What is RTP and How Do You Calculate It?

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If you’re an avid online slots fan, you’ve surely come across numerous confusing terms. What’s volatility or variance? How does the developer decide how often a slot pays? That last question is among the most burning ones, and is expressed through RTP.

RTP stands short for return to player, and is a number displayed in percentages. Of course, when you put it like that, it means nothing to new players. They’re often confused about all these terms and don’t know how they affect their winning chances. All those technical terms are not just there to confuse you. They do have a great impact on your winning chances, and it all starts with the RTP.

What is RTP?

As mentioned earlier, RTP literally stands for return to player. The value it displays indicates the frequency of wins in a casino game. The higher it is, the more likely are players to win. Of course, that’s just in theory – there’s no promise of winning altogether, since every spin or round in a slot or a casino game is random. While the term is most frequently tied to slots, you’ll find it in relation to table and live return to player games as well.

Let’s put things into perspective, shall we?

Say a slot has an RTP of 96%, which is fairly common for today’s slots. That’s the expected rate of bet returns over a longer period (like 100 or more spins). It means that for every $100 you wager, you should get $96 in return. You can guess how higher RTP means better returns for the player. Many players confuse the number with promised returns, which is a concept that doesn’t exist in the casino industry, no matter the ads.

No one can promise you anything when you start a game of blackjack or poker or spin slots. They’re controlled by a device called RNG or Random Number Generator, which randomizes the outcome of each round or spin. The RTP plays into this, giving the player equal odds as the casino, so the end result is a financial draw. Note the draw, as rarely anyone wins more than they spend in a casino.

Per fair play rules, the RTP of slots should never be under 90%. You’ll likely find older slot games that have a lower RTP than that, but modern games and jackpots have an RTP of 96% and over. You could say that it’s the sweet spot.

Is RTP the Same as Volatility?

Here’s another misconception about RTP. Players often confuse it with volatility (variance), but they’re not one and the same. The RTP doesn’t tell players how often they can expect wins. Winning combinations occur in different frequencies, and that’s controlled by the variance. But, to be honest, there is a link between the player returns and the frequency and size of winnings.

First things first – the volatility or variance measures how often a slot is likely to hit a winning combination. There are three types:
  • Low volatility: pays frequently, but smaller amounts
  • Medium volatility: variable returns – some small, the occasional big one
  • High volatility: highly volatile games pay with a much lower frequency, but when they do, they pay big
The RTP and volatility work together to give you a clear idea of what you can expect from a casino game in term of player returns. Check the variance to get an idea of how long your bankroll will last. Check the RTP to see what you can expect – if it’s higher and paired with low variance, you can expect solid returns.

Low variance slots with an RTP of 96% will pay smaller, but frequent wins. Highly volatile slots with an RTP of 96.50% will pay big, but dry spells are to be expected.

It all depends on what you prefer. If you’re a casual player looking for more frequent wins, low volatile slots with an RTP around 96% are your sweet spot. High rollers will likely be looking for higher-RTP slot games with high variance. They can handle the dry spells better than the average player, even if it bankrupts them.

In the end, there are plenty of options out there, so no need to stick to a single slot game. Try out different combinations of RTP and volatility and you’ll most likely find one that suits your playing style.

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