RTP in a Nutshell
RTP is short for Return to Player and reflects the percentage any slot machine pays back to its players. For example, if you pick an online slot that states a 97 % RTP, the game will pay back 97 cents for every $1 wagered.
When talking about online slots, we usually group games into three categories:
Now comes the tricky part; RTP is calculated over a long period and a vast number of spins. It means that while in the long term, the online slot pays back the stated percentage, in the short term, anything can happen. It’s for that reason that you, as a player, can win big real money amounts on small deposits.
What happens to the remaining percentage?
If an online slot pays back 97 % for every $1 wagered, you might wonder what happens to the remaining 3 %. That’s a good question and one easy to answer; all money not paid back to players stays with the casino and the slot provider. It’s what you would call house edge.
Casinos and game providers naturally want to earn money as well since they have high overheads. Designing and developing the games, providing the technology to gamble online, employing customer support agents or handling financial transactions; operators face many costs, and they need to make sure these are covered. On top, just like any other business, they also want to make a profit.
The house edge varies between games, but generally speaking, the house edge is slightly higher for online slots than table games. It’s not uncommon to see an RTP of 99 % in games such as Blackjack or Roulette, whereas slots RTP fall between 92 and 98 %. Why on earth should you choose slots over table games then? Well, it turns out that online slots give you a better chance to win high amounts on small deposits. For instance, while you might win more often in Blackjack, you don’t have the opportunity to win (progressive) jackpots.
However, you can also find slot games with an RTP higher than 98 %, like Netent’s progressive jackpot slot Mega Joker. Head over to our page on the best RTP slots to find the games that pay back the most.
How does hit frequency and volatility impact RTP?
You will naturally come across two other terms when playing at online slots: hit frequency and volatility.
Hit frequency describes how many bets out of 100 will return in a payout. Since it does not talk about the win amount, it cannot indicate winning big and is more relevant for table games.
Volatility, sometimes also referred to as variance, is different. Slots are usually classified as low, medium, or high volatility, indicating how often players expect the game to payout. When you play games with low volatility, you should expect to win smaller amounts more frequently. Slots with high volatility, on the other hand, payout less often but with higher amounts. Hence, while volatility does let you predict your chance of winning big to some degree, it does not impact RTP in any way.
Do fruit machines in land-based casinos pay better than slots online?
There is a common myth that slot machines in land-based casinos have a higher RTP because online casinos can manipulate the payouts of their games. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Slots online have by far the higher RTP. In land-based gambling halls, fruit machines tend to have a return to player rate anywhere between 70 and 90 %, whereas online, you rarely find slots with an RTP below 92 %. The reason is that brick-and-mortar establishments are space-constraint, which means they have to earn more money per slot machine. At online casinos, on the other hand, it’s not uncommon to have a slot selection of 500 games or more, and operators don’t have to squeeze as much income as possible out of each game.
RTP in conclusion
Now that we explained RTP in more detail let’s sum it up one more time.
RTP stands for return to player and gives you the percentage a game pays back of all money wagered. Since this number is purely theoretical, it is neither an indicator of how often you will win nor any guarantee.
While RTP is an important aspect of a slot machine, you should also keep an eye on other factors, such as volatility and features like the availability to win additional free spins during play, bonus games, multipliers, and respins.
Most importantly, you should make sure to always play within your limits. Don’t get fooled by RTP percentages and information about volatility, and never try to predict big wins. You can’t!
Playing online slots is fun and gives you the chance to win enormous amounts on small deposits, but it remains a luck game. Never gamble more than you can afford to lose, and if you feel that you cannot control your gambling habits, seek help immediately.
What does RTP stand for?
RTP is short for Return to Player.
What does it mean when an online slot has a 98 % RTP?
Online slots with 98 % RTP return 98 pence for every £1 wagered to players. This figure is measured over a long period of time, typically millions of spins.
Does it make sense to play online slots with a low or medium RTP rate?
Theoretically, you should pick online slots with the highest RTP possible. However, sometimes choosing a game with a lower RTP can make sense if it comes with other features you’re after, such as low volatility.
What happens to the money an online slot doesn't return to its players?
If an online slot returns 97 % to its players, the remaining 3 % is split between the game provider and the online casino. In professional terms, you would call this amount house edge.
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