Casino Myth: High Variance Slots Pay, Low Variance Slots Don’t
There are so many crazy casino myths floating around these days that it’s hard to keep up with them all. Today, we’ll focus on one very specific myth that claims the variance of a slot machine will determine its profitability.
The theory is that high variance slot machines are profitable, while the low variance variety are the casino’s bread and butter. By that description, it would seem that high variance games pay out more than they take in, and that the low variance games make up for the casino’s losses by siphoning more money from players.
While it may sound reasonable at face value, this is a ridiculous notion. Anyone who truly understands how slot machines work knows better. We’ll first explain a bit about how high and low variance effects the player experience. Then we’ll get into why slot variance simply cannot effect a game’s overall return to player, or RTP.
How High Variance Slots Work
These are games that often feature few paylines and generous pay tables. Players won’t line up winning combinations very frequently, but when they do, odds are the payout will be a lucrative one. Most 3 reel classic slots and 5-reel video slots with no more than 15 paylines are high variance games.
Slot machines with high variance are mostly preferred by players with large bankrolls. Due to the low win rate, a casual player with only $50 or less to spend may not last long enough to hit one of those generous payouts.
How Low Variance Slots Work
These games are exact opposites of their high-variance cousins. They have many paylines or fixed ways to win, and they land lots of winning combinations. However, they usually pay very small amounts, which many times won’t even add up to more than the cost of a single bet. It’s usually not until one of their features (free spins, bonus games, pick me games, etc.) kicks in that players begin to see higher payouts.
A lot of players love these machines because they can keep a bankroll going for a much longer period of time. Therefore casual players flock to them. If they don’t hit any high-paying features, they still get more entertainment value by playing for a substantial amount of time.
Slot Machine Variance will Not Effect RTP
The reason the myth that high variance pays, and low variances doesn’t, is so ridiculous, is because every machine—every individual machine, of any variance—must have a predefined RTP. Casinos cannot say ‘Well, this high-variance machine will pay 110%, and this low variance machine will pay 80% to ensure we make our money back’. It doesn’t work that way.
For one thing, if it did, everyone would play high variance slots, and casinos would lose money. Secondly, it would break numerous regulatory gaming laws. Every jurisdiction, from Malta to Las Vegas, Nevada, requires each machine to carry an RTP within a specific range. It cannot be too low, nor can it be 100% or more.
As such, this casino myth is absolutely, irrevocably false. Over time, low variance slots pay the same average RTPs as high variance slots. The only difference is the frequency and value of wins.
Adalene Lucas: is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.