Slot Variance Explained

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How much do you know about slot machine variance? It may be far from the first thing you think of when considering which slots to play, but as you’ll see, it is super important. Once you know what it means, you can tell which games you’ll most want to play.

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What are the differences between high and low variance slots?

If we replace the word variance with risk, it makes the meaning of high and low variance slots clear. It’s good to see a range of slots fitting into each category, as we all have different ideas of what we like to see in a game. Some love the risk while others minimise it as much as they can.

High variance slots

These are the slots that present the greatest risk. There are several pros and cons to these, as you might guess, and we’ve laid them out for you here.


  • Bigger prizes to be won
  • Multipliers can be larger if they appear
  • Bonus features can produce the opportunity to net thousands of credits
  • You could get several successful spins in a row


  • You can play for longer with no prizes coming up at all
  • There is a chance you might play an entire session and not get any prizes

Low variance slots

Lower variance means a lower risk level. Many slot players prefer less risk when they play. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of trying slots that fall into this category.


  • Prizes crop up regularly – the opposite of high variance games
  • You stand a chance of netting several small prizes throughout a session of play
  • There is still a chance of winning bigger prizes, although they may not be as large as those seen in games with higher variance
  • A smaller budget is likely to stretch out for longer


  • Prizes are usually much smaller
  • Jackpots are smaller too – if there are any

Top tip: No matter which slot you choose, there are never any guarantees of winning

Never forget this. You cannot assume any spin is going to produce a prize, much less a prize that would leave you with a profit. Play for enjoyment rather than anything else. 

Examples of some exciting slots to play


This is one of the most popular low volatility slots around. It isn’t the most complex, but it can produce a regular stream of prizes if you are fortunate with those spins. Here are the basics:

  • Five reels contain an assortment of sparkling gems
  • 10 paylines that pay both ways
  • Just seven regular symbols appear in the game
  • The wild is the Starburst sign – a multicoloured star with eight points
  • The wild can appear over any of the middle three reels
  • It expands whenever it shows up and sticks in position for a re-spin of the remaining four reels


The game does not have any free spins other than the re-spin, but since this occurs whenever the wild appears, it can become more fruitful than looking for free games whenever you play.

Reel Steal

This is a high variance slot from NetEnt that also dips into a thieving theme. Not the most common theme around, but here’s what you can expect:

  • Five reels packed with criminal activity and good guys
  • Nine paylines to bet on
  • A wild symbol shown as a striking yellow car – a classic!
  • Huge multipliers come into play whenever a wild forms part of a winning combination – 5x in the base game and a huge 25x in the free spins
  • The scatter is a few sticks of dynamite complete with a watch set to blow them up
  • Secure 15, 20, or 25 free games with three, four, or five scatters
  • All non-wild wins in the free games receive a standard 5x multiplier boost

Those multipliers are higher than any others we’ve seen in regular play. That alone makes this a promising slot, if one with high variance odds.

What is your preference?

We all have different ideas about what makes a slot ideal for us. Some love high variance ones and actively look for them. Others always stick with the low variance slots.

Which ones are your favourites? Deciding where you fall on the variance scale is a good way to figure out what titles are going to appeal most. 

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