots with greater volatility aren’t for everybody. They don’t pay often and can lead to more downswings during gambling sessions.

Row of People Playing Slot MachinesBut these slots can still be worth the headaches. Many players find them far more entertaining than slots with evener payout structures.

Do you value the chance to win big over anything?
If so, then high-volatility games are perfect.
Are you more interested in winning frequently and sustaining your bankroll?
Slots with wild variance aren’t for you in this case.

Weighing the pros and cons gives you a good idea on if volatile slots fit your tastes. You can’t beat the bonuses and large jackpots in terms of thrills.

But you must also be willing to put up with longer losing streaks, tougher bankroll management, and more unpredictability. As long as you’re okay with these aspects, then volatile games are a fine choice.


Many gamblers don’t even think about volatility before choosing a slot machine. They instead sit down to play whatever game has the most-interesting theme, best graphics, and/or biggest jackpot.

Ignoring volatility, though, can be a mistake. You want to take into account how a game’s features and payouts will affect your short-term chances of winning.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should discount the graphics and theme. Casino slots are, after all, about the entertainment aspect before anything else.

Be aware, though, of how volatility affects your payout frequency. You’ll normally win less often with volatile games.

This scenario causes problems in terms of bankroll management and extending your slots sessions. You’ll also experience more frustration when more dry spells occur.

But again, you may be fine with these problems as long as you can win big and trigger more bonuses. It’s up to you to decide if the advantages outweigh the downsides.