High Variance Slots – What Are They and Should You Play Them?

3 Recommended High Variance Slots

High variance slots are some of the most popular online gambling games in the UK. Exciting and innovative features, high risk-high reward gameplay and new and unusual themes are attracting a massive audience for games from developers such as Nolimit City and Hacksaw Gaming

But high-risk games like these are not for everyone. In this article, we explain more about the characteristics of high variance slots and help you decide if they are right for you.

What Does High Variance Mean?

Variance, or volatility, is a term used to describe the payout distribution of online slots. Every slot has an average Return to Player (RTP) which is typically around 96%. However, not every session results in a 96% return. Some will be greater, and some lower. The further and more frequent the movement away from this RTP, the greater the variance of a game. 

That’s the mathematical explanation. But what does that mean for your experience as a player? This is what you can typically expect when playing a highly volatile slot:

  • Uneven Win Distribution – rather than a steady run of small to medium-value wins, high-variance games will often produce long runs with little or no return before kicking out a short burst of high-value wins powered by exciting gameplay like progressive multipliers and free spins. It is these rare but thrilling moments that players are chasing.
  • High Win Potential in keeping with their uneven win distribution, high-variance games usually have a much higher maximum win threshold than low-variance games. Indeed, the highest maximum wins in any online slot are found in high-variance games like Tombstone RIP by Nolimit City (300,000x) or Max Megaways 2 by Big Time Gaming (147,620x). 
  • Balance Burners these games are like putting a long-shot bet on. The odds of returning a positive balance in your session are low and you can burn through your cash more quickly than you do when playing a low or medium variance slot. It requires good bankroll management – choosing a sensible stake level – to ensure you don’t burn out too quickly.
  • Progressive Features – to produce those rare but thrilling high payout sequences, developers will build progressive gameplay in the slot where multiple features trigger one after the other, with a dramatic effect on your balance. 
    A classic example would be cascading wins triggering progressive win multipliers in Megaways games. Each consecutive win adds more to the overall win multiplier, and the payout grows at pace.
  • Can Be Boring and Frustrating fans of volatility will tell you otherwise, but high-variance games can be boring too. When you are on a long run of losing spins, or get close, but not close enough to unlocking that big feature round, they can in fact be quite boring. You have to decide whether those lean spells are worth the grind.

Who Should Play High Variance Slots?

When deciding if you want to take on a high variance slot, you could examine whether this style of gambling suits your personality type. Here are the classic traits of people who enjoy this type of game.

  • Thrill Seekers – the high variance gambler is typically someone who loves that big hit that comes with a huge win triggered by a run of features. They will take the chance on a long-odds bet just for that massive potential payoff. Equally, they would get bored with the slow, even pace of a low variance slot.
  • Big Spenders those who enjoy playing high variance slots often have a big gambling budget because it’s needed to absorb the long periods with no reward. They also like the status of the VIP or high roller gambler in casinos. 
  • Impulsive Personalities high variance slots fans may often be impulsive personality types who are less interested in deep analysis of a game and more excited by the potentially epic outcome of a bet. The volatile and unpredictable nature of these slots makes them attractive to impulsive players.
  • Experienced Gamblers with crazy odds and complex gameplay, volatile slots are not for the inexperienced players. If you are new to slots, it’s better to start with more balanced games with regular payouts and simple features. Starburst is a prime example of such a slot. 

What Tips Are There for Playing High Variance Slots?

If you do decide to go ahead and play high variance slots, then you should make sure you gamble sensibly. Remember, these are games of chance so there is no way to bend the odds in your favour by strategy. Each spin is as random as the next. But here are some tips so you get the most out of your time on the reels.

  • Choose a Fun Game high volatility slots have some of the most interesting and outlandish themes and gameplay so take the time to explore as many as you can. Some review sites have their own ‘best ever’ high variance games lists which make a good place to start.
  • Small Stakes – always play with low stakes relative to your overall balance when you play high risk gambling games. It stops you from running out of money too quickly.
  • Don’t Chase Your Losses – if you find you are having a bad day with it, take a break. There is no point trying to outrun the game. They can be a grind, and sometimes it’s best to accept defeat …. for now!
  • Play In Demo Mode if the game is complex, make sure you try it for free first before spending your own money. Playing in demo mode allows you to get to know the features without the pressure of real money betting. 
  • Play at Licensed Casinos always play at sites that operate under a UK Gambling Commission license as this will guarantee fairness and safety.

3 Recommended High Variance Slots

Ready to play? If you think you’ve got what it takes to take on the baddest, most volatile games out there, good luck to you! To finish, here are 3 stone cold classics to cut your teeth on. 

Tombstone Rip by Nolimit City

Tombstone Rip slot gameplay
Max Win300,000x 

This is perhaps the most notorious high variance slot. It has a Wild West theme. Not uncommon for slots, right? Perhaps, but this being Nolimit City the narrative is dark, outlaws get slain and your wallet gets rinsed, unless you are one of the lucky few. 

The maximum payout is a record-breaking 300,000x (£30,000 for a 10p stake). But it also has a very low hit rate (9.08% – less than 1 in 10 spins brings up a win) and a volatility level described by the studio themselves as ‘Insane’. 

In short, you should expect many, many dead spins before you get anything like a decent win. 

Bonanza Megaways by Big Time Gaming

Bonanza Megaways slot gameplay
Max Win26,000x 

Bonanza is a gold-mining slot by Australian studio, Big Time Gaming. It’s a good example of a high variance game because it includes some very typical high variance features in avalanche wins, free spins and progressive multipliers. 

After hundreds of spins trying to unlock the bonus round, players can strike it lucky to the tune of 26,000x (£2,600 for a 10p stake) by landing lots of consecutive winning spins, each of which grows a win multiplier by 1x. 

The thrill of watching the wins and multipliers stack up is what makes high variance slots play so fun.

Book of Dead by Play N Go

Book of Dead slot gameplay
Max Win26,000x 

Despite its relatively low maximum win of 5,000x, Play n Go’s Book of Dead remains an all-time classic high variance slot. It follows the explorer Rich Wilde as he hunts down ancient Egyptian treasures. 

It’s a very simple game, which partly explains it’s long-lasting appeal. The best stuff happens in the free spins round where one symbol is chosen as an expander. Whenever it lands, it expands to full reel height to complete paylines. You can fill the entire screen with one symbol this way, to win the maximum prize.

With extensive experience in the professional iGaming industry since 2015 and thousands of casino articles and reviews under his belt, Mattias is a seasoned expert well-versed in the world of online casino gambling.
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