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Slot Volatility: Analyzing Bonus Options

Golden Egypt by IGT bonus selection
Written by Joshua

A few times now we’ve discussed slots that let you pick from various bonus options, such as Dancing Drums or Golden Egypt, where you can choose between more spins with less benefits, or less spins with more benefits.

At the time I reviewed them, I mentioned that it’s a simple question of volatility. But if you’re not sure what that means, or what volatility means in general, we’ll dive in on this post.

For those who like to have a bit of control over the type of bonus they get, based on how their day is going, these can be great for letting you de-risk when you want to have a better chance at a stable bonus, or swing for the fences when the going’s good. Of course, nothing’s guaranteed, but the level of volatility can have an impact on the overall results of an individual bonus.

Explaining Volatility

Volatility refers to how much of a swing you can expect between a really good session and a really bad one. A lower volatility game will generally pay small amounts more often. Bigger wins are harder to come by, but you’re less likely to also lose a ton of money at one time. Short term volatility can determine a winning or losing session, but the game is designed to be pretty steady.

On the other hand, higher volatility games give you more of a shot to hit it out of the park, but that comes with the flip side of a lot more dead spins to make that possible.

In a future post we’ll share examples of games in each category, but hopefully that sets a good baseline for the purposes of this post, which is volatility within bonus options.

Bonus Volatility: You’re in Control

Dancing Drums by Shuffle Master and WMS bonus pick

Some games now let you decide how much volatility you’d like. We’ll dig in to two examples, and then share some other games with this sort of bonus choice at the end.

Let’s start with Dancing Drums. Already this game is a bit volatile because of its all ways pays format. But it lets you really ramp up the volatility in the bonus, where you get the five choices.

The most number of spins with the smallest reels is the least volatile. You get more chances to land something, and even with some dead spins, there’s at least a reasonable chance of getting something back for your bet. As you move your way across the choices, the volatility increases. The all ways pays scenario amplifies the volatility, because a few more symbols in place when getting a five of a kind can take a medium win and make it massive.

Mystery choices tend to offer the most volatile option of all, as you can get the worst of each aspect (3 games, 243 ways to win) or the best aspect (15 games, 7776 ways to win). In my experience, I’ve gotten the absolute worst multiple times and the absolute best never. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but I personally have never seen it. SLot Lover, a slot channel, managed to pull it off:

Another Take: Going Wild

Golden Egypt by IGT bonus selection

Another game we reviewed, Golden Egypt, offers a volatility choice in a different way. The reel size remains the same, but it offers more wilds in exchange for less games. More games, like Dancing Drums, means more chances to win something, although with only one wild reel some dead spins are likely.

By the time you get to the 5 games with three wilds, you have only a few ways the wilds could land to make a win tough, although it is possible for them to stay towards the right side of the screen and make the reels line up two symbols towards the front to pay five of a kind. But if you do get those two symbols, a five of a kind becomes guaranteed, which is why the volatility here is higher – it’s feast or famine for some of the spins, and a dead spin is more costly given the lack of overall spins.

Other Games That Let You Choose

Examples with other games with volatility options in the bonus are:

  • 5 Dragons and its various offspring – you can choose higher multipliers and less spins, or lower multipliers and higher spin counts.
    • 5 Frogs and other variations of the games made for various purposes also let you choose.
  • Fu Nan Fu Nu by AGS is similar to Dancing Drums in letting you choose your reel size and therefore ways to win, with bigger reel stacks coming with less spins. The sequel, Fu Nan Fu Nu Lucky Dragons, continues in that tradition but with a different sort of volatility choice.
    • Other games by AGS, such as Wolf Queen, have a similar free spins mechanic to Fu Nan Fu Nu.
  • Buffalo Deluxe and Timberwolf Deluxe let you choose the number of spins and the multipliers available. Less spins come with bigger multipliers.
  • 5 Elemental Legends by Konami lets you choose the number of games, along with the multiplier options that appear on the wilds if landed, along with a mystery option for ultimate volatility.
  • 5 Treasures by Shuffle Master is a sister game to Dancing Drums with its gold symbol system. Those symbols matter in the bonus, as you can basically choose less extra symbols of a higher payer, or more symbols of a lower payer, as long as you have the gold symbols active.
  • Scarab by IGT also has a wilds choice, but does so in terms of the number of floating wild symbols. More symbols, less spins.

Watch and Learn

See Slot Queen make her volatility choice on 5 Elemental Legends with multiple bonuses in this video:

What type of bonus do you prefer? One that’s more spins and less risky, or one that’s less spins but could offer a massive payout? Share your opinions in the comments!

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


  • A few days ago, I hit a huge bonus feature on Quick Strike/Mystery Rewards “China Mystery” on a $1.80 bet. It offered me a choice between 513 free games at 2x the normal prize amount, or 102 SUPER games with random prize multipliers of 7x, 12x, or 18x PLUS 3 free games at 2x prize multiplier per spin.
    I figured 102 spins all with super multipliers was enough to justify the volatility (and that those multipliers might make up for the smaller bet I placed) so I chose that.
    When he feature was over, I had won $1,080.91.
    That’s pretty good (especially for a $1.80, non-max bet), but I still wonder though if maybe taking the 513 free games might’ve been a better idea. I think I overlooked that they would all have a 2x multiplier.

    • You’re getting 1/5 the games so you need to average a 10x multiplier. Having a 7x, 12x and 18x opens the door, but you need line hits and you need the bigger multipliers at the right time on those line hits. It balances out in the end, but it is going to be much more volatile! The 2x, with more spins, would even things out. But that’s gambling!

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