These High-Volatility Casino Games Are Worth Playing

Different casino games offer you varied chances of winning in the short run. Some see you win nearly half the time, while others keep you waiting longer for payouts.

The latter variety is what’s referred to as high-volatility games. They don’t pay as frequently as the average casino game.

Chances are that you don’t want to be kept waiting on wins. However, you should at least consider playing high-volatility games.

I’m going to cover several volatile casino games that are worth trying. But first, I’ll discuss what volatility is and why it’s important in gaming.

What Does High Volatility Mean in Gambling?

Volatility refers to measuring how close or distant results are from a statistical average. High volatility, therefore, means that results are quite distant from the average.

This term also refers to measuring results within a specific timeframe. For example, you may consider the volatility for a three-hour slots session.

Variance is similar to volatility because it’s also a measurement of whether outcomes closely correlate with the average. But the key difference is that variance has no timeframe.

People often use volatility and variance interchangeably when speaking of slots outcomes. However, the distinction is that volatility measures short-term results.

Speaking of which, slots are considered one of the most volatile forms of gambling. These games can pay you a huge prize in one session, then drain your money over the course of your next several casino trips.

The reason why slots are so volatile is because they offer both large and small payouts. Slot machines must make up for the huge prizes by paying less frequently than other casino games.

Here’s a simple example of a slots pay table:

  • 3 racecars = 100,000 coins
  • 3 Ferraris = 5,000 coins
  • 3 regular cars = 1,000 coins
  • 3 minivans = 100 coins
  • 3 buses = 10 coins
  • 3 bicycles = 5 coins

You can see that the top prize is worth 100,000 coins. This game can’t pay out frequently when there’s such a big prize available at the top.

Any other casino game that offers one or more large payouts will also be fairly volatile. Meanwhile, games like blackjack and baccarat are less unpredictable.

They offer even-money payouts on wins and only have a house edge of around 1%. Therefore, gamblers can look forward to more consistent wins.

Why Does Volatility Get a Bad Rap in Casino Gambling?

The biggest problem with volatile casino games is that they’re very unpredictable. Furthermore, you never know when to expect your next payout.

This inconsistency makes it hard to plan in terms of bankroll management. Your money will also quickly disappear as you play these games.

The sad fact is that you’re going to walk away a loser with volatile games most of the time. They just don’t pay often enough to help you net consistent wins.

However, the upside is that you can also look forward to big payouts. I’m going to discuss this and other advantages in the next section.

Advantages of Volatile Casino Games

Playing unpredictable casino games with varied payout schedules may not seem like a great idea. This is especially true when considering that you’ll experience many dry spells with these games.

However, volatile forms of gambling do offer some advantages that you may enjoy. Here are the key benefits of playing such games.

Play for Big Jackpots

If you’re looking to win a huge jackpot, then you’ll most likely find it with a volatile game. Slot machines are especially well known for offering huge payouts.

For example, Microgaming’s Mega Moolah has paid out a jackpot worth over $20 million. Several other progressive online slots have delivered prizes worth eight figures too.

The chances of you winning such a huge prize are extremely low.

But you don’t necessarily have to shoot for payouts that’ll make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. You can also find plenty of life-changing prizes worth six figures in the online slots world.

You don’t even have to play slot machines to try for big jackpots. Progressive blackjack and Caribbean stud can also deliver large prizes as long as you’re willing to make a side bet.

Play for Large Payouts on a Budget

One advantage of progressive jackpots is that they give you a chance to win big without spending much money.

Most online slots only feature around a $0.25 minimum bet (25 lines at one cent apiece). Even at this rate, you can still qualify for some of the big jackpots mentioned earlier.

Table games require a $1 side bet to qualify for the jackpot. Most players don’t mind putting in a dollar every hand to take a chance at a five- or six-figure payout.

Of course, the downside is that you’re probably not going to win a jackpot anytime soon, but this might not bother you when considering how cheap it is to play volatile games.

A Huge Win Could Be Right Around the Corner

Earlier, I mentioned how games like baccarat and blackjack can offer you consistent payouts. The drawback, though, is that you can’t win payouts that are way larger than your original bet.

Volatile games differ in this aspect because they give you an opportunity to play for huge payouts in every round. This scenario lets you dream big about winning a massive prize at any point.

How likely you are to win one of these payouts depends upon the odds. For example, you have a much better chance of getting a royal flush in video poker than you do winning a $10 million slots jackpot.

Regardless of the payout size, it’s always fun to play for these types of payouts. And if you play long enough, you may very well get lucky.

Which Volatile Games Should You Play?

You can see that there are plenty of reasons to consider volatile casino games. However, you don’t want to choose just any unpredictable game.

Some have extremely high house edges that make it unlikely you’ll win any profits. You want to choose games that at least give you a decent chance to win in the long run, in case you don’t collect a big prize.

The following games not only offer you a solid chance to win but also have other aspects that make them worth considering.

Online Slots

You have two main choices when it comes to playing slot machines: land-based casinos and gaming sites.

You used to have to visit Las Vegas or Atlantic City just to enjoy land-based slots. Times have changed, though, with numerous brick-and-mortar venues popping up all over the US.

You can therefore visit a land-based casino in many places to enjoy slot machines, but you also should consider that these games have high house edges.

Land-based slots feature anywhere from a 5% to 12% house advantage. Penny slots are especially terrible because they give the casino between a 10% and 12% edge.

Online slots are a great alternative if you want a better chance of winning. The average internet slot only has between a 4% and 5% house edge.

What’s more is that you can bet a penny per line (a.k.a. penny slots) and still qualify for these low house edges. That said, internet slots give you both a cheaper way to play and a better chance to win.

Of course, you still have to deal with the heavy volatility that’s associated with any slot, but the good news is that you can at least look forward to better odds.

Poker Tournaments

Poker tournaments allow you to compete against other players for a tournament prize pool. The exciting thing about these tourneys is that you can use skill to boost your chances of winning.

Assuming you become a really good poker player, then you could even win long-term profits. Perhaps even more exciting is that some tournaments offer payouts worth six or seven figures.

The main downside with these events, though, is that only around 10% of the field cashes. Herein lies the big volatility of poker tournaments.

You can see an example of tournament prize pool distribution below.

  • 100 entrants
  • $100 + $10 (fee) buy-in
  • 100 x 100 = $10,000 prize pool
  • 1st place – $4,000
  • 2nd place – $2,000
  • 3rd place – $1,000
  • 4th-5th place – $500
  • 6th-10th place – $400

If you play slots and other volatile games, then you may be perfectly fine with this uneven distribution. You also have a stronger shot at the prize money by improving your poker skills.


Roulette gives you a chance to make either low- or high-volatility bets. Low-volatility wagers are found on the outside of the board, while more unpredictable bets are located on the inside.

You can see how roulette wagers differ in terms of their odds and volatility below.

  • Single number – 36:1 odds, 35:1 payout
  • Split – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Street – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Corner – 8.25:1 odds, 8:1 payout
  • Six line – 5.17:1 odds, 5:1 payout
  • Column – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Dozen – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Odd/even – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • Red/black – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • High/low – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout

European roulette features the same house edge on every bet. Therefore, you can make any wager — high or low volatility — and look forward to the same long-term chances of winning.

The main thing you need to worry about is whether you want to chase big payouts with lower odds or go for even-money prizes with higher odds.

In either case, you can’t go wrong with European roulette when considering that each bet only carries a 2.70% house edge.

Video Poker

Video poker is similar to poker tournaments in that it lets you use skill to improve your chances of earning money. The only difference is that video poker is a house-banked game, meaning the casino has an edge.

However, most video poker games feature a very small house advantage. 9/6 Jacks or Better, for example, only has a 0.46% house edge.

The key thing is knowing which video poker games give you the best opportunity to win. You also need to choose the right paytable for each game.

The 9/6 in front of Jacks or Better means that a full house pays 9 coins and a flush pays 6. On the other hand, 9/5 Jacks or Better pays 5 coins for a flush.

This lone difference may not seem that important, however.

9/5 Jacks or Better features a higher 1.55% house advantage.

The other thing you need to be aware of is that video poker requires a good deal of strategy. You must know which cards to keep and get rid of in every situation.

Of course, you’re not required to learn a strategy before playing, but you’ll definitely want to do so when considering the low house edge that’s possible.

As for the volatility, video poker features payouts as high as 4,000 coins (royal flush), 250 coins (straight flush), and 125 coins (four of a kind). You must bet five coins in order to play for these prizes.

The good thing about video poker is that it’s less volatile than slot machines. Most of your hands will be made of up smaller payouts that come quite frequently.

You’ll still deal with some degree of unpredictability when considering the large prizes, but you can at least win around 45% of your hands with correct strategy.

Don’t Play Every Highly Volatile Casino Game

You should never play casino games just for the big payouts. After all, some games and bets feature terrible house edges that’ll cause you to lose quickly.

Here are some high-volatility games that you want to avoid.

  • Certain slot machines (mostly land-based)
  • Keno
  • Craps prop bets
  • Side bets at table games

Earlier, I discussed how some slot machines have high house edges. These games not only subject you to serious unpredictability, but they also offer weak long-term chances of winning.

Megabucks, for example, is a famous Las Vegas slots machine that’s paid out a number of mind-blowing jackpots. For example, this game holds the record for delivering a $39.7 million jackpot in 2003.

Many players only look at the progressive jackpot meter on Megabucks and immediately start inserting their money. However, the problem with Megabucks is twofold:

  • It requires a $3 minimum bet (300 lines at one penny)
  • The house edge is 12%

If you have money to blow, then by all means, take your chance at a life-changing payout. But Megabucks hits you hard on two fronts with the large house advantage and big minimum wager.

I don’t mean to pick on Megabucks; there are plenty of other slot machines that present the same problems. Unless your only goal is to get rich through slots, I don’t recommend playing such games.

Keno is a lottery-style game that sees you fill out tickets in hopes of having your winning numbers drawn. The excitement comes from how you can win big on a dollar ticket.

The downside, though, is that some keno games feature up to a 40% house edge. You might as well play the lottery and go for even bigger jackpots with these terrible odds.

Craps offers some good bets, including pass line (1.41% house edge) and don’t pass line (1.36%). Unfortunately, it also has some of the worst prop bets known to man.

Any 7 and “Whirl” are the worst offenders, featuring a 16.67% and 13.33% house edge, respectively. Here are other really bad craps wagers:

  • Craps (2, 3, or 12) = 8:1 odds (7:1 payout)
  • Hard 4 / hard 10 = 8:1 odds (7:1 payout)
  • Hard 6 / hard 8 = 10:1 odds (9:1 payout)
  • 11 (Yo or Yo-leven) = 17:1 odds (15:1 payout)
  • 3 = 17:1 odds (15:1 payout)
  • 2 = 35:1 odds (30:1 payout)
  • 12 = 35:1 odds (30:1 payout)

Again, some table games give you a chance to play for big progressive jackpots, but these same games can also feature side bets with really high house edges.

For example, blackjack offers a popular Lucky Ladies side bet. This fun wager pays big when your first two cards are the queen of hearts. But it’s not so fun when considering the 24.71% house edge.

Make Sure You Have the Bankroll for Volatile Games

Even if you choose volatile games that give you decent long-term odds, you still want to perform bankroll management calculations beforehand. Doing so gives you an idea of what kind of funds you need to make your entertainment last.

The only problem, though, is that bankroll management becomes harder as the unpredictability increases. But you can still make some estimations and perform decent calculations.

For example, the average slot machine will see you lose around 250 bets on average. This figure assumes that you don’t win any big payouts.

You can use this number along with other variables to come up with a bankroll plan. Here’s an example:

  • You have $1,000 to play slots with
  • You make $1 bets on average
  • 1,000 / 1 = 1,000 total units
  • You lose around 250 bets per hour
  • 1,000 / 250 = 4
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last for four hours

How precise you get with bankroll management depends on your preferences. For example, you might actually track your losses throughout multiple sessions to get a good idea of how many bets you’ll lose.

However, you don’t have to go this far. The key is to simply have a vague idea of how much money you’ll need for however long you feel like playing.


Highly volatile games may have a bad reputation in the casino world, but they do have some advantages that make them worth playing.

These games offer big payouts for relatively cheap bets. You can spend $1 or less in many cases to play for life-changing prizes.

Many gamblers find volatile games thrilling due to how a big win could be right around the corner. Contrast this to baccarat or blackjack, where you can only win as much as you bet (i.e., even money).

Some of the best volatile casino games include roulette, poker tournaments, video poker, and certain online slots. They all have unique qualities that make them worth checking out.

I personally love poker tournaments because they offer the chance to use skill to boost my chances of winning big. Slots are also exciting due to the huge jackpots.

Of course, I don’t advocate that you play every volatile game. Certain games and bets feature ugly house edges that’ll cause you to lose at an accelerated rate.

Stay away from expensive slots with high house advantages, along with craps prop bets, keno, and most table game side bets.

As long as you avoid these games, then you should have a good time with volatile casino gambling. It gives you the opportunity to play for huge jackpots and dream big.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016.

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