Understanding Variance in Slots Games

Variance is a common occurrence that can cause frustration amongst players. Everyone who plays slots experiences variance. An example would be playing a machine that has an average return rate of 95% and after 200 spins at $1.00 per spin, you have not hit a thing and your stake is gone.

Although the rate of return is high, you may be playing a machine that has a high variance. If you think of “variance” as risk, you’ll begin to understand what’s going on with the slot game that you’re playing.

Variance Versus Rate Of Return

Variance is a combination of a slot machine’s payout rate, which is how often a slot pays, and payout percentage, which is the percentage of cash spent on the machine that it gives back to the player.

Variance is a combination of payout percentage and payout rate. Payout rate is how often a slot machine will hit a winning combination. Tight machines payout occasionally, but when they do they usually offer a lot of cash. This is a high-risk machine with a variance factor that limits the number of payouts awarded.

If the same machine mentioned above, with a payout rate of 95%, hits 30 times in 200 spins, it would be considered a low variance (low risk) slot. Such machines will payout often, but awards will be on the low to midrange level. Jackpots tend to be lower on such slots.

Unlike payout percentages, slot variance information is not published. But you can get a sense of variance in a few ways. Here’s how to address the issue.

Determining Slots Variance

The first thing to do is to study the machine’s pay table. This will give you a sense of the variance. What to look for are major gaps between payouts. If three of a kind offers a low payout and the next level of payout is six times of more that amount, chances are the next award level will not be hit very often. This is probably a high variance machine. If you have doubts, the difference between the second top prize and jackpot in high risk machines is 40 to 70 times greater.

But when studying the pay table, if you see a range of medium payouts that move towards the highest jackpot, then you are dealing with a low variance slot. Once again, if you’re in doubt, check to see if the payouts rise in increments of about 3x to 4x. The difference between the jackpot and the second top award should be about 10x for a low risk machine.

The other aspect of variance has to do with how many symbols are required for each prize, with the more symbols being required the higher the risk. Three symbols on the payline of a five-reel slot are a lot easier to hit than four and four are easier to get than five.

High variance slots payout in low amounts, waiting to churn out a huge jackpot as it collects cash from many players, whereas a low variance slot machine offers more payouts, often in the middle range, and lower jackpots.

Experiment In Free Play Mode

One way to discover exactly what type of machine you are playing is to engage in the free play mode for an extended period of time. Do this over the course of numerous playing sessions, tracking bets, payouts, and losses. Be as specific as you can be in your recording of each bet, win, and loss.

Play a few machines to get a sense of which are high variance machines and which are low. Compare how much and how often they payout, how much you have to spend before you hit a winning combination, and how much the average payout is. If all other things are equal, meaning if you enjoy both equally, then your choice will be primarily guided by each machine’s risk factors and how much risk you are willing to take.

Progressives And Variance

Most progressive slots are high variance machines. The whole point of these machines is for gamblers to play for the massive jackpots that accumulate. Six-figure jackpots are common for progressives and many reach millions before a lucky player hits the winning combination.

Since progressives collect a certain percentage of each bet and put it towards the huge jackpot, and the jackpot is constantly growing, they tend to payoff limited amounts when other combinations on that machine are hit.

As an example, Mega Moolah, which has often been hit for more than $1 million, offers four progressive jackpots plus many other payouts. The mega progressive starts at 1,000,000 coins, the major progressive at 10,000, the minor progressive at 100 and the mini progressive at 10. The disparity between the highest jackpot and second highest is huge, but so too is the difference between the second and third.

Most awards on Mega Moolah are for a few hundred up to about 800 coins. This machine is the high variance type for numerous reasons, including the fact that in order to win the big jackpot you must wager the top amount. The maximum bet is $6.25 per turn, which means 100 spins cost $625.

Use Variance To Find The Right Fit

There’s nothing wrong with playing a high variance slot machine, as long as you have the funds to do so. The primary thing that every player needs to do in making their decision as to what slot to play is to find one that they totally enjoy and, at the same time, one that they can afford. When that occurs you’ve set yourself up in the best manner possible for success.