A Guide to Volatility and RNG for the uninitiated

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RNG is probably a word you have heard many a time if you have been involved in ANY sort of gaming, be it gambling, sportsbetting, casino games, or card games, all the way through to less financially motivated games like tabletop RPGs and video games. Volatility, on the other hand, is a tad more specific to the tables, and this article will help break down the two terms and debunk any misconceptions you may have had up to this point.


Random Number Generator is a machine, either software based or a physical device, designed to generate a number or a sequence of numbers or symbols devoid of any pattern. This system is what basically every system of luck you have played is based on. Magic 8 Balls, dice from the traditional hexahedron up to the 20 and 100 sided dice of D&D, games on your phone, FIFA Ultimate team packs, lootboxes, trading card booster packs and damage numbers in games ALL rely on RNG for their creation or function. Anybody asking for ‘good RNG’ is merely asking for good luck.

In the Casino

The role of RNG in a casino is what all the games you play are based on, split between physical devices and digital systems. Playing dice-based games uses the dice-based source of RNG. A die is a physical RNG device, yielding a random result between 1-6, relying on the physics of the dice being thrown to yield the random result. A thoroughly shuffled deck of cards is a physical RNG device yielding a result between 1-52 (game-setup dependent of course) using the shuffling as the source of the random element. A roulette wheel yields a result of both colour and numerical variables again using physics as the random decider. Slot machines, digital games and all gaming machines will use a digital RNG system. 

Is this a good thing?

As much as the idea of RNG, and your entire gaming life revolving around the decisions of random elements, that is entirely what casino gambling and gaming revolves around. Indeed, the whole concept of all casino games would be destroyed if the random element was removed, and the use of RNG devices is precisely what keeps the games fair and free from being tampered with. RNG is great for you because it means the dealer can’t swing the game, and the machine is not messing with you. You will never enter a casino with weighted dice or packs of cards or roulettes, which is downright illegal under gambling commission legislation in many countries. The only time you will ever see RNG being a bad thing is in competitive games of skill. Losing to blind luck in a game of complete skill is heartbreaking, and part of the reason why eSports struggle to gain traction. The presence of RNG elements in online competitive games is something developers constantly battle against. However, you will never need to fear the term when “RNG” appears in a casino environment, because all it means is that your game is fair and neutrally generated.


Now that we have established what is involved in RNG, we can begin to understand volatility. Volatility, pure and simple, means the likelihood of winning the game. It is based on the game’s design and construction, the algorithms and RNG involved in the creation of the game and illustrates the probability of a player winning or losing and the frequency of victory they should anticipate. Highly volatile slots and machines will have dry periods in between wins that can be disheartening but will often have higher payouts. Slots and games of lower volatility subscribe more to the little-and-often philosophy, dealing out lower payouts more regularly. Volatility can further be analysed in terms of RTP%, Return to Player Percentage, and House Edge. RTP means how much of money spent on each play is returned to the player, meanwhile house edge means how much a game is weighted in the house’s favour. You will see RTPs as low as 85% or as high as 95%. The only issue here is it is difficult to determine a game’s volatility since it is rarely stated.

How does this help me?

The reason volatility begs explanation is due to its popularity as a buzzword for online forums, and a piece of gaming vocabulary bandied about everywhere that people discuss casino games, both online and physical, both in forums and in person. The point here is that if you read that a certain game is highly volatile by other people’s reckoning or low volatility, it does not mean one game is better than another. Given its use in the semantic field of explosives and chemistry, one could hear that a slot is highly volatile and instantly get spooked. However, this other use of the term is helpful. Think of it like this. If a slot is highly volatile, keep prodding and eventually you’ll get a massive explosion of a win. If a slot is low volatility, the wins will be less explosive, but they will take less prodding.

Getting a feel for the volatility of a game is something that comes with practice and experience. Even after a few months or regular gambling you soon get used to what machines and online games offer the bigger and less frequent payouts, and which games you yield a greater enjoyment from. At the end of the day, choosing between high and low volatility games when gambling is entirely a matter of choice. Oftentimes it depends if you play to win or play for the thrill of the chase. A low volatility game will give you more consistent payouts and gratification to scratch that winning itch, but if the excitement of huge jackpots and a long road to hit those winning numbers is what you are after at the tables, then the high volatility games are for you. Hopefully this guide helps you make a more informed decision on games as a result of this.

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