LDWs: The Overlooked Element of Slots Volatility

Volatility has become a hot topic in slots these days. Many gamblers like to know the volatility of a game for multiple reasons.

For example, they may want to play slots that offer multiple features and huge potential prizes. In this case, players should seek out high volatility games.

On the other hand, a gambler might look for slots that pay more frequently in the short run. In this situation, they should focus on low volatility options.

You can see why this topic is important. However, some players get the wrong impression about what exactly volatility entails.

Most notably, they discount losses disguised as wins (LDWs) from the equation. I’ll discuss more on LDWs along with why they’re so underrated when identifying volatile slot machines.

What Are Losses Disguised as Wins?

Slots with multiple paylines, or numerous “ways,” are the norm these days. They give players many opportunities to pick up wins.

However, slots with multiple lines or ways also blur the distinction between real wins and losses. They typically offer small payouts on one or more lines that don’t add up to the bet cost.
Here’s an example:

  • You wager $1 on a spin
  • You win $0.10 on a single line
  • $1 – $0.10 = $0.90
  • You’ve lost $0.90 overall

This scenario is what’s known as a loss disguised as a win. The word “disguised” refers to how you’re tricked into believing that this is a true win.

Of course, you can easily see that this is a loss based on the math alone. But developers are clever and add animations and thrilling sound effects after wins.

You may lose 90% of your bets in a given spin. However, you’ll feel like a winner when animations are flashing across the screen and sounds are blaring.

The fast play rate also factors into the disguise. Thanks to the fast results and simple gameplay, slot machines encourage you to spin the reels quickly.

You may be able to easily spot an LDW after carefully examining each result. But when you’re performing spin after spin, you might blindly think that you’re constantly winning due to the theatrics.

The dangerous part is that you may feel like playing more after falsely thinking that you’re winning. However, LDW’s aren’t wins at all.

How Do LDWs Impact Volatility?

You can see that losses disguised as wins are deceiving. But how exactly do they factor into the volatility?

When many gamblers think about volatility, they only consider the hit frequency. The latter refers to how often a slot delivers a payout of any kind. If a game features 30% hit frequency, for example, then it will give out at least one prize on three out of every 10 spins.

As I’ll cover later, hit frequency does play a role in volatility. What many players don’t think about, though, is that true winning spins play a major part as well.

Volatility isn’t just a concept that determines how frequently you win in the short run. It also considers how much money you’ll earn back.
A slot with frequent LDWs may have high hit frequency. However, it’s not seeing you win profits on a large percentage of these spins.

Such games may only offer frequent small payouts rather than an abundance of true wins. You’ll be dealing with lots of volatility in such cases until you manage to hit a big payout.

Why Many Gamblers Don’t Account for LDWs

A big reason why slots players don’t account for losses disguised as wins is simply because they’re unaware of them. They may have never even heard this term before.

The same gamblers are more likely to be tricked by LDWs. They’ll simply think that they’re on a hot streak when they keep winning.

Again, LDWs should definitely be factored into the equation when considering volatility. But the average gambler simply isn’t aware of these disguised losses.

You Should Always Be Aware of LDWs

You definitely don’t want to be one of the players who are in the dark regarding LDWs. Instead, you want to thoroughly understand losses disguised as wins and know how to spot them.

This is important not just for the sake of volatility, but also for bankroll management purposes. You never want to be encouraged to keep playing a game just because it feels like you’re winning over and over.

A hot streak can definitely motivate you to continue spinning the reels. But you have to actually know when you’re on a hot streak.

LDWs are deceptive in that they make you feel like a winner. In reality, though, you could be mired in a losing streak despite all of the small wins.

The best way to avoid this problem is by taking a brief moment after every round to determine if you’ve actually won or lost money. Monetary wins and losses are the only true way to measure the success of spins.

Developers Should Give an Indication of LDW Rates

Many slots developers offer a volatility rating nowadays. For example, a slot that features a 9 out of 10 rating will be quite volatile.

Given that losses disguised as wins are essentially factored into these ratings, you don’t necessarily need to know the LDW percentage. However, such a figure would still be helpful information.

For example, a game’s info screen could offer the following figures:

  • 25% hit frequency
  • 15% LDW rate
  • 10% true win rate

You can see that this game pays about a quarter of the time. Judging by the 15% LDW rate, though, three-fifths of these hits are actually losing spins. Such information would help you and other gamblers avoid the trap of thinking that you’re winning all the time.

What Else Impacts Slots Volatility?

Plenty of aspects beyond LDWs go into determining the volatility. Here are other crucial aspects that impact how volatile a game may be.

Hit Frequency

As covered before, hit frequency accounts for what percentage of spins result in a payout. The size of the prize doesn’t matter so long as at least one payout is delivered.

Hit rate definitely isn’t a perfect substitute for a volatility rating. However, it is quite useful at showing just how often you’ll win prizes.

Some games feature the hit frequency in the information screen. You should head to the info section before playing a game to see if this figure is available.

Maximum Prize

Each slot differs in terms of what kind of jackpot it offers. Some games feature multimillion-dollar jackpots while others only offer a top payout worth 1,000x your stake.

Anything close to the latter variety isn’t inspiring at first glance. However, games with lower maximum payouts are more apt to deliver frequent prizes.

Of course, you may still opt for slots that offer life-changing money. Just be aware, though, that you probably won’t win as often with these slots either.


Features are widely considered the best part of slot machines today. These bonuses spice up the gameplay and can also reward you with big payouts.

Here are common features found throughout the gaming world:

  • Cascading reels
  • Expanding grids
  • Expanding wilds
  • Prize wheels
  • Random wilds
  • Win multipliers

Many real money slots released today offer a combination of these features. The result is exciting gameplay that can lead to massive payouts. The downside, though, is that all of these features also send the volatility skyrocketing.


Losses disguised as wins are overlooked by many gamblers in general. Therefore, it should be no surprise that LDWs are rarely factored into volatility.

Instead, most players only think about the hit frequency in this regard. But LDWS play a big role in volatility as well.

They constitute all of the wins you get that aren’t really wins. Instead, you’re earning small prizes that don’t cover the spin cost.

LDWs and other relevant aspects are already factored into a volatility rating. If a game doesn’t have one of these ratings, though, then you should be mindful of LDWs when trying to guess the volatility.

Slots with more ways, or paylines, typically feature the most losses disguised as wins. As a result, Megaways slots and similar games are quite volatile.

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 GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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