"Volatility" is basically a measure of how much of a roller coaster ride a slot is going to be. Will you get huge but infrequent wins? Then you're playing a slot with high volatility. Do you get lots of small wins, but no giant life-changing jackpots? Then you're playing a game with low volatility.
Volatility preferences can be a matter of individual taste, but more often they stem from a bettor's available budget and their current purpose at the casino. So why would a punter prefer frequent small wins over taking a shot at that humongous life-changing jackpot? It's usually for one (or more) of the following reasons:
- They have a strict budget for fun at the casino and they want to stick to it without getting in trouble
- They're attempting to accrue tier points and move up in the casino's loyalty program while losing as little money as possible
- They're trying to clear a bonus requirement while taking on as little risk as possible
- They prefer the aesthetics and "feel" of the older reel slots / fruit machines
- They like being "in the zone" with a constant stream of smaller wins
As you can see, low-volatility slots serve all sorts of purposes. Today's post will talk about their characteristics, how to find them, and some examples of some of the best ones to look for at UK online casinos.
What Makes for a Low-Volatility Slot?
We're in the midst of an interesting period in the online casino world. Traditionally, the gambling industry wanted you to know as little about slots as possible. The odds of winning at any given machine were a closely guarded secret. While it was possible to calculate odds at other games (like video poker and blackjack) based on their rules and payout amounts, you often could not do this with video slots.
That attitude has changed rather suddenly in the last few years. It is becoming increasingly common for online casinos to publish the expected "return to player" (RTP) percentage openly on their websites. So you have a good idea of your chances of winning money over the long run at any given game.
The RTP does factor into volatility, but it's not the lone factor - nor is it even the most important! Generally speaking, the higher the RTP is the more favourable the game is to the player. However, it's important to remember that RTP is a tool meant primarily for casinos to calculate how much money they can expect to keep over the lifetime of a game - not for what a player can expect to win over their relatively small sample size of playing it.
Let's create an example to illustrate this. Let's say we have a slot that has a 99% RTP, which is extremely good for slot games. However, players win most of their money from the bonus rounds, and the bonus rounds for this particular slot tend to take a very long time to kick in. If you make it to the bonus round, you'll get quite a bit of your money back; the catch is that some players will blow their whole bankroll before they make it to the bonus round.
Now, the casino always plays all of those bonus rounds against the player, and given that they can only expect to keep 1% of all the money put into that slot. But individual players are very unlikely to get anywhere near 99% of their money back from any given session. That's a slot with high volatility.
You can see this with giant progressive jackpots as well. The casino will have to pay back quite a bit of the money they've accrued when a big progressive pops - but only to one player. They may have ended up paying back 98% of the money put into the game, but a disproprotionate amount went to a few players rather than being evenly distributed across all punters who dropped some coin in.
The Qualities of Low-Volatility Slots
High RTP is still a good thing, but it doesn't necessarily tell us enough about volatility. So what does?
We should instead be looking at the following measures more closely:
- How frequently you can expect to hit winning lines
- The value of the winning lines
- The minimum bet amount required to get the highest payouts
- Average time to reach bonus rounds or activate features (if present)
Some of the best low-volatility slots online have a payback percentage around 96%, which is considered maybe on the higher side of average. But the average player who never hits a huge jackpot can expect to land closer to that 96% over their lifetime of playing the game thanks to more frequent small wins and more favourable betting structures.
What to Look For in a Low-Volatility Slot
One good sign of a low-volatility game is one that lets you cover all the possible winning paylines with the minimum bet amount.
Along that line, the largest jackpots should also be available to you without having to make the maximum bet.
Lots of paylines is also a good indicator of a low-volatility slot, but be careful here. Paylines at the 100-line video slot games often contribute less than your bet amount. That does help to defray the cost of losing spins, but you need to hit at least some small winners periodically to stay ahead.
How often do the bonus rounds pop up, and are they generous when they do? This is something that you'll need to watch or play the game for a while to get a feel for.
A Word on Clearing Bonuses
Low-volatility slots are usually the best way to clear a welcome or deposit bonus requirement. The casino gives slot wagers full credit toward the amount, whereas something like video poker or blackjack will contribute 10-20% or nothing at all.
Check the terms and conditions carefully, however. Casinos are always wise to all the tricks, and some have opted to exclude certain favourable low-volatility games from wagering requirements. In fact, a good way to learn which slots are the most stable is to look at the list of slots that don't qualify at these sites!
Examples of Low-Volatility Slots
The original three-reel slots - that is, the kind you would see in a smoky 1970s Las Vegas casino spitting out coins - tend to be the ultimate in low-volatility games. Since they had to physically dispense money, they weren't built to have the kind of massive jackpots you see at today's digital machines. So players had to be hooked in by smaller and more frequent payouts. The "three-reel style" video slots don't always work the way these games did, however. If they have elaborate paylines or offer a huge progressive jackpot, it's probably just a modern video slot with the trappings of an old-school reel slot.
Some video slot games that are known for low volatility include:
- The Blood Suckers games (NetEnt): While many online casinos have these popular games, their 99% RTP rate and relatively frequent payouts also land them on the "excluded from bonus clearing" list fairly often
- Ali Baba (Leander): Frequent free spins help to keep this Arabian-themed slot stable, and it also has a significant main jackpot
- 888 Gold (Pragmatic): This slot is fairly stable thanks to a 97.52% RTP, 3x3 reel format and frequent appearance of wild symbols
- Kings of Chicago (NetEnt): This interesting fusion of slots and video poker deals its "hands" from an actual deck, and Jokers are wild. On top of that, you can end up winning 10 to 30 free spins with every pull.
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