The Effects of Volatility and RTP on Slots

Online slots results are calculated by audited and certified Random Number Generation software, so if you are playing at a trustworthy casino you know they are completely based on chance. However, there are measures of machines’ payouts and performances that can give you a good idea of how likely you are to win. If you know how to interpret these indicators, they can help you decide which games to play. In terms of slots the two most important concepts are volatility and the theoretical Return to Player, or RTP.


The term “volatility” can apply to any casino game, and it tells you how big the swings between winning and losing are. In a high-volatility slot your wins and losses will be substantial, for low-volatility games they’ll be considerably less, and medium-volatility slots fall in between. As a financial term it’s used to describe the degree of change in share prices over time.

Another way of defining volatility, also called variability, is the risk level of losing your stake, and how much money you could be paid out in the long run. Australian online pokies with low volatilities pay out small amounts often while those with high volatilities pay out large amounts infrequently.

Return to Player

The Return to Player measurement, which can also be calculated for any game, is expressed as a percentage. If the RTP is 96% and you bet a total of $50, you can expect to get around $48 back over the course of 100 spins or 100 rounds of other casino games. The balance of 100% - the RTP is the house edge. If the RTP is 96%, the house edge is 4%.

In general, you’ll want to look for a high RTP but be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking you’ll win 96% of the time! The RTP is theoretical, and refers to the possibility of getting a payout on every turn. Every spin has a 96% pf paying you out, but it’s also entirely possible that you’ll spin 100 times and not win on any of them.

Volatility and RTP

Volatility and RTP are often confused. They are similar, but are 2 distinct concepts. A useful way of thinking about how they relate to each other is that the variance defines how the RTP is realised. Low variance means returns of near the RTP for every 100 spins; high variance means the amount of returns is very unpredictable.

In other words, while a higher RTP generally means a more player-friendly game with less of a house edge, this doesn’t necessarily apply if the game in question is very volatile. This is important to note, but think about it from a responsible gambling point of view and not with the goal of winning big. Remember, slots are based on chance so your top priority should be finding releases that you find entertaining.

High variability means you can expect a wild ride of wins and losses, and if the RTP is low you should consider sticking to small amounts. Low variability means smaller and more frequent payouts. Choose the kind of games you enjoy, budget your bankroll accordingly, and treat any payout as an added bonus to the guaranteed fun of spinning.