Whether you’re new to the world of casino slots, or a veteran in your own right, the acronym RTP has surely popped up at least once or twice. You may also have wondered what it means to you as a player.
RTP stands for “return to player,” and it’s a very important online gambling feature.
In gambling, too, knowledge is power, giving you more confidence in your choices and improving your chances of winning. That’s why in this guide, we’ll break down everything there is to know about the return to player or RTP, so you can make the best of your time at a casino.
What Is Return to Player (RTP)?
RTP is the percentage of the total money wagered on any particular game and then paid back to players as time passes. It refers to the amount of money that is paid back to players from a casino slot or game.
An RTP is the opposite of another common term – house edge. House edge refers to the mathematical advantage a casino has for a specific game. If the RTP for a particular slot game is, for example, 95%, then the house edge for that same game will be 5%.
Why is this important for you as a player? The higher the RTP on a casino game or slot, the higher your chances of winning.
Of course, not everything is that simple. Most people think that because a slot has a high RTP, their chances of winning their money back are also high. But this is not so.
In theory, wagering a $100 stake on a slot game with an RTP of 95% will pay back $95, with the casino taking the remaining $5 as profit. This is why people say that the “house always wins.” However, this doesn’t mean every player will lose exactly 5% of the money they staked – nobody would be interested in playing a game with such outcomes.
Instead, RTP is calculated over a long period – usually a month – and over numerous spins. That means a small number of players will win hefty sums, a certain percentage will experience significant losses, while some will win or lose modest amounts. This makes the experience for each individual player different and the game exciting and unpredictable, although, for the casino, it’s anything but. The casino is not interested in individual instances of winning or losing. What matters for the house is that, at the end of the day (month, in this case), it always gains that 5% from our example.
How Do You Calculate RTP?
Before we touch on how to calculate RTP, every casino player should know that a slot’s RTP is already programmed and preset. You shouldn’t expect it to change over time. Calculating the RTP and setting it at a specific value is something that is done by the game provider long before the game is even released. There are computer algorithms running millions, maybe billions of simulations while game designers modify the game’s features until they get the desired RTP figure. As a result, despite the random number generator ensuring the randomness of each individual spin, the long-term RTP stays the same.
RTP for online casino slots typically starts at 95%. Anything below that would be considered a low RTP. For other games, such as European roulette, the RTP can go as high as 97%.
We know what you’re thinking. If the average RTP should be 95% or higher, why do people play slots with lower RTPs? Here’s the thing. Certain games, such as progressive jackpots, can have very low return-to-player rates. This happens because one spin can give a player a really big win; or very little to nothing at all. It’s basically a risk vs. reward scenario. How much are you looking to win, and how risk-tolerant are you? For a lot of players, this is the sort of scenario they like – a game with a low RTP but with a potential to yield fortunes. It’s all about preference.
Where Can I Find the RTP of a Game?
As you can see, RTP is not calculated based on the history of the game. But you could, in theory, find it out by using a simple formula for RTP. You’d need to divide the amount of money returned to players with the amount of money gambled by players and then multiply the result with 100, and you’d get the RTP percentage. However, the information needed to do this calculation will rarely be available to you.
The good news is that properly licensed casinos have to display each game’s RTP on the website so players can easily check it. After depositing to play, just pick your preferred casino slot, and you’ll most likely see a dropdown for information on the screen. In addition to the information about the software, such as the game’s publisher, paylines, and features, you’ll also find the RTP.
For reference, here’s how BitStarz’s Book of Dead Slot shows its RTP:
You can also find out what the RTP is through the casino’s blog, but this only applies when it has one. If it does, just search for your intended game and its review. The RTP should be listed there. If you hit a roadblock here because your casino doesn’t run a blog, Google the title.
How Important Is RTP?
Does RTP really matter? The answer is a little complex.
If gambling is just a side hobby you’re not really serious about, then you don’t have to bother yourself with a casino’s return to player (RTP).
However, if you’re serious about gambling and really put in a lot of resources into online games, hoping to get returns, then it makes sense to pay attention to each game’s RTP.
In any case, no matter if you’re only playing for fun or real returns, you’re investing some amount of time and money; hence, it’s only right that you know what you’re getting into.
A high RTP on online slots means there is money to be won as rewards for players, but bear in mind that just because a game has a high RTP, this isn’t a good indicator you’ll win a particular round.
What Does Slots Variance/Volatility Mean?
Ever noticed a situation where you have two games with the same RTP, but in reality, they’re paying out differently? This is what we attribute to volatility or variance.
There are three types of variance: low, medium, and high. In low-variance games, players have smaller but more frequent wins. This can be great, but it makes it difficult to win massive jackpots. These games pay out little to several players.
High variance games are exactly the opposite. They pay out way less frequently, but players have better chances of winning big. Games with high variance pay out big money to few players.
Medium variance games, of course, are somewhere in between these two extremes.
One thing you should always remember with the terminology is that volatility and RTP are very different concepts. The former is concerned with how frequent wins occur, while the latter concerns the volume of money you can expect from a game or slot over a length of time.
Volatility/Variance in Real Life
How does this apply practically? Let’s take an example.
When you play roulette, you can either bet on a color, and your winnings would be paid out in double bet, or bet on a number and have your winnings paid out at 36x of your initial stake. Betting on a number would be a high-variance/high-risk game, but your winnings would be more. Betting on a color would be low variance / low risk, and your winnings would be lesser.
With slot games, things are a little bit more complicated. This is because of the various features such as winning combinations or multipliers. But, despite variance being described as low, medium, or high, there really isn’t an average risk when it comes to casino games. You may land on a good side three times in a row and pocket some money or land badly with the same frequency and lose. It’s up to you to choose what risks you want to take: low volatility and smaller wins, or high volatility with high wins.
Determining the Variance of a Game
Unfortunately, you can’t find this as easily as the RTP percentage of a game. You can know the variance of a game by checking out how balanced the paytable is, as well as its bonus features. High-variance games focus on bonus features or top prizes more, while low-variance games typically have scattered prizes with small and medium payouts.
It’s also not a bad idea to play a demo version of a game. You’ll soon find out whether the game is high or low variance. You can also check out our casino reviews, where we give end-to-end details about the RTP and variance of casino games.
How To Make RTP and Variance Work in Your Favor
So, how do you use all this newly acquired knowledge about RTP and variance? Here are some pro tips:
- Play free/demo games to get the hang of the variance and determine if there’s a low or high RTP ratio.
- Remember that low variance equals more frequent, smaller wins.
- Don’t expect an immediate win with high-variance slots.
- Unless you’re playing a progressive jackpot, you’re better off choosing high RTP slots.
- There is no surefire way to win games. Ratings and reviews can only serve as guidelines to help you understand the game better, but they don’t guarantee success.
If you ever needed a really handy tool in your online casino journey, RTP percentages are definitely a must-have for getting the best betting value. Just bear in mind that understanding how RTP and variance work can only get you so far – the only certain winner will still be the casino itself.
What is RTP?
RTP stands for “return to player” and is a percentage of the money gamblers pay to play a slot game or any casino game that is given back to players as rewards or prizes. Different gaming machines offer different prizes, all dependent on their category.
How is RTP calculated?
To find out the RTP of a casino game, use this formula:
Total amount returned to players / Total amount gambled by players = RTP
What is a good RTP?
A good RTP would generally be a high percentage. High RTPs range from anything above 98%. Average RTP range from 95% to 98% and any RTP values or percentages below 95% are generally considered low.