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Should You Pay Attention to RTP Figures at Online Casinos?


If you speak to experienced casino players – the kind of folks that travel to Las Vegas or Atlantic City with a real expectation of making money – they will tell you that concepts like house edge or hugely important. But house edge isn’t always easy to work out, at least not for every game. In blackjack, for example, some professional players might claim the house edge doesn’t exist at all. They believe that their skills and experience wipes out any discernible advantage the casino might have in the rules.

But with online casinos, it is a little bit different. While you can play live games online, the majority of games are virtual games. This means that they are software-based, using random number generators to determine the outcome. Normally, these games are programmed to reflect the real-world probabilities of ‘real’ casino games. This is displayed and reported as a figure called RTP (Return to Player).

Games Reflect Real-World Probability

To give a quick example, we can look at Classic European Roulette. The house edge in this game (if you were to play in a land-based casino) is calculated to be 2.7%. You can work it out by simple match: There are 37 segments on the wheel, and guessing the right number pays 35-1. So, if you put $1 on every number, your total outlay would be $37 and you’d win $36. The spare dollar is the casino’s edge, if you will, working out at about 2.7%.

RTP works as a kind of reverse house edge. If the casino is paying out $36 for every $37 it takes in on a game, that works out as 97.3%. And the RTP for Classic European Roulette online is 97.3%. So, in theory, the casino makes around $2.70 for every $100 taken in. It’s quite easy to understand, but these are only rough calculations and they are dealing with probabilities calculated over millions of games.

Nevertheless, doesn’t it seem logical to say that you should play casino games with the highest RTP? After all, those games have a lower profit for casinos and, therefore, a better margin for the players. Well, it is – in theory. Experienced online casino players talk about RTP all the time, swapping tips, etc., on the games with the highest levels.

RTP is Important In Slots

To give another example, we might look at slots. Silver Bullet slot by Playtech has a high RTP of 97.00%, which is considered quite generous. But another Playtech game, Plenty o’ Fortune, has an RTP of 91.95%. This means that Silver Bullet pays back over 5% more to players over time. That could add up to a significant amount, particularly for high rollers.

So, logically then, we should all be paying games like Silver Bullett and eschewing those with a lower RTP, like Plenty o’ Fortune. But it’s not quite as simple as that. While Silver Bullet will clearly pay back more than Plenty o’ Fortune, it also matters how and when it pays. For example, some games with a lower RTP have very high jackpots – Mega Moolah (88.12% RTP) is a good example of this. It remains popular because it has one of the biggest prizes of any online slot – the fabled Mega Moolah Jackpot.

In a sense, you can think about it in the sense of a lottery. Most major lotteries, such as Powerball or Euromillions, put around half the ticket sales into prize money. If you look at it that way, then the lottery has an RTP of 50%. Of course, people will be aware of this – but do they care? Probably not.

It’s worth mentioning that the calculations for RTP are made up of millions of plays on a game. That means the average player will probably not notice the difference. Games can be considered high or low variance, and that arguably is more important to the average gaming session than RTP. Variance – sometimes called volatility – refers to how frequently or infrequently a game awards prizes and the size of those prizes.

But overall, the theory is sound over RTP. A game like Silver Bullet is programmed to pay back more than one with a lower RTP. Will that matter in a typical gaming session? Perhaps not. But some experienced casino players put a lot of stock into it and will research before they play. Whether that strategy works or not is probably more to do with subjective opinion.

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