Return to player (RTP) – Explained

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Return to player (RTP) explained

RTP is a short acronym that stands for a lot of things. It could be related to chemistry, online streaming protocols etc. However, in a casino, betting and gambling context, there is only one meaning to RTP, which is, “Return To Player”.  

Return to player, or RTP for short, explains the player’s chances of winning over time. More specifically, RTP is a percentage % that describes how much is paid back to the player looking at an infinite amount of bets in a specific game. Looking at RTP from an opposite perspective gives you the mathematical advantages a casino has against its players, a.k.a “house edge”.  

So in essence, on a slot game that has a stated RTP or 95%, the player would theoretically lose 5 cents on every dollar he/she/it wagered.That also means the casino would win the same amount on every dollar bet, given that the player continues wagering forever. 

How to calculate RTP

We now understand the meaning of RTP, fair enough. But how is it calculated? The equation for this is rather simple:

As the picture illustrates, you simply divide the total player wins over the wagered bets, and voila, out comes the exact rtp percentage number!

RTP alone can’t help us to predict the real outcome of a game. Almost anything can happen in the short term, and rtp is just an indication of (how much) we can expect a game to pay back over time of our total bets. But to get a better understanding of what our chances of winning look like, we need to consider factors like hit frequency (how often) we can expect to win. The best thing would of course be to know the timing (when) our best chances of getting a hit is. But as you can imagine, that’s impossible and part of the beauty of gambling. Hence, only gamble with money you can afford to lose and are okay with losing. 

RTP of different casino games

The return to player varies a lot between different types of games and the way you play them has a huge impact on the RTP %. 

Rough estimates of rtp % on different games:

  • Online Slots – (85.0-99.0%)
  • Blackjack – (0.00-99.0%)
  • Roulette – (94.7-97.3%)
  • Betting – (Odds*)

To increase your theoretical RTP, make sure that you understand the rules of the game you’re playing. And in order to maximize your chances of winning make sure to use an optimized gambling strategy.  

Slots

The RTP % of a slot machine can always be found on the page where the slot is played. This is mandatory information that the game suppliers are obligated to provide.

You’ll find this info by navigating to the slots info menu (i)button. That can be tricky and the menu is usually hidden more deliberately than the top left corner in our example with Bonanza from Big Time Gaming below. 

Click the (i) and a new page or a popup should appear. This page includes all the relevant  information regarding the game mechanics, its symbol values, paylines, min & max bet and the theoretical payout (RTP%) among a few other things. 

What is a good rtp for slots? Our personal opinion is that the rtp for a slot machine on any decent online casino should be at least 95%. The higher the rtp percentage is the better of course. But there are a lot of slots out there that even fall under the same categories, have similar designs and features etc. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to compare the rtp rates for a couple of games that sparked your interest before spending your money. 

Acceptable RTP% for Slots (our opinion): 

  • 98% + – Epic
  • 97-98% – Awesome
  • 96-97% – Great
  • 95-96% – Good
  • 95% – – Avoid
Blackjack RTP

How RTP works for Blackjack is very different from slots. Slots are random and are characterized as a game of luck and by no means are you able to influence the outcome or RTP in any way. Blackjack on the other hand is a game of skill and the decisions you make during a game of blackjack affect your RTP to a very high degree. 

With a perfect game, a Blackjack player can achieve 99%+ RTP. While drawing cards deliberately until you bust puts the game at 0% RTP. I pray to god that no poor soul has ever done this and that it simply remains here as an example. But even small errors can negatively impact the RTP. 

Blackjack remains to this day and age one of the most popular games that gambling has to offer. Learn how to beat the house and play a flawless game by following the simple guidelines setup in our Guide to play perfect Blackjack.   

Roulette RTP

No other casino game has been under as much scrutiny as Roulette. Mathematicians from all over the world have tried to beat it. And so far, it has proven itself and has withstood the test of time. It also has a couple of different versions with slight variations and possible bets. And due to that fact, they also offer slight variations in odds and RTP. 

Max RTP% on Roulette (popular versions): 

  • French Roulette – 98.65% 
  • European Roulette – 97.3 %
  • American Roulette – 94.7 %
  • Mini Roulette – 96.15%

French Roulette is unusual and not provided by many casinos. So even if it theoretically provides the highest return to the player it’s not really something worth looking for as choosing a good casino is more important. But if you find it at your favorite site we can highly recommend it due to the RTP advantage it has vs its peers. 

Mini Roulette is a simplified version of the more complicated original Roulette game. The mini version has only 12 inside numbers to bet on (1-12) and 6 possible outside bets (high-low, odd-even & red-black). Mini Roulette offers a worse RTP than European Roulette but has a better RTP than American Roulette.

American vs European Roulette

Please note that there is a 2,6% RTP difference between the European and American Roulette. Remember this as we’ll revert back to it after we’ve had a look at the comprehensive roulette overview including odds and RTP for the different versions of the game. 

Odds & RTP comparison (European- vs American Roulette) 

Even if the odds of winning on European Roulette and American Roulette look quite similar this is not quite true. The last two columns to the right of this table displays the expected RTP amount from a €1 bet and a $1 bet respectively. And what we can see is that the expected RTP is the same for any type of bet that you put down. On European Roulette you lose −€0.027 on every euro that you bet and on American Roulette you lose −$0.053. This means that whatever bet you lay the theoretical win for the casino is always the same but it also tells us that you’ll lose almost twice as much (94% more) on the American table compared to the European, on every dollar / euro bet!

Do you want to become a Roulette champion and learn the secret tricks that the nerdy mathematicians missed when calculating its Rtp%? A warm recommendation from us would be to visit the page where we collected The best Roulette strategies online!

RTP is the price point of a game supplier

It is true that game studios set the game RTP themselves. And there’s nothing weird or strange about that. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, studios decide which RTP level a game should be set to before they can even begin working on the game mechanics. It’s a crucial part of the product that they are selling. Once they have mechanics and features adding up to a controlled RTP % it’s much easier for them to put a new skin on it and resell the same game rather than coming up with a completely new concept. However, the competition gets tougher and experienced players avoid these types of games like the plague. 

Think of a game studio as a bar. They all sell alcoholic beverages but it’s not only the amount or strength that matters. Only the ones serving custom small-batch brews and mixing their own unique, well-tasting cocktails can charge a premium for their content.

NetEnt is one of those studios who’s always put a lot of pride in having among the highest rtp% in the industry for their games. Their belief was that the players will always lose and by having a higher rtp% the players will have more hours of fun before they run out of cash. Well, as it turns out, players don’t just want to play, they want a chance to win, preferably big. After the so called NetEnt era, BigTime gaming kind of took over by offering the best of two worlds. Decent rtp% but with high or even extreme volatility. Now they are both owned by the same company but that’s another story.

Beware, casinos can also choose their own RTP

We just walked you through why game suppliers can set their own RTP% on games they create and why that isn’t a big deal. What is surprising, however, is that some game suppliers offer different RTP versions of their games and let casino operators choose which RTP version suits them the best. This is, according to us, on the borderline of scamming customers. There is already a jungle of casinos and bonus terms to learn about and navigate through and now players have to (or at least should) be aware that their favorite slot might not even be the same game if they switch to a new betting site. This is on the borderline of an outright scam. Therefore, we, first of all, advise you to always check the RTP of the slots that you intend to play, just like we showed and provided examples under the “Slot RTP” section. Secondly, we’d like to advise you to stay away from the casinos that choose lower RTP versions. And thirdly, perhaps it’s best to avoid playing slots from game studios that offer different RTP options to their clients in the first place.

Sometimes depending on your casino of choice the RTP might be influenced, as stated above the casinos can choose what RTP they want for certain games but some licenses actually dictate whether or not they can lower it below certain levels. The Maltese Gambling Assosication (MGA) has recently changed its minimum allowed RTP to 85% from the previous levels of 92%.

Besides this unethical but not illegal way of influencing RTP, the casinos have other means and tricks up their sleeves to make you wager longer and more than you want or intended to which ultimately tilts the RTP in their favor if you would happen to be a winning player. 

High minimum withdrawals force you to continue gambling even when you want to throw in the towel. Perhaps you were not even aware that there was a minimum withdrawal which was set considerably higher than the lowest possible deposit amount. 

Delayed payouts or pushed-back withdrawals is a trick a lot of shady operators use in order for you to gamble your winnings / requested withdrawal amount instead of them just paying it out to you, as they should!

Read our casino reviews carefully to find out which casinos are responsible and offer the highest RTP versions of slot games!