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August 3, 2021

Guide to Comparing High RTP Slots vs High Variance Slots

The Difference Between High RTP and High Variance Slots

Online slots come in all themes and designs; there’s no rulebook for designing them. They can take any appearance from your typical slot machine in your local casino to something from your favourite fantasy movie. One amazing difference, though, between playing at your local slot machine and playing online, is that online casinos offer free spins to use on slot games.

What is the Difference Between High RTP and High Variance Slots?

The fundamental differences in online slots are in the algorithms determining how often and how much they payout. These differ from slot to slot and cater to a variety of player preferences, like risk tolerance.

Slot variance is a spectrum with two variables: variance and RTP (return to player). The former determines the volatility of the game, meaning the frequency of wins. The latter determines how many spins you will have to play to achieve a payout closer to the machine’s average RTP.

Our team have taken the time to compile a comparison guide to help determine which type of slot game is the best to try. But before we dive in and explore the key differences between high variance slots and high Return to Player slots, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with the terminology used in this article.

Online Slots Terminology


Variance is the measure of how frequent the wins of a slot are. If you’re playing high variance slots, expect to win less often than low variance slots but bigger payouts. The opposite is true for low variance slots; these offer a steadier trickle of small but frequent wins than the bursts of winnings provided by their higher variance slots counterparts. Low variance slots are arguably better for more chill sessions, whereas the best high variance slots are for those seeking an adrenaline rush and to win big.


Volatility is similar to variance but is used in slightly different contexts to express almost the same concept. Whereas variance is commonly used in discussions involving statistics and probability, volatility is more often used when describing the price behaviour of securities such as stock and crypto.

For the sake of keeping things simple, we’ll stick to using the term variance for this article as its common contextual use is more relevant to gambling.


A slot’s RTP or Return to Player is the payout ratio, given as a percentage, that slot machines reward you based on how much you spend on them.

A slot with a high RTP is considered more generous than a slot with a low RTP. There’s no advantage or logical reason you would want to pick a lower RTP machine over a higher RTP machine. The more spins you do on a machine, the closer you will get to reaching that machine’s RTP.

How do I find out the RTP of a slot machine?

A return-to-player percentage is a significant number that tells you how much money the game will pay back to the player over time. This is usually expressed as a percentage — for example, 95% RTP means that, on average, players can expect to get $0.95 in winnings for every $1 they bet.

The exact number you see on a slot will vary from game to game and may be labelled differently depending on where you play: for example, some online casinos may list it as “payback” while others use terms such as “return-to-player” (RTP). In general, a game with an RTP of 95% is considered very good. Anything above 90% is usually decent, and most machines will be somewhere between those two figures.

It’s also worth noting that RTPs aren’t 100% accurate because they’re just estimates based on the machine’s statistical data. The numbers you see listed are usually averages that have been calculated over a long period of play and don’t consider things like bonuses or special features. In other words, while we can use these figures to compare games (because they are consistent), you should never rely solely on them when deciding whether to gamble!

For some extra guidance on slots in general take a look at our Free Spins page for the top casinos we recommend to start playing slots. After taking an in-depth look at our comparison below

High Variance Slots: High risk, high reward

High variance slots are the machines you find in your local pub. They have the potential to pay out big wins and can cause some significant swings in a player’s bankroll. These games typically tend to attract casual players who think they’re hitting it big while playing with their mates after work.

These slot machines generally pay more often due to their jackpot structures or larger base game prizes; however, this comes at the cost of lower RTPs and smaller average prizes. Another factor that affects variability is whether there are any wild symbols on the reels or not; slots without them will have higher volatility as every symbol has an equal chance of appearing on each spin.


  • Potential to make a big win in one spin.
  • Less effort is required to play.
  • Appeal to high risk-averse players and those who like a good gamble.


  • High variance slots mean a higher risk of losing money.
  • You may have to keep playing for hours or days to break even.
  • Risk of losses outweighing the value you get from wins.
  • Less appeal to serious players and those who like a steady, reliable return on their investment (ROI).

High Variance Slot Examples

Here are some of the most common types of high variance slots:

Progressive Jackpots

This is a special sub-category of a high variance slot. These machines have jackpots that increase by small increments for each spin and eventually become large enough to trigger a payout.

The problem with progressive jackpot slots is twofold: firstly, players might not play long enough to hit the big payoff; secondly, it’s unclear when precisely the jackpot will hit. This means that there is a lot of volatility in these games, and they can be frustrating as many players are left high and dry even though they’re playing the right machine.

High-End Slots with Wilds

These are the most volatile machines out there, and for a good reason: they offer some of the highest payouts in the industry. They have a lot of unique features like wild symbols or bonus rounds which increase their variance dramatically.

These high variance slots tend to be very popular among seasoned online slots players; however, they can also appeal to casual players who want an adrenaline rush when playing at the casino. The downside is that these games have the lowest average payouts in the industry, so they can be challenging. They also usually offer the chance for a bonus game.

High RTP Slots: Low risk, low reward

These games are best suited to the serious player who ultimately cares about their winnings above all else.


  • Better RTP and return on investment.


  • None. You should always play the highest RTP games you can. If you invest enough time and money into them, they will eventually pay out their RTP.

High RTP Slot Examples

Here are some of the most common types of high RTP slot machines:

Cash machines

These are the most basic type of slot machine and generally have an RTP of around 95%. They don’t typically offer much in terms of bonus features or special symbols.

Jackpot games

Jackpot slots have multiple pay lines to increase your chances of winning. The jackpots on these games can be massive; however, they also tend to be more volatile (and rewarding) than other types of slot machines.

Progressive Jackpot Slots

Progressive jackpots are precisely what they sound like. They share the same characteristics as standard jackpot slots but have one key difference: a progressive jackpot that grows every time it is not won.

Video Slots

Video slots can be played on mobile devices and tend to offer more bonus features than traditional slot machines. These games have RTPs around 95% or higher and payout regularly, making them great for casual players and serious gamblers.

Scatter Slots

Scatter slot games are pretty different from regular slot machines, as they have a much lower RTP of around 90%. Players can win smaller prizes more often than on other types of slots — but you’ll also be waiting longer for those big wins to come along! The bonus rounds on these games can be rather lucrative, though.

Symbol Slots

Symbol slots require you to line up specific symbols on a pay line to win. These games are like jackpot slots because they often have progressive jackpots and the potential for big wins — but they also tend to have lower RTPs than cash machines or video slots.

Top Online Casino Slot Sites

Here is a list of our top online casinos with free spins bonuses, in no particular order, to start playing slots today.

So Which Type of Slot Games Should You Play?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what slots you pick as long as you play it for enough spins that it approaches its average RTP. The only differences between high variance games and low variance games are how frequently they pay out and how much, with frequency negatively correlated to payout size.

If you put a high variance slot machine next to a low variance slow machine and play them simultaneously, spin by spin, and if you play them both enough times, they will eventually hit their RTP. The only difference between the two will be the journey along the way; the high variance game will give you a bumpier ride than the low variance game.

This is similar in principle to the famous thought experiment involving monkeys typing for infinity, with the inevitable outcome that they’ll eventually write the works of Shakespeare. The key takeaway from this is to introduce as many variables as you like to a random number generator. Still, if it has a predetermined outcome, it will absolutely meet that outcome given enough time.

However, if you’re playing only a few quick free spins, then the machine’s RTP is less relevant, and variance starts to matter more. Not giving the machine enough spins to approach its RTP makes the game’s variance more prominent, as a win from high variance slot machines will pay out more per payout than such games with a low variance slot and set you far ahead of the game’s RTP percentage.

Final Verdict

That’s not to say you should play higher variance games if you’re only playing a short session; it doesn’t matter from a pure RTP perspective. So, which would you decide on? High variance slot games, low variance slots games or medium variance slots? Well, as stated in this article, it doesn’t matter from a pure RTP perspective; they’re both going to deliver the same results eventually. Just pick the level of variance that you’re comfortable with and enjoy yourself, whether it’s high volatility slot games or playing slots on online casino games with features like free spins. You could also avoid the risk by using a no deposit casino, that way you only need to place money done if you want to continue playing.

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