Understanding Slots Variance

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If you do any reading on understanding slot machines you'll probably come across the word "variance", for those new to the game, the term in this context can be equated to the word "risk". When a slot is referred to as high variance, you can see it as high risk machine while low variance slots offer lower risk.

The risk element associated with a particular slot does not affect the expected return. Most slots offer an expected payout rate of between 93% and 97% regardless of whether they are considered to be high or low variance machines. What the variance does affect however is how the slot game pays out which will have a domino effect and should ultimately dictate the bankroll you will require, how much you should be wagering per spin and how quickly you'll run out of money if you don't hit a big win. So knowing a slot's variance will assist you in formulating a sound slots strategy before you play.

To put it simply, a low variance slot machine will pay out in a combination of regular good and token wins while a high variance machine will generally pay out token wins and occasionally reward you with a huge win, which means that you'll have one rollercoaster ride while you play this type of slot.

So how do you tell what a slots variance is? You have to play it or read slots reviews to research each game. While most online casinos publish payout rates for their slots, they generally do not publish variance rates, which is a pity. WMS slots tend to be the exception and their data reveals that the majority of their slots fall between 92 and 96 percent.

Determining Slots Variance

Sometimes a slots paytable can give you clues as to its variance and while this is not always a solid indicator it's still worth looking into. If when examining a video slot's paytable you see that 3 or 4 of a particular symbol pays out relatively low but 5 of the same symbol pays out considerably more (usually around 10 times more) then in all probability you are looking at a high variance slot. If the difference between payouts between the 3, 4 and 5 of a kind is in the three to five times more than its lower paying counterpart then you're probably looking at a medium to low variance machine.

Again, as previously mentioned this is not one hundred percent accurate because a great deal depends on the number of paylines, how many symbols are on each reel, whether or not there is a jackpot linked to the machine.

When you play a slot for some time you will generally get a feeling for the variance of the game and this will help you to adjust the size of your bet accordingly. If you don't do this you could obliterate your bankroll before you hit a decent win, so it's really important to adjust for variance to get the maximum enjoyment out of a game and of course, the maximum rewards.