If you play casino slots for free or for real money, you should have heard the term “RTP” by now. And you probably think it’s very important, like any gambler. In fact, finding desktop and mobile casino slot machines with a high RTP rate may became a passion for you: the higher this percentage, the better.
Generally speaking, you are right, but are you sure that RTP is as important as you think it is? Moreover, does it really increase the frequency of winning, as you hope so? Low or high RTP rates of online slot machines are not the only criteria you need to consider: in order to find the best slot game for your needs, you need to look for more. In this article, we will talk about what you should also look for, but let’s start with the basics. What is RTP, and why is it important?
Why Is RTP Important?
RTP is an abbreviation of “return to player”. Most players know that high RTP percentages are better, but again, most players have no idea what it really means. Contrary to popular belief, “return to player” percentages are not about the chance of winning – i.e. a game with an RTP rate of 97% does not offer you a higher chance of winning when compared to a game with a rate of 95%. RTP is calculated by dividing the earned money by the lost money and multiplying it by 100. Simply put, it shows how much of your investment can be recovered in the long run. Likewise, it will also give you an idea of what your maximum loss will be. Let’s give a simple example: if you deposit 100 EUR on a slot machine with an RTP value of 98%, you can expect to get 98 EUR back in the long run. So, your instant loss will be limited to 2 EUR.
In other words, the “return to player” rate is actually an indicator that determines how much you will lose: the higher the RTP, the less your loss will be. Naturally, it should be as high as possible, but it cannot be the only criteria to evaluate a slot game. This is because “return to player” won’t give you any idea about what the frequency of winning will be: to understand that, you need to look at the “variance”. So, what does variance mean? To explain this, we need to talk a little more about RTP.
Truths About the RTP Percentages
There are two important things you need to know about RTP rates. The first is that these figures represent the situation after at least 1,000 spins. In other words, if you’re playing a slot game with an RTP ratio of 99%, don’t expect to score a winning after just a few spins: you literally need to do a minimum of 1,000 spins. Until you reach that number, you will lose and win continuously. And after 1,000 spins, you will see that you have lost an average of 1 EUR. The thing is, most players switch to another slot after a few hundred spins. If you are this kind of gambler, you will not be able to benefit from high RTP rates because they only make sense for patient players. If you are not that patient, you can be sure that low or high RTP numbers won’t matter to you.
The second thing you should know is more important: RTP rates are never 100%. You know the old saying: The casino always wins. Well, this is not just a saying, it is a fact: even if the RTP rate is 99.99%, you will always lose 0.01 EUR for every 100 EUR you deposit in the long run. In other words, the casino will always make a profit from your bets. If a game’s “return to player” value was 100%, you would have a chance to recover your investment without any loss, with a rate of 1:1. If this value was 101%, you could be sure of making a profit of 1 EUR.
But such a thing will never happen: even the most spectacular slot machine won’t have an RTP rate higher than 99%. We know the question in your mind—if you always lose in the long run, why play slot games? Well, to answer this question, we can now begin to explain the concept of variance.
Why Is Variance More Important Than RTP?
Variance is more important because it can really give you an idea about what the winning frequency will be. Just a theoretical idea, of course, nobody can predict the outcome of a spin due to RNG results. In other words, you can understand what kind of payouts to expect (low/high) and how frequent they will happen. Variance also shows why you should keep playing slot games. Yes, the casino will always win in the long run, but if you choose a high volatility slot, you can literally hit the jackpot and win much more than your initial investment. Or, you can pick a low volatility slot and opt-in for less but more frequent winnings. In any case, the variance of a slot machine will be a better indicator than “return to player” rate: you can easily choose a game that suits your play style and have an expectation of how frequent you will win.
We can say that there are two main variants: Low volatility and high volatility slots. There is also a “medium volatility” category – it represents somewhere between these two. So, what is the meaning of these terms?
- Low Volatility Slots: You will get paid frequently, but the payouts won’t be that big.
- High Volatility Slots: You will win less often, but the payouts will be bigger.
If you are playing a low volatility slot, your bankroll will decrease much more slowly. However, it will also not increase quickly, as you will earn less but often. If you have a limited budget, we recommend that you choose this type of slot for long gaming sessions.
When playing high volatility slots, on the other hand, you will see that you lose more often. But when you make a profit, you will be able to cover your losses and even make a profit. If you like a risky game style and don’t have budget problems, you can choose the games with high volatility, for example, Novomatic slots. Basically, the wins will be “unpredictable” and “highly volatile” – some players prefer this style. But keep in mind that professional gamblers always choose low volatility slots: earning less but often is more important for them.
So, how do you know which of these categories a slot game belongs to? Nowadays, it is not a difficult task to understand this because the variance of the slot games is already listed. However, if you don’t see this information, simply open the paytable or game rules and look at the symbol set payout values. If there is a big difference between the payout value of 2, 3, 4 symbols and the payout value of 5 symbols (which means if you win a much bigger prize for placing 5 symbols on the line) you are probably playing a high volatility slot. But if there is not much difference between the symbol set payout values, you are probably playing a slot with low volatility. As mentioned above, the choice is yours. Both variants offer the chance to make a profit, but with different frequencies.