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Slot Variance

Ever spun a slot machine for 500 spins without seeing the bonus feature? Or maybe your money just went so quick it feels "wrong"? Or maybe you keep getting lots of tiny wins that are hardly worth the effort and never anything decent?

If so, the chances are that you are experiencing the symptoms of "slot variance", probably the most important thing that a slots player needs to know in order to enjoy a slot game and yet the least understood. Take a few minutes to digest this article and it will probably save you a *lot* of money if you play regularly.

For the uninitiated, the word "variance" in this context equates to the word "risk", or put simply, a low variance slot machine is basically a "low risk" slot machine. The risk element however does not affect the expected payout. Most of the video slots featured here at SlotJunkies have an expected return between 93% and 97% and whether they are "low variance" or "high variance" doesn't affect that one bit. What the slots variance does affect is how the slot game pays you and this has a knock-on effect which should dictate how much you bet on a spin, how large a bankroll you need and how soon you are likely to run out of money! It helps to have a good slot strategy in place before you play!

In simple terms, a low variance slot will pay you a combination of half decent and "token gesture" wins more often, while a high variance slot will give you mainly token gesture wins and very occassionally a monster! There is of course some middle ground. How do you tell if a slot is low, medium or high variance? Well, the only way is to play - or use this site - and while the paytable can sometimes give you some clues, it's not a decisive indicator. Most casino software providers don't publish the variance rating of their online slots either, which is a shame. IGT and WMS slot games tend to be the exception to the rule and from their data we can see that most of their slot games fall between 92% and 96%.

Determining Slots Variance

If you look at the paytable of most online video slots you often get a hint at the variance. If you see, for example, that 3 or 4 of a kind pays out relatively low, while 5 of a kind seems to be a lot more (perhaps 10 times more than 4 of a kind), the chances are you are looking a high variance slot. If the gap between 3, 4 and 5 of a kind tends to be in 3-5x range of it's lower paying cousin, then you're possibly leaning more toward a lower/medium variance. But this is not decisive - a lot depends on how many symbols there are on a reel, whether there is a jackpot on the slot or how many paylines the slot has.

Having played the majority of online slots, I have added a rough indicator of the slot variance for every game on the Slotjunkies site. It's not a bible, but it does give a pretty good indicator. Once you have got a feel for the variance of a given game, the most important thing is that you balance your betsize accordingly. A failure to do this could mean that you run out of money before you hit a decent win. Players that don't understand this concept are more likely to feel that a slot game is rigged, whereas none of the casinos using the top software and listed here at Slotjunkies have the ability, or facility, to rig games. Every slot has it's bad streaks and variance plays a decisive role.

High Variance Slots

Below are a selection of high variance slots. Great games in my opinion, but start betting low until you get a feel for how they play. If you have $200, I'd suggest starting at no more than $1 a spin and work your way up as you feel more comfortable. That way you should get a decent session time. bet more and you might win big, but there is a greater chance you will need to replenish your bankroll first:

Low Variance Slots

Low variance slots are better suited to the player with a smaller budget. You can still win some pretty decent wins on low variance games, but the chances of a 500x hit are very slim, in some cases non-existant. But getting 100x or a bit more is still achievable. The advantage to this type of variance is that you can make your bankroll last longer even betting a little bigger. Our $200 budget at $1 a spin should last you a decent time, although you have to set your sights lower. If you are happy to cashout a 25% - 30% profit but want to play for a decent length of time, low variance is the way to go. Below are a selection of lower variance slots you can get started with:

As I mentioned above, I prefer the higher variance slot games. I don't mind having a shorter playing time and taking a risk and, more often or not, I will come away empty handed. But once in a while I hit a monster. As an example, playing the very high variance slot game Isis has cost me a lot of money down the years, but in 2008 I hit 5 scatters in the free spins, betting an unusually high $12.50 a spin for a massive $49,300! Horses for courses, rough with the smooth, slots are games of chance - the key is to know when to cash out! Check out my Casino Slots article for some more tips on stretching your budget.

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