Having played slots for over 30 years (yes, I am that old) there’s not too much that confuses me on modern games nowadays. However, for players that maybe don’t have as much experience, sometimes things can get confusing.
One of the biggest misunderstandings is when a player confuses the RTP percentage of a slot game, with its variance. Please be aware, some places call variance by the term ‘volatility’. Both are essentially interchangeable in this context.
If you are a slots player that doesn’t really understand either term, or you don’t understand how they are important to how you play a slot game, then in this article we will explain exactly what both terms mean. How they are linked, but very different and important elements of any online slot.
Finally, we will explore how each influences how a game plays, which is ultimately what you experience as the end user.
There’s no better place to begin that by defining what both terms mean.
What Is The RTP Percentage A Slot Game?
When a games designer is developing a slot game, they are going to build into their design anestimate of how much the slot will pay out to players over the course of its lifetime. While this is not a hard and fast rule, the amount any slot game will pay out to players is known as its Return To Player Percentage (RTP).
Depending on the slot game in question, most modern online slot games have an RTP percentage of between 85% and 96%. You can find examples that fit outside this range, but as a general rule of thumb this is a good guide.
What this percentage amount refers to is how much, in theory, the slot should pay out back to players over the course of its lifetime on average. So for example if the RTP of a slot is 95% and the slot takes $100,000 across the course of its lifetime, then the casino can expect $95,000 of that money to be paid back to players in the form of winnings.
And that left over cash? That is the casino’s profit from hosting the game.
I have used those figures for simplicity. In actual fact, a slot game can last many, many years and can bring in millions and millions of dollars in wagers over that time.
Of course, he RTP of a slot is also affected by the random nature of the game, which means it can only ever be used as a rule of thumb.
So, every version of the Tunzamunni slot for example, won’t mean each casino gets exactly the same amount of profit from the game, Some casinos will make more profit, some will make less. But on average, it will be around that RTP figure.
It is also important to note that the RTP figure does not mean that if you spend $100 on a game with a. 95% RTP, you can expect to get $95 back in winnings. The RTP is calculated over billions of spins and the random nature of slots mean that you may well not get a return anything like the RTP stated over much shorter sessions.
So if the RTP percentage shows how much, roughly, the slot will pay out to players over time. What does the variance or volatility of a slot refer to?
What Is The Variance/Volatility Of A Slot Game?
While the RTP is how much a slot will pay out on average over a long period of time from the money it takes in wagers, the variance or volatility of a slot tells you HOW that money will be paid out to players.
Slots are generally bracketed in one of three types of game.
- Low Variance/Volatility slot games, which are slot games that don’t pay out big prizes but do pay out a lot of lower to mid-value prizes.
- High Variance/Volatility slots are games that don’t pay out as many lower value prizes, but which can offer high value jackpots for lucky winners.
- Medium Variance/Volatility slots sit in the middle of that continuum between the other two.
Sp a lower variance slot will pay you out smaller amounts more often, in general. Higher volatility slots pay out fewer smaller prizes, but may reward you with larger value prizes more often. Mid-variance games, offer a balance between those two.
How Do The RTP And Variance Of A Slot Influence How It Plays?
So what is the upshot of RTP and Variance/Volatility for a modern slot gamer and how does it influence the games you play?
Well for example, if you were to play a game with a low RTP of around 85% and high volatility. This means that this game would tend to pay out less frequently than other slots, but when it does pay out, the wins are likely to be higher value than other slot games.
On the flip side, if you played a slot with a higher RTP of around 96% and low volatility, this means that this game would pay out more often than most slots but would tend to pay that cash out in smaller, more regular wins.
A rough, and not particularly accurate, example would be to imagine two slots games of 95% RTP but one with high variance and one with low variance and ask in theory: How would both slots pay out $100.
With high variance, you are likely to find that this $100 is paid to fewer players in larger sums. With lower variance, that $100 will be divided into smaller sums between a greater number of players.
The caveat for all this information though is that slot games are random chance games. That means that the RTP and the variance of a slot can only be ever used as a guide. The random nature of a slot means that games cannot adhere strictly to these rules.
Both the RTP and Variance/Volatility of a slot should only ever be used as a guide, not taken as gospel. Both those figures are based on billions of spins in testing and as such, may not relate at all to how you play through your spins. They are best used as guidance only.
The beauty of slots is that you can win, or lose, on any game of any RTP and any variance. That is what makes playing them, and on rare occasions beating them, so enjoyable.