All About Slot Variances


One of the most important factors in the selection of which type of slot to play is the understanding of slot variance and how it impacts how a particular game will perform. This is where mathematics comes into play as it ultimately determines the percentage a game will payout based on its designation.

In slots, there are three uniquely different variances: low, medium and high. If you have been in a land-based casino and sat at a bank of games that are identical and noticed how one seems to hit more frequently, there is a reason for it. Often land-based casinos will have identical machines in a row, but each will have a different variance.


This is intentional as it draws others to those that pay less, and ultimately the house wins. Therefore, as you read this section, you will be able to avoid those pitfalls and have a better understanding of how to determine the variance of a slot. This applies to not only land-based casinos but also those online.


Areas to Consider before selecting a slot to play:

1. Understand each game and its limits

Each variance is unique in the structure of its payouts. Failure to understand each slot and its limitations can be a bankroll killer as playing a low variance slot expecting that you will hit a big win is unlikely. The same applies if thinking a high variance will quickly produce a mind busting win.

2. Try each slot of interest in free play before playing in real money

All online slots are required under their respective licensing regulations to ensure that the results in free play equal those when playing for real money. Therefore, you can gauge the average payouts for each slot and determine if this is keeping with your strategy.

3. Stick to a budget and do not deviate from it

This is a rule many have heard, but most fail to adhere to. This is a critical aspect to enjoy slots and ensuring that you do not overextend yourself in the process. It is also why testing a slot holds importance as it allows you to ensure when playing for money, you do so with as much information as possible.

4. Be mindful of which casinos you play with

While the majority of casinos are legitimate and offer a genuine gaming experience, like all things, some are better than others. Consider selecting a nation sport casino that does not apply limitations on the amounts you can withdraw during any given time period. Furthermore, only play with those that are licensed by respected regulatory bodies.  

Different Slot Variances


1. Low variance

Low variance slots are designed to pay a larger number of small wins while also awarding medium and large wins less frequently. This style of slot is geared more towards those with reduced gambling budgets or those who are casual players and content to sit back and focus more on the experience than chasing the big win. Generally, they will have a larger number of casino kings bonus features that assist in the creation of winning combinations, but also the entertainment value derived from playing them. As a rule, these will pay wins that average five to ten times the amount wagered per line.

To identify a low variance slot requires analysing the paytable and determining the payout for the various symbol combinations that can be achieved. This includes evaluating three, four and five symbol combinations, and if the coin amounts are low, even for its premium symbols, it most likely will have a low variance designation.

2. Medium variance

Slots that carry a medium variance designation are the most common and for good reason. The main reason is quite simple that they meet the average slot players’ expectations whereby they often are drawn to those games that provide both a mix of smaller, medium and large wins. It provides a higher entertainment value which ultimately extends the sessions they have when playing, either online or at a land-based casino.

Generally, medium variance slots will feature an increased number of paylines and therefore, the cost per spin in increased. The degree of bonus features incorporated into a medium variance slot is equal to those found in low variance but the main difference will be seen in the amount of its symbol payouts as they will be increased for those defined as premium, meaning those few that have the highest value for three, four and five symbol combinations.

3. High variance

High variance slots are not for the faint at heart, and unless you are willing to go the distance and focus on the larger wins, these are not ideally suitable for you. This is simply due to a high variance slot tends not to award a large number of smaller wins and instead focuses on larger wins. However, there is a cost in playing these as often they will not have a large number of features, and many only will feature a wild, scatter and free spins.  However, when they do pay, the size of wins tends to be far greater than those of a low or medium variance slot. Therefore they tend to attract those with larger bankrolls who understand that patience can often pay dividends.


The critical thing to remember with slots is the variance does not impact the overall RTP (Return to Player), only the size and frequency of wins.

If a video slot, for example, is designated low variance with an average RTP of 96.4%, it will pay exactly as it should using a combination of payouts. The same applies to medium and high variance slots, so the focus needs to be towards understanding your preference, what you hope to gain from the experience and how much you are willing to risk to achieve it.

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