In this context, the word “variance” relates to the risk associated with a particular slot machine – it can be either low, medium, or high. Note that the variance does not affect the expected payout (RTP) of that machine. What it does effect is how the slot game pays you, which in turn dictates how much to bet per spin, the size of bankroll you would need, and when you’re likely to run out of credits!
Simply put, a low variance slot will pay out a combination of semi-decent and “token gesture” wins more often, while high variance slots mainly pay out gesture wins and the occasional massive win. Medium variance slots will give you a balance of the two.
Unfortunately, many casino software providers don’t publish the variance rating of their online slots, so the best ways are to use review sites such as ours, or by checking the slots’ paytables for clues (i.e. how much does 3-,4-, 5 of-a-kind pay out), and of course actually playing the slot.
If you prefer playing with a smaller budget, then low variance slots are better suited to you. You can still make some pretty decent wins on low variance games, like 100x or slightly more, and you can make your bankroll last longer, even if you bet a little higher.
Medium variance slots are the most commonly found and can offer both high and low jackpot amounts with bonus games / features included in video slots. For the more conservative online player, these slots offer a fair chance of winning both low and high payouts. There is still an element of risk involved of course, but you won’t see as many lower winning combos as on lower variance slots, and you won’t be playing in a high risk, high reward type of way like with high variance slots.
These types of slots can be very thrilling, IF you have nerves of steel and a large bankroll to burn! High variance slots have been designed in such a way that payouts can reach massive proportions thanks to added features like free spins, multipliers and bonus games. The drawback here is that the number of low- to mid-sized winning combos are greatly reduced, and you can experience a multitude of spins that deliver absolutely zero rewards. To make the best of playing high variance slots, start betting low until you get a feel for how the slot plays. For example, if your budget is $200, then don’t start with any more than $1 per spin and work your way up as you get more confident.