Variance in Online Slots

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Gambling MathWhen it comes to playing online slots games, variance is a word you hear being thrown about a lot, but it’s not something that many players truly understand.

So what exactly is variance when it comes to play online slots?

In a nutshell, variance is a term used in probability and statistics to refer to “risk” or “volatility”. It is the difference between what you’re expected to win and what actually occurs. In the short term, the luck or “variance” factor can be the difference between winning and losing.

Although this article is going to focus on variance in online slots, you should know variance is not something which only affects online slots players, it can affect what you are expected to win not just when playing slots but all other typical online casino games.

Playing Low Variance Slots Games

A low variance online slot machine will typically provide for a reasonable number of winning spins but the wins will usually be pretty small. As a result, your bankroll will tend to last much longer because of these fairly frequent wins, so there is less risk of ruin. However, the downside of playing these online slots is that you’ll rarely win anything big. It’s a lower risk game as far as variance goes.

Playing High Variance Slots Games

On the other hand, a high variance online slot machine can provide the player with much bigger wins but they don’t happen as frequently as they do playing the low variance online slots games. A high variance online slots player would be hoping for that one big win before cashing out, but because you’re not gettingthose fairly regular wins of a smaller amount, it makes it a riskier proposition to play these games.

How to Determine the Variance of an Online Slot Game

coin flipThe pay-out table of an online slot game you’re about to play is your friend. The pay-out schedule for physical slot machines is printed on each machine, but when playing online slots machines you will need to click on a button within the game to view the pay-out table.

Although it can be a lot of information to digest, the main thing you want to look at is what symbols you will need for the winning combinations, and how much you will get for each combination. If it shows that four or five symbols on a winning pay line offers a good pay-out, but anything less than that offers a pay-out that is negligible in comparison, then it’s usually a good indication the online slot will be a high variance game.

The number of pay lines the online slot game has is also a determining factor. Whilst more pay lines will mean there are more chances of hitting a winning combination, the wins will be smaller. The fewer pay lines can make an online slot a higher variance game to play, however, the wins can be a lot more impressive. Considering there aren’t as many pay lines, you also won’t need to bet as much per spin.

Some good examples of high variance online slots games would have to be Aristocrat slots like Choy Sun Doa and Lucky88. When playing these online slots there can be quite a big difference in the pay-outs for four and five symbols when compared to what the lesser winning combinations are paying and the bonus feature can be hard to get.

So this can result in not winning anything at all or receiving small wins a lot of the time, but if you are lucky enough to hit the feature it can be extremely lucrative because of the big multipliers and the additional wild symbols in the free spins round.


If you have a fairly limited bankroll and want it to last as long as possible, you really need to stick to playing low variance online slots games. For the most part, the wins won’t be as big, but the losses won’t be as brutal either, meaning you’ll get to play your favourite slot machines for longer, and hopefully win some money in the process.

However, if you’re immune to risk and have a large enough bankroll to warrant doing so, then playing medium to high variance slots can be worth your time, as you’re not just playing purely for the entertainment value, you want to win something big. And by having a bigger bankroll, it will help you to ride through the bad stretches.

So the next time you are looking to play an online slot machine, have a look at the pay-out odds for each game. You may think you are playing a low variance machine which is more to your liking but actually playing a higher variance game without even realizing it.

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