06/01/2022

What is Return To Player and How it Works

As an avid online casino player, you’ve no doubt come across the term “Return to Player” or RTP, especially if you’re a fan of spinning the slot reels. But what does it mean?
In a nutshell, RTP is a measure of the average percentage of bets a game returns to players over at least a million spins.
RTP is a theoretical calculation. It’s not gospel. It doesn’t apply to huge random wins or longer streaks of losses. But it does tell you about the average estimate for a game. Sounds complicated? Keep reading to learn all about how Return to Player percentages work and how you can make them work for you.

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Introduction

What Is Return To Player (RTP)?

Return To Player, in its simplest form, is the percentage of all wagers played that are rewarded back to players.

The RTP rate is usually decided on the payback to players over time – often every month. Return to Player rates are described in percentages. The bigger the bets, the higher the wins returned to players.

That brings up a lot of questions, doesn’t it?

Like, who gets the money?

Who decides on the percentage?

Who gets more and who gets less?

The best way to explain RTP is to use an example.

Let’s say a new slot game is released and ten different players spin the first ten spins.

  • The game developer promises an RTP of 98%.
  • Ten players each spent €10.
  • That comes to an investment of €100 in the very first 10 spins.
  • With an RTP of 98%, math tells us that the ten players get €98 back and the casino makes €2.
  • If the slot has a €1,000 jackpot and one player wins it, the casino is €900 “in debt.”

Can you see why RTP is theoretical? You need to give the algorithms some time to average out. Eventually, the online casino gets its money back and stays in the positive.

So, does the RTP rate really matter?

It does if you’re a regular casino player and you invest a fair amount of money. If you’re a casual slot player, though, chances are the thrill of the game is enough for you.

But for avid casino gamblers, RTP offers up a fairer chance of getting more value for your gaming investment and assures you that a game is programmed to provide a percentage of all the money wagered, be it by you or other players.

RTP allows casino players to get back at least some of the money they’ve wagered. Like any type of gambling, the house always has the advantage, but when you understand how Return to Player works, the chances of winning your money back will be to your advantage.

House Edge And Return To Player – The Perfect Marriage

RTP and house edge go hand in hand. Let’s carry on with our example of 10 players each spending €10, and each only spinning the reels once.

The €2 that the casino makes is the house edge. But like Return to Player, it’s only valid over an extended period of time.

So, the house edge is the percentage of all wagers that the casino takes.

If you love numbers, it’s easy to work out the house edge. Simply deduct that percentage from 100%. For instance, a 96% RTP game has a house edge of 4%.

Now you have an understanding of what RTP is, let’s dig deeper and find out who sets that percentage and how you can make it work for you.

Who Sets the RTP Percentage

Setting RTP Percentage – Whose Job Is It?

You’ve heard of top software developers like Microgaming, Netent, BetSoft, Yggdrasil and the like. They’re the geniuses behind creating the slots and casino games you love.
When a developer comes up with a new game, the software includes a random number generator (RNG). It’s the RNG’s job to control the randomness of every spin of the reels, throw of the dice or game of cards.
Once a developer has finalised a new game, the game undergoes randomness testing from auditing labs like iTech Labs, TST or eCOGRA. These trusty bodies have auditing programmes that run hundreds of thousands of slot spins, for example, in a very short period.
The data is used to figure out how much each amount wagered will be returned to the player.
While it’s up to the game developers to set the RTP, there are some games that come with a mechanism allowing casino operators to adjust the payout odds slightly, but it’s so slight it has a minimal impact on a game’s RTP percentage.
Finding the Return to Player percentage of your favourite casino games helps you make informed betting decisions. All reputable online casinos are required, under their casino licences, to clearly display a game’s RTP rate.

How To Calculate RTP

How To Calculate RTP

We’ve covered how to work out a casino game’s house edge, but what about the Return to Player percentage?

In theory, it’s easy.

  • Total amount returned to players divided by total amount gambled by players.

While things are pretty obvious in some table games, where you know you can win about half the bets you place, RTP rates on online slots can be misleading. It doesn’t always indicate how often you can expect a win.

Slots can payout mega jackpots less often. But over a period of time, the result will be the same – a Return to Players percentage that’s slightly less than turnover.

Other games can be tricky to calculate as they depend on player strategy. For instance, Blackjack requires skill, and in Craps, different bets can be placed where the RTP ranges from amazing to pitiful.

Slots Vs Table Games

Let’s dive deeper into the different Return to Player rates for different games.

Slots – the average slot boasts a 96% RTP. But there are a few games out there that deliver as much as 99% RTP.

Roulette – French Roulette’s RTP is around 98.65% when you make even-money wagers. If not, you face an RTP of about 97.3%, which is the same for European Roulette, while the American version delivers a 94.74% RTP.

Craps – the dice game can offer up to 98.64% Return to Player with the don’t pass line bet. You can also boost the payback through “odds” that can be wagered once a point number is established.

Baccarat – in this game, the banker bet offers the highest Return to Player percentage at 98.94%.

Caribbean Stud – this is one of the worst online casino games in terms of RTP. It only offers a 94.78% payback, even if you have the perfect strategy.

Blackjack – there are plenty of variations in blackjack’s RTP percentages, but they can range from 98.5% to 99.8%.

Keno – this is another poorly-paying game that offers a low 95% Return to Player, depending on the casino.

Video poker – playing games like Jacks or Better or 9/6 Jacks offers an RTP of 99.54%.

Teen Patti – Ezugi’s Teen Patti offers an RTP of 97.39% for main bets, while side bets are a little riskier and come with better payouts.

Andar Bahar – Playtech’s popular game pays out anywhere from 95% to 98.10% depending on the wagers.

Games With Low RTP To Avoid

Knowing that not all casino games are created equally when it comes to RTP can help you avoid certain games. That is, games with an RTP of 93% or lower.

Some popular slots with low paying Return to Player percentages include:

  • Hot Dog
  • Pot O’ Gold
  • Spin ‘N’ Win
  • Gold Differs
  • Lucky Streak
  • Cash of the Titans
  • Day of the Dead
  • Star Trek
  • Roman Riches
  • Cash Splash
  • LotsALoot
  • King Cashalot
  • Relic Raiders
  • Reel Classic 3

RTP & Variance

RTP And Variance – Similar But Different

Return to Player and game variance are often mistaken for one another. They’re closely related, but they are not the same.

Variance is how a casino game’s Return to Player is realised.

  • Slots with a lower variance are programmed in a way that you’ll have smaller payouts more often, and that helps you keep track of your bankroll.
  • Games with a higher variance boast most of their RTP in bonus features and can make for big wins less often.

But let’s explain one thing here. Slots with a high Return to Player percentage aren’t always kind to your bankroll. Typically, games with higher RTP are a better choice, but if the game is highly volatile, you could go through thousands of spins before you come close to the actual RTP.

What About Hit Frequency?

We can’t mention RTP and variance without mentioning hit frequency. The hit rate determines the probability of you scoring a payout in any given spin of the reels.

For example, a slot with a 30% hit frequency means you’re likely to win, on average, on 3 out of 10 spins.

Many popular online slots feature a hit frequency of between 25% and 35%.

RTP and Profits

How The Return To Player Percentage Affects Long-Term Profits

Now you’re getting the hang of Return to Player percentages, let’s consider whether or not this fact can affect your long-term profits.
In the short term, 1% or 2% doesn’t make a big difference. But over more spins, the effect on your profits is more noticeable.
So, if we consider a slot with an RTP rate of 96%, what does a change to 94% mean? It’s actually a big reduction in value. The more spins you play, the larger the difference.
In other words, it can pay to find the best RTP when there’s a big bonus with large playthrough requirements. That’s because you’re playing slots to free up your bonus funds and this can mean hundreds or thousands of spins.

Slots With The Best RTP

Top Slots With The Best Return To Player Percentage

Getting excited about RTP now? Then you’ll want to know which slots have the highest Return to Player. They might not be the best choice if you’re after regular wins, but they do pay pretty well with a decent amount of playtime.

  • Mega Joker – this NetEnt classic pays out up to 99%, but it can change depending on the stake level you play. You’ll need to bet 10 coins for the best return and know when to collect your winnings from the game’s Supermeter.
  • Jackpot 6000 – another popular title from NetEnt, this game has a 98.8% Return to Player. You’ll also need to bet a maximum of 10 coins to reach the best returns.
  • Monopoly on the Money – this game from Barcrest pays out 98.1% when you’re in Big Bet mode, but just 94% in the base game.
  • Starmania – a slot from NextGen Gaming, this one pays out 97.87%.
  • Big Bad Wolf – Quickspin’s Big Bad Wolf pays out 97.4%. This is a high RTP and low volatility game, making it a good choice if you want to have some fun without making much of a dent in your bankroll.

Top 5 Slots with Great RTP

Top 5 Slots with the Highest RTP

RankCasino GameRTPGame Provider
1Mega Joker99%NetEnt
2Jackpot 600098.8%NetEnt
3Monopoly on the Money98.1%Barcrest
4Starmania97.87%NextGen Gaming
5Big Bad Wolf97.4%Quickspin

Tips for RTP

Tips To Improve RTP – Can It Be Done?

While it’s impossible to avoid or cheat a game’s Return to Player percentage, there are a few things you can do to help boost your winning chances.

Strategy

While it’s impossible to modify the RTP in casino games, you can optimise games like video poker or live blackjack with a strategy.

With a good strategy in place, you can make sure you leave as little as possible to chance and help the probabilities to work for you.

For instance, using a system in video poker, you stand to walk away with more bankroll than you started with.

Casino Bonuses

Using a deposit bonus is a good way to minimise the house edge because you have extra funds to play with. The match deposit bonuses, especially when they’re 100%, see you receiving double funds when you sign up at an online casino. This effectively lowers the RTP thanks to the bonus funds.

Be warned, though, that things aren’t straightforward. You should always check a bonus’s terms and conditions before taking it. You’ll need to adhere to the wagering requirements, too, before you can cash out any winnings.

Avoid Low Max Win Slots

Aim for slots with potentially big wins of at least 500x or 1,000x your bet, and stick to games with a Return to Player of 96.50% or more.

In short, you want to play slots with High Max Win and High RTP.

But remember this: If you decide to play slots with low variance, you’ll automatically get lower Max Win, as the wins roll around more frequently.

Yet slots with high variance are riskier, with wins that come less often. But the payout, when it comes, will be well worth the effort.

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