If you have played slots a lot, or visiting forums where players discuss slots strategy, it’s inevitable that you will have come across the term RTP (Return to Player). The nomenclature might vary in different jurisdictions – some call it payback or payback rate – but what we are basically dealing with is the amount of money that the slot pays back relative to how much it takes in. If the RTP is 97%, then the slot will return 97% of what it takes in – eventually.
So obviously, then, the higher the RTP, the better the slot, right? It seems logical. Put simply: you have better odds of winning with a game that has a 96.5% RTP game compared to one with a 91.3% RTP. Experienced casino players know this fact, and it is openly discussed in conversations about strategy. For example, NetEnt’s Blood Suckers slot, which you can see for yourself at Mr Green casino, is considered one of the top slot games due to its 98% RTP.
But in a changing online casino landscape, do players put too much stock in the RTP strategy? It’s an interesting question, and it’s one without an easy answer.
RTP data can cover millions of spins
The first thing we have to consider lies within the nature of statistics and probability. Consider this scenario: I organise a raffle for 100 people, charging $1 dollar for each ticket. If there is only one prize in that raffle – a jackpot of $99 – I can essentially claim that the RTP of that raffle is 99%. That seems great in terms of a slot (you won’t find any online with a 99% RTP), but for the 99 players who didn’t win the hypothetical raffle, the odds are going to seem terrible.
What we are getting at here is that it might be more important to consider how and when a game pays, rather than overthinking how much it pays back over time. Experienced slots players also know this, and that leads to discussions about variance (sometimes called volatility). Games with high variance – a good example is Playtech’s Deep Blue – offer small wins less frequently but can suddenly land monster hits. A low variance game might pay small wins relatively frequently, but there is less potential for that huge payout. NetEnt’s Starburst is probably a good example of a low variance game.
Developers providing important information
Games developers have also recognised that players are looking for information on variance, so some have started providing that information. Pragmatic Play, which makes the popular Dog House slot, provides information on screen about games’ volatility. Some American developers, who are undoubtedly buoyed by the opening up of the US online casino market after the SCOTUS decision of 2018, provide information on “hit-rates” – i.e., the number of spins on average it takes to get a win.
Of course, all of this information – RTP, variance, hit-rate – can be useful. Moreover, it puts paid to the notion that slots are casino games that require no strategy. The outcome of each spin is random, sure, but these parameters can help players make more informed decisions about the kind of games they play. It means that there are more characteristics to consider for slots than, say, buying a lottery ticket or spinning a roulette wheel.
In the end, players often take their chances on slots without thinking about the factors mentioned above. That’s fine, and it is debatable how much – if any – advantage is offered by applying such strategies. But if you are a discerning player, you should be aware that all of this information is available. And, the mathematical theory is still sound about slots with higher RTP being better. In practice, it might be a different matter. But most slots players accept the that fact before they play.