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Volatility is one of the more confusing aspects of pokies, especially for new players. Many reviews of poker machines talk at length about how volatile a given game is, and whether that’s a good or bad thing for players. But is volatility something to be feared or embraced? Let’s take a closer look at the subject.

What Is Volatility?

Volatility is the amount of variation one can expect to see in the results from a poker machine. Think of it as similar to hearing about volatility in the stock market: high volatility means that big gains and losses are happening rapidly, while low volatility means steady returns for investors. In pokies, a high volatility machine may have long losing streaks and enormously lucrative payouts, while a game with less volatility might instead pay out more frequently, but generally offer lower payouts.

It’s important to understand that all pokies have some measure of volatility. If they didn’t, they’d be quite boring: who would want to play a game that had the same exact result on every spin? That means volatility is just a measure of how much risk is involved in a particular pokie, and even a “low volatility” machine carries a fair amount of risk and unpredictability when you play it.

The Case for Volatility

For many players, volatility is what makes a poker machine fun. The idea of a high risk, high reward machine can be enticing for many players who are okay with losing everything they put into a machine if it means they might also have a chance (however small) to win big on every single spin.

Poker machines can increase volatility in a number of ways. One common one is to make it harder to earn a winning combination, but make those combinations pay out more generously when they are hit. This is a common method used in three-reel pokies that seek to create highly volatile games: many include one symbol that pays out small (perhaps a cherry that can earn you two coins), while all of the other winning combinations are difficult to achieve but can pay out big rewards when you hit them.

On more complex pokies, the volatility can come either by the above method or through the use of special features. A bonus round might be very difficult to get into, but will pay out a big prize when you do. Other special features could have a variety of awards that range from a few coins to a massive jackpot.

One feature that always adds a lot of volatility is a progressive jackpot. Generally, a fair amount of the return to player on a progressive pokie comes from that jackpot, but typically it will only be hit on very rare occasions. That means that a lot of people are going to have small losses to make up for one huge prize every few days, weeks, or months (depending on the game).

Why You Might Want to Avoid Volatility

That may sound exciting to most players, but there are some pokies players who find high volatility games to be scary. Typically, these are casual players who just want to play a poker machine from time to time in the hopes of winning a few dollars. If they score a big win, that’s great; however, they don’t want to spend hours losing again and again just for the small chance of hitting a jackpot.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, and poker machine designers have made sure to create both high and low volatility machines for this very reason. No matter which type of game appeals to you more, whether you like low or high volatility or anything in between, there are hundreds of games out there that will give you the kind of pokies experience you are looking for.

That’s why we talk about the features that create volatility in our pokies reviews. Finding a machine that is right for you is as simple as doing a little research, signing up for an online casino account, and giving the pokie of your choice a try!

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