What is RTP and why it's important for long-term players?

When you read a review of a slot game then one of the things you may have noticed is that often the RTP of the slot is stated, complete with either a single percentage, or a range of percentages.

But what exactly is RTP? What do the percentages actually mean and how is this linked to the "House Edge" when it comes to slot gaming? In this article, we'll answer these questions simply and easily before taking an in depth look at why RTP is especially important for those slot players who want to try and achieve long term profitability playing the games.

So let's begin with arguably the most important thing; what is RTP and what does it stand for?

What is RTP?

RTP is an acronym that stands for Return To Player and when used in terms of casino games, such as slots, blackjack, roulette or any other similar game, it simply means the amount of money (usually expressed as a percentage) that the slot will return to players over the long term.

Essentially, Return To Play is simply how much a slot will pay back to its players over a lengthy period of time, from the money it receives from all the wagers made on it.

What do the percentages linked to RTP mean?

The percentages that are shown with the Return To Player simply express how much of the money taken in by the slot from wagers from players will, theoretically over the longer term, be repaid back to them in winnings.

For example, if a slot game has a RTP of 95.67% then it means over the longer term (and by this, you are talking millions, if not billions of spins on the slot) then 95.67% of the money taken by the slot will be paid back to players.

What it does not mean is that if you wager $100 on a slot, then you can expect to receive back $95.67 in winnings every time. The reason for that is because RTP is only calculated over the longer term of the slot, not the shorter term.

The reason for this is that playing slots over a shorter period of time is far more volatile than playing over years and years and millions of spins. In a shorter period of spins, even low RTP slots can pay out well, while higher RTP slots can play very tight. That is the nature of the game and as such, why RTP figures can only be used as a general guide, rather than a prediction of how much a game will pay you back.

What does it mean when a slot is quoted as having RTP between two percentage figures?

Whilst many slots will have a single RTP figure quoted (say 95.41%) sometimes you may find a slot that lists two figures such as RTP of between 92.36% and 95.98%.

When this happens, this means that the slot in question does not pay out a definitive percentage to players over time that can be discerned by the testing software, but rather that the payouts calculated have fallen between the two figures. This adds an extra level of volatility to some slots as if you play it when its RTP is low, it is likely play more tightly, but play it when its RTP is higher and you could get paid out more often.

How is RTP linked to the House Edge?

As the more astute and experienced of casino gamers will know, many games in a casino, both online and in the real world, will have a figure attached to them called a House Edge. This is simply a percentage figure of how much the house is likely to win on a typical spin of the slot or turn of the game.

With the RTP, the House Edge simply quotes the same figure but from the point of view of the casino. So for example, a slot with a RTP of 96.5% would have a house edge of 3.5%.

You can clearly see the relationship between the two here and the greater a house edge is, the less likely a player is to see a return. A house edge of 20% means an RTP of 80%, which is considerably less than the example quoted previously.

Why is RTP important for slot players, especially those seeking to enjoy the games over a longer term?

Now that we understand what RTP is, how it is calculated and what it actually means to a player, the question has to be, what can a slot player with a view towards long term profitability gain from knowing the RTP of a slot?

The first thing to point out is that this really does only apply to players that play games over the longer term. If you play a slot for 100 spins and then don't play it again, then the short term volatility of the slot means that your success is entirely down to the whims of fate.

However, for slot fans who play slots over a sustained period of time and amass many spins on the slot, the RTP of the slot is vital as it can highlight which slots are the most likely to pay out cash back to you over time, and perhaps more importantly, those that are not.

What this means is that if you play a slot with a RTP of 90% and a different player plays a slot with a RTP of 95%, then that other player is more likely to earn a greater return from his slot than you are from yours.

However, it is not just the RTP which will decide whether a player targets a slot or not. The size of the prize on offer is equally important as the RTP when it comes to deciding whether a slot offers you the best chance of profitability.

In the example above, let's say your slot offers you the chance to win a top prize of 250,000 coins and your base unit bet is $1.00 per payline over 20 paylines. Let's say the other player also wagers $1 per payline over 20 lines but his top prize is 25,000 coins.

There is an argument here that says that while it is likely the 25,000 coin jackpot slot will likely be the more profitable over the longer term, the fact that you can win 10 times more on the 250,000 coin jackpot slot, for the same stake, means that this slot may be more appealing to some slot players.

Of course, what you feel is the best value is down to you. Some slot players prefer the reliability of long term RTP over the slim chance of hitting a bigger jackpot, but what is vital to remember is that by knowing the RTP of a slot, you can make this decision strategically.

So is this why big progressive games have a lower RTP?

Yes and no. The reason big progressive jackpot slot games have a lower RTP is that a certain percentage of your wager is a contribution to the jackpot fund, plus of course, in order to build a bigger jackpot, the slot cannot pay out as much as other slot games otherwise the size of the jackpots would have to be considerably smaller.

This is why you can find some progressive jackpot slot games have a lower RTP than non-progressives. However, it is the size of the jackpot on offer that matters more to players, which is why they will accept a lower RTP, for the chance to win a much bigger prize.

So does this mean if I want to play a progressive game, I have to accept a lower RTP?

In truth, the answer to this is that it depends entirely on the progressive jackpot game you choose to play. Sure, some offer lower RTP than other games, but there are a small number of games that offer both an excellent higher RTP as well as a big progressive jackpot.

Indeed, there are some progressive jackpot games, particularly table games, offering top prizes of hundreds of thousands of pounds, dollars, or euros, that offer a very high RTP, bettering many of the standard slot games you can find available on top casino sites.

A list of these top quality progressive jackpot games with higher RTP is outlined below, showing both their RTP percentage, as well as the jackpot on offer at the time that the article was written. Click the links to read out reviews.

With these games, players have a double advantage; not only are they playing a game that offers a punter a chance of a huge payday if they can hit the progressive jackpot, but they are also playing a game that offers them a higher RTP, meaning even if they don't win the progressive they still stand a better chance of maybe even earning a profit.

The appeal of these games is clear and it is no surprise that so many astute gamers target their play on these games in particular. So if you are slot player who has hit a poor run of form and wants to play games with a better chance of payback, you should take a much closer look at these games as not only do you get a chance of a big jackpot, but also a much greater chance of a positive return from your session.

Give it a try, you might hit a lucky streak and boost your bankroll to go for the Mega Moolah jackpot!

Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.

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