The Gambling Geeks Guide to Slots Odds and Variance

Online casinos can immerse you in a variety of aspects all at the same time. The first thing you will probably notice is the ubiquitous sound of machines playing – music, effects, buttons, coins drumming down, and background chatter. All sounds appear to saturate in as you log in online and look for your first game to play. Online casino games and slots have an element of risk associated with each game, and this will have your heart pounding.

This change and unpredictability is known as variance or volatility. The word ‘uncertainty’ is ample to describe these terms better. They are used to describe how much money you could win or lose. High volatility slots will give an individual an abundant amount of wins in a short period of time, whereas low volatility slots will give small wins and payouts during the same amount of time spent.

Variance is the amount of risk that each player has to encounter. Winning all depends on whether players came face to face with low, medium or high variance. During low variance players tend to win fairly easily and quickly. Although during this time players often find they have many small wins opposed to one big win. Medium and high variance slots would require the players to have a larger bank roll in order to keep playing and sustain their entertainment and chance of winning. These will amount to higher payouts however it will be on an infrequent basis. Variance in these cases can’t be avoided, however could work in the players favor for a short period of time. As would be the case of a player going on a low variance online casino machine in order to have a longer playing time.

Variance in slots

In line with the above, variance can directly affect the way that online slot games are played and for how long. However, even with this information, many individuals are unaware of how online slot games function. Firstly, it is important to note that random numbers are used for online slot machines. This would be the same as shuffling a deck of cards or rolling a dice. Online slot machines use random numbers and make use of computers to determine the outcome of each game played. This gives the online casino the added advantage over the players as it uses math to offer lower payouts when compared to the players’ odds of winning. Players tend to play faster after losing money in an attempt to gain it back. This poor judgment and poor probability of winning is what makes the online casino profitable. In contrast this is unprofitable for the players.

From 3-reel-slot games, multiple reel slots, bonus slots and free spin slots, the phrases “I will win the next one,” or "my luck is going to turn," is all too familiar as online casinos continue to have the added edge of power and influence over the players. This weak reasoning is called The Gambler's Fallacy. This is the misconception of how variance is assessed by the players engaged in online slot and casino games, meaning ultimately they don’t comprehend that the outcome of the previous spin has no effect on the next spin.

The unpredictable fundamentals of statistical variance in gambling are the reason why online casinos continue to make a profit. Players rely on luck whilst playing online slot and casino games. In the long run, this is more than likely to end up as a loss. An example of this would be to imagine an online slot game where there is a payout for five matching symbols. A player would need to match five of the same ‘cherry’ symbols to win. As mentioned previously slots and casinos rely on random number selection generators. In this instance the chance of hitting five cherry symbols is 1/5 on each line. Therefore the chance of hitting all five cherry symbols would be 0.032%. So figuratively speaking a player will hit the jackpot once every 700 spins.

Various types of slots by variance

We have seen how high variance and low variance slots affect the players’ chances of winning. However how do they work and what keeps the players coming back for more?

Low variance online slot games are appealing to most players as they have a longer playing time and are often low risk, meaning that money put into the online machine lasts longer. These online slots are designed to get more low valued winning combinations offering small payouts rather than one big win. These are ultimately low risk and low reward online slots. The advantage of playing low variance online slot games is that money lasts longer and you get to play for an extended length of time, however the chances of winning a large sum of money is very slim.

On the other hand, high variance online slot games are structured on high wining payouts, free spins and bonus games. Although earning potential is high on these slots, the amount of winning combinations is limited. These online slot games are normally shorter in time than low variance online slots and carry a greater risk of losing money. Strategy and being able to manage your bankroll accordingly is crucial when playing high online slot games. Selecting a high variance slot is also an important aspect to consider. It is recommended to look for online slot machines that haven’t paid out in a while, thus causing them to have large jackpots. This increases your chance of hitting the jackpot and winning big.

So in terms of the above discussion on high variance and low variance online slots, each player needs to take into account what bankroll they have. If you are playing a high variance online slot game it is advisable to manage your bankroll properly and play the lowest bet in order to make your bankroll go further and endure losing streaks. When you win on a high variance online slot game cash out and move on to the next one. The same goes for low variance online slots, as these are low risk you are more than likely to see low winning combinations which need to be cashed out at the right time in order to avoid any loss.


In conclusion, it can be noted that depending on the player, high variance online slot games and low variance online slot games, if played correctly and understood, can work in favour of the player. If you are looking to play for a few hours then the low variance slots will be good. However, as discussed in the above, these have low-winning combinations, meaning lower payouts. It is important to consider that when a few winning combinations are made you need to cash out in order to avoid any loses.

As with low variance online slots the opposite is true for high variance online slots. If you are looking to win big and have a high bank roll then you need to choose a high variance slot that has not cashed out a big sum of money in a while. This will increase your chances of hitting the jackpot. Remember, the aspect of variance can’t be avoided, but how you choose to play and manage your bankroll can change the odds in your favour. A few strategies to win on high variance slots would be playing the lowest bet. This will make your bankroll last longer and help get to the winning combinations and help you choose the best online slots in Canada. It is also important to avoid the gambling feature as this limits your chances of increasing your bankroll.

It may take a while to get to grips with variance and all the above points mentioned, however winning a reasonable sized payout is possible if the slot games are played judiciously and reasonably.

Last Updated: June 6, 2019