? Casino RTP Guide - Return To Player Explained
It’s a term often thrown around in the online gambling world, but the 3-letter abbreviation leads to confusion more times that you could.
If you’re not familiar, the RTP (Return To Player) is an indication (given as a percentage) as to how easy it is to beat a casino game, slot or lottery.
The RTP figure differs for each and every game with players able to categorise games into high and low groups.
These percentage figures are often available to players at their casino of choice, although it may take a little digging to find the information.
High RTP games are those that players that are conscious of keeping a healthy bankroll should stick to and include games such as Blackjack, Video Poker, Baccarat, Casino Hold’em and some French Roulette and Craps bets.
Low RTP games are those with the higher risk involved are more likely to bleed the bankroll faster and include games such as Lotteries, Keno, American Roulette, Progressive Jackpots, Sic Bo and most side bets.
But how does RTP work, is it possible to beat the casino and where does variance come into the equation?
How Does It Work?
The easiest way to wrap your head around how RTP works is with an example or two and to keep things nice and easy, we’ll use a nice round $100 wager to introduce the concept.
If a player places their $100 wager on a single spin of a slot machine with a quoted RTP figure of 95%, on average they are expected to receive $95 back from their spin.
If their $100 wager was placed on a single spin of a slot with a 90% RTP, on average they would receive $90 back.
Therefore, the RTP is then the average value payout that a player should expect to make their way back to their bankroll when playing a casino game.
The more time that a player spends on the same game, the more likely this is to be true. But as we all know from experience, it’s unlikely to receive the quoted RTP when playing on a game of choice.
Values may differ wildly in both highs and lows adding that level of excitement that comes with gambling, something that we have volatility to thank.
The Role Of Volatility in RTP
We know that the more time a player spends playing their game of choice the closer to the theoretical RTP they’ll get, but an understanding of volatility (variance) is required to figure out why this is.
Variance, given non-numerically as either low, medium or high, is a term used to describe the amount of risk associated with a certain game.
For example, if a slot is described as highly volatile, there is a high risk associated with the game whereas a lowly volatile slot would be recognised as low risk.
As a general rule, the characteristics of the highly volatile slot will reflect fewer but larger wins when spinning the reels compared to the lowly volatile slot which will generally feature more frequent but smaller wins.
Another way of thinking about this would be to call a highly volatile slot unpredictable and a lowly volatile slot more predictable. RTP and volatility are not co-dependent and a high RTP does not correlate to high volatility or vice versa.
The values are independent and to know whether or not a game would be a good fit for a player, both must be understood.
A common misconception is the ability to use volatility to magically escape the RTP by choosing short sessions and quit only when ahead which, put simply, is just not true.
Although it is possible to actually win money despite their average payouts under 100%, the RTP cannot be escaped.
The RTP is a quoted fixed value, it’s the volatility that allows for the large wins just as much as it allows for the unlucky streaks, but a large enough sample size is required before statistical significance is reached (i.e. the players actual RTP is similar to the theoretical).
High RTP Casino Games
The high RTP casino games are those that come with large percentage returns when playing for long periods of time.
These are the games that people should be playing if they’re gambling thanks to their offering of the least house edge, giving players the best chance of ending the play in green.
Blackjack is one of the best games available for players to choose (when opting for an effective strategy) thanks to the large 99.50% RTP value.
It’s the low house edge and ease of understanding that makes blackjack one of the most popular games in both a traditional and an online casino.
However, players do require at least some loose technique if they’re looking to get the most out of the game.
There are a number of different blackjack games and strategies to choose from, some of which are likely to get you politely moved on, so it’s good to shop around and find one that works for you.
Video poker is often regarded as having the lowest house edge in a casino thanks to a high RTP value of 99.54% (9/6 Jacks or Better), resulting in a house edge of just 0.46%.
Although the Jacks or Better video poker game may be one of the most popular variations of the game, it’s not the best paying of the card-based game.
Instead, when looking at the “full pay” (best paytable) options there are five with 100%+ RTP values with Deuces Wild, Joker Wild (Kings or Better), Double Bonus, Loose Deuces Wild, and Double Double Bonus all sporting over 100%.
For casinos, this acts almost like a loss-leader with players encouraged to wager on alternative games either on the casino floor or online in the games library.
However, this RTP value is only achievable with an effective strategy that is adhered to throughout play.
Baccarat is another of the most popular games available at any online or brick-and-mortar casino, in no doubt thanks to the high RTP value of 98.94%.
With players only given the option of betting on the Player, Banker, or a Tie, baccarat is one of the simplest games available.
With so few options, there’s little to go wrong and with a 98.94% RTP, the game is great for bankroll management.
Craps (Bet Type Dependant)
The most excitement in any casino can be found around the craps table and with an RTP value of 98.60% (for some bets), it’s easy to see why.
Craps can be one of the most difficult to understand games on the casino floor, but if you’re looking for the highest RTG, there’s just one bet that you’ll need to know about, the pass bet.
It’s this bet that offers a house edge of just 1.4% and it’s a bet that almost every player at the table places.
If you want to try your hand at craps, learn the pass bet and go from there.
French Roulette (Even Money Bets)
French roulette offers the lowest house edge (1.35%) across all roulette games thanks to some lenient rules in the game.
The RTP value of 98.65% is achieved due to the La Partage rule in which players are refunded half of their original stake if the ball lands on zero, an increase over the 97.3% RTP value of European roulette.
The even-money bets (black/red and odd/even) are those that permit the 1.35% house edge, something that increases with alternative bets.
Casino Hold’em, based on the popular poker game Texas Hold’em offers players a high RTP value of 97.84%.
Players can adopt a strategy which indicates the best moves depending on the cards dealt, ultimately leading to raising 82% of the time and folding 18% of the time.
During this strategy, players should only fold with two singletons in the hole that are low compared to the flop, with minimal opportunity for a straight or flush.
Low RTP Casino Games
The low RTP casino games are those that come with low percentage returns when playing for long periods of time.
These are the games that people should avoid playing when gambling (unless they really love the game and don’t care about burning cash) thanks to high house edge figures.
Players looking to play these should expect to lose the bulk of their bankroll at a faster pace.
Lotteries tend to offer some of the worst RTP values, typically with low buy-ins and high rewards for a small number of players.
Although advertisements often portray lotteries as a life-changing form of gambling, the odds are not in the favour of the player and money is more often lost than won.
In a casino, the lottery is often immediate by keno with players seeing a house edge of near 50%.
For the majority of lotteries, an average RTP would be expected in the 50% – 70% range, although the house edge, in this case, is often used not only to fund the prize pot but charities and community assistance.
Side bets are designed to add a little excitement to the main action of the games that offer them, but the excitement often comes with a poor RTP.
If we take the blackjack side bets as an example, players will find insurance, perfect pairs and 21+3 as the most common with each raising the house edge approximately 10%.
Players looking for a blackjack strategy will find the side bets excluded when trying to minimise loses and maximise wins.
Progressive Jackpot Games
Players that enjoy progressive jackpot games will notice that a large portion of the wagering contributes to the overall jackpot fund that can be won by the players.
Players typically have an incredibly small chance of winning these progressive jackpot games which are reflected in the base game RTP.
Taking one of the most famous progressive video pokies, Mega Moolah as an example, players will find an RTP of 88%.
In 2015, the Mega Moolah slot paid out an enormous $17,879,645 grand prize to one lucky British player, which is the clear pull for players to play the slot.
The house edge of Sic Bo ranges between 2.78% and an enormous 47.22% or to put it another way, an RTP between 52.78 and 97.22%.
A 97.22% RTP doesn’t sound terrible at first but is only available on two bets within the game, the Small bet which wins on the dice throw of 4-10 and the Big bet which wins on dice throws of 11-17.
Both of these bets do not payout on the three-of-a-kind outcome, giving the house edge of 2.78%.
The remaining betting options in the game range from 7.41% to 47.22%, an enormous figure that encourages players to burn through their cash at incredible rates.
American Roulette offers the worst RTP out of the wheel-trio (opposed to European and French) with an RTP of 94.74%.
The increased house edge is thanks to one extra ‘0’ on the wheel reducing the change of a win when playing the game.
The additional number reduces the European value from 97.3%, achieved with the even-money bets (red/black and odd/even).
Players may find an even lower RTP when the five-number bet is included in the play, a bet with a 6:1 chance of hitting that reduces the overall RTP to just 93.10%.
Similar to lotteries, keno offers a terrible RTP and is widely regarded as the worst game in the majority of casinos both online and in brick-and-mortar.
All games are different, but players should expect to find a low RTP value between 70% and 90% with strategists advising players to avoid the game entirely.
If players are dedicated to the game, the pick 1 and pick 2 options tend to be the worst with an average RTP under 80% in the majority of casinos although other betting options are not much better.
If you’re looking to play a game for a long period of time rather than a quick flutter, keno is definitely not the game to choose.
What About Pokies?
When it comes to the trusty slot machines (pokies), players will find an enormous range of different RTP figures both online and in a traditional land-based casino.
Players should expect to play slots ranging between 80% and 95% in the brick-and-mortar establishments (depending on location/casino of choice) while online pokies typically have RTPs above 90% and as high as 99%.
Below we’ll highlight just some of the high RTP pokies available to players that stand as the most popular online today.
White Rabbit (Big Time Gaming) – 97.72%
White Rabbit is one of the most popular video slots available online today and, like most of those out of the Big Time Gaming studio, comes with a high RTP of 97.72%.
White Rabbit is also a highly volatile slot, meaning that players may find a smaller number of wins when playing, but a larger size when wins do come their way.
Measured as a video slot itself, White Rabbit is a super high-quality example that players adore.
Sushi Bar by Betsoft – 97.5%
Sushi Bar is a 5-reel, 25-payline video slot from Betsoft offering up a medium-sized RTP value of 95.5% for players to battle.
The slot offers one of the best graphics packs available today with a Japanese-flavour present throughout each element of the game.
The volatility of the game is, similar to White Rabbit, is high meaning a high-risk, high-reward slot on offer.
1429 Uncharted Seas® - 98.6%
1429 Uncharted Seas is a popular 25-line video slot coming out of the Thunderkick studios with a high RTP of 98.6%.
1429 Uncharted Seas is a low volatility slot with a high hit ratio featured of 41.2% offering low risk, low rewards but regular wins throughout the play.
It’s a great slot for players looking to have fun without risking too much of their bankroll.
Pumpkin Patch (Habanero) - 98.18%
Habanero’s Pumpkin Patch is another high RTP slot with a huge 98.18% value on offer for players selecting the 5-reel, 25-payline game.
Volatility in this game is medium, giving players the best of both worlds with large wins without the high risk of highly volatile slots.
It’s a slot that offers fun graphics, exciting play and even the occasional bonus when signing up to new casinos.
Ways To Improve The RTP
We mentioned earlier that it’s impossible to cheat or avoid the RTP and whilst this is true for the majority of games, there is a small number of things you can do to maximise your winnings.
Although it’s not possible to modify or improve the RTP in the traditional sense, in games such as live blackjack, casino poker and video poker, games can be optimised with strategy.
With a good, proven strategy in place, players can ensure that they’re living a little as possible down to chance and letting probabilities work for them, not just against them.
For example, a player using a system in blackjack (not counting cards), but choosing to stick when reaching a certain value can improve their chances of winning dramatically.
The same is true for video poker and with the best RTP of any casino game, players stand the most chance to walk away with more funds than they arrived with.
This is especially true – although not guaranteed – when players manage to seek out one of the 100%+ RTP video poker machines.
Using a deposit bonus whenever gambling is a great way to minimise the house edge thanks to the additional funds added to the player’s account.
The casino deposit bonuses that we’re interested in this occasion are the casino/slot match deposit bonuses or any others that give players funds to use on their games of choice.
A 100% match bonus in the eyes of the player is essentially receiving double funds when signing up to a casino, effectively lowering the RTP thanks to “free cash”.
However, do be warned that things aren’t always (in fact, they are rarely) as they seem and terms and conditions should be checked thoroughly before going down this route.
Chances are that you’ll spot a selection of wagering requirements that must be adhered to before any cash can be wiped out – wiping out any benefits of the bonus.