The reality of slots variance and what it means to players.
Did you ever hear the term “slot machine variance” and wonder what it meant? It’s something that most experienced gamblers are familiar with, and for good reason. Fortunately, it’s not nearly so complicated as blackjack game theory, or expected value in poker.
Today, we’re going to talk about what variance means in a slot machine, and how that knowledge can help you to make better choices when picking a game to play.
Slots Variance Explained
Variance comes in three ranges – low, medium and high. None are necessarily bad. Variance has no effect on a game’s house edge. It’s more a matter of what players enjoy, and how far their bankroll can stretch.
Low Variance Slots
These are games in which the payouts are fairly consistent. Players can expect to have a high rate of winning spins, but for small amounts. Big jackpots are very rare on these machines, if available at all.
Most low variance slots will ether have very few paylines, or a whole lot of paylines. Classic 3 reels and 5-line/9-line video slots with fewer symbols overall are often low variance machines. The same goes for ‘ways to win‘ slots that pay all ways, instead of on specific lines (i.e. 243 ways to win).
Ways to win slots are also notorious for having what some call ‘losses disguised as wins‘. Because players can line up so many wining combinations in a single spin, they often pay very tiny amounts. You could pay $1 to spin the reels, line up 10 winning combinations, and still receive just $0.40 or so. The machines chimes like it’s a win, but in reality, you lose $0.60.
A lot of players love low variance slots. They may not be very rewarding, but the high win rate makes them very entertaining. Plus, they can make a mall bankroll last for a very long time.
Medium Variance Slots
Most online slot machines have a medium variance. This is a perfect balance of low and high variance games. You won’t win as often as with low variance games, but you won’t be waiting forever to hit a payout either. The amounts won are pretty average too, often above the amount bet, but not necessarily life altering amounts.
Players who love medium variance slots often choose them because the wins come frequently enough to keep your entertained, and they pay pretty well when they do. With just a little luck, a mid-sized bankroll can last a decent amount of time.
High Variance Slots
You’ll need a substantial bankroll to play these machines. High variance means that the games won’t be hitting many winning combinations. They are far and few between. However, when they do hit, they tend to pay some very lucrative sums. Chances are, you’ll win back your loses, and then some, when a bonus or free spin feature strikes. The trick is having a large enough bankroll to outlast the downswing, and—if you really want to win—knowing when to quit .
The majority of progressive slot machines, like the famous “millionaire maker“, Mega Moolah, fall into this category. For obvious reasons, high rollers love this level of slots variance. But for casual players who only have $20-$40 to spend on the slots, high variance machines should probably be avoided.
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