Return to Player – Learn Why Understanding RTP Is Key to Your Gambling Success

Return to player

10 minutes

Last Updated: January 20, 2022

RTP is an abbreviation used in the gambling industry, mostly for online casino games. It’s one of the key determinants that can help gamblers make smarter decisions and achieve better long-term results.

That is, only if they know how to use it to their advantage. Read on to learn more about what RTP is, how to calculate it, and how it affects different casino games.

What Does RTP Stand For?

As you guessed from the title, RTP stands for Return to Player. In short, the RTP is the total amount of money the casino pays to you over time.

While many players think that it’s the house that sets this payout rate, it is actually the game provider that does so. The RTP is shown as a percentage lower than 100%, as this number represents the return on your total wagers at the casino.

The key thing to note is that RTP shows how much each player would get back in the ideal scenario.  We say this because there is a difference between the theoretical RTP and the real RTP.

As their names say, the first shows how much the game theoretically pays back. The second tracks how much the game really pays over time. Naturally, these can differ.

But, the interesting thing is that they will always get closer to each number with more hours put in the game. This brings up the key part in the definition – calculating RTP percentages.

How Can You Calculate RTP?

Although this term and the algorithms that decide it might sound complex and sophisticated, calculating the Return to Player percentages is pretty straightforward. This is because the formula is always the same and is easy to remember.

The formula for calculating RTP is the total amount returned to you divided by the total amount you’ve bet.

Keep in mind that RTP can’t be calculated based on a few dozen or even a few hundred results. This is because such a small sample can’t provide you with reliable data. RTP exclusively measures long-term payouts.

What’s more, the listed RTP numbers you find online are established through millions of rounds of bets simulated by computer software.

In this sense, the RTP is more of an average of what the game will pay out over several years and with thousands of gamblers playing it.

This aspect is cause for one of the biggest misconceptions among casino players, especially those playing slots and video poker machines.

Gamblers think that if the game has been paying much less than its listed RTP average, it will start paying out soon to compensate and get closer to its listed average. Unfortunately, this is never the case.

As the RTP is calculated over long periods, the game will naturally move closer to its average over millions of rounds. But, this will happen too slowly for anyone to notice.

It will manifest through many players getting slightly higher wins, rather than a few players getting massive wins. This is simply due to the laws of probability.

What does RTP stand for

To better understand it, let’s take a look at it through a simple example. Let’s say that the total amount that a game makes over a year is one million dollars, and its potential payout is $960,000.

By dividing the amount it returns by the amount it takes in, you get the game’s RTP. In this case it’s $960,000/$1,000,000 which equals 0.96. So, the RTP of the game in this example is 96%.

Again, these RTP numbers can only be measured through large samples. Thus, they should only matter to you if you’re in it for the long run.

If you have a few hundred bucks to spend on a slot game, the game’s RTP doesn’t matter that much, as you won’t stay long enough in the game to be affected by it in any significant way.

Is There RTP in Online Casinos?

While online casinos feature all of their games virtually (excluding live casino games), they still apply the same RTP mechanisms you’ll find in any machine available in a land-based casino.

Moreover, the presence of RTP, or better said, the house edge that contrasts it, is the lifeblood of an online casino site.

As online casino games are generally more complex than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, the algorithm they run on is much more stringently tested to ensure fair gambling conditions.

In the same breath, the listed RTP values are much more thoroughly analyzed and precise than those you’ll find in land-based casinos.

The Correlation Between RTP and Variance

What many inexperienced casino enthusiasts don’t know is that you can’t really fully understand RTP without considering variance.

This is because both RTP and variance play into how much success you’ll see playing a particular game over time.


Variance or volatility serves to show how the particular game pays the player. This is a term primarily associated with slots to illustrate the frequency of payouts and the risk involved in playing the game.

To be more precise, there are three widely accepted variance levels in the gambling world. Each indicates what payout frequency you can expect and how risky the game is. These variance levels are:

  • Low Variance – Games with frequent payouts that are of lower value.
  • Medium Variance – Games that pay out slightly less frequently, but the payouts are rewarding.
  • High Variance – Games that are high risk and rarely pay out but provide massive wins.

What’s the RTP in Different Casino Games

Needless to say, RTP numbers aren’t uniform across the board. Each type of casino game has a different RTP.

Moreover, each specific game and variation within a certain type comes with a slightly different RTP.

Because of this, we’ve divided the following section based on the type of casino game. This will make it easier to understand the ballpark RTP numbers each casino game comes with.

Considering this, let’s take a closer look at RTP through three popular types of casino games:

Return to Player in Slot Games

The term RTP is most closely tied to slot games. This is because these games are faster than any other type of casino game.

In other words, under normal conditions, you’ll always play through your bankroll faster playing slots than playing roulette or blackjack.

With this in mind, slot games have lower RTP numbers than both of these table games. Generally, the average for slot games is between 94% and 97%.

Return to player in slots

That said, these percentages can sometimes go a few numbers lower, but there are also a number of slots with higher RTP than 97%.

You should also remember the high and low variance we’ve mentioned before. In this context, low variance slot machines pay out often. However, the prizes are small, and there are almost never any larger jackpots.

In contrast, high variance slots pay out much less frequently. But, when they do, the jackpots are often life-changing.

Of course, it’s also important to address the topic of progressive slot games. In these types of slots, the RTP can be significantly lower than in classic variation. The reason for this is that progressive jackpot slots generally have huge main prizes.

In such games, most players will win small prizes or won’t win anything, while a handful of lucky gamblers can win millions of dollars if they hit the main jackpot.

Return to Player in Roulette

When discussing RTP in roulette games, it’s important to make a distinction between two main variations: American roulette and European roulette.

This is because these two variations are essentially two different games. Each has a distinct layout and they have a differing number of pockets.

More precisely, American roulette has 38 pockets, numbering from 1 to 36, a 0, and a 00. In comparison, European roulette has 37 pockets, going from 1 to 36 and a 0.

Needless to say, the differing number of pockets results in a noticeably contrasting house edge.

Looking into the exact numbers, this translates through an RTP of 94.74% in American roulette and an RTP of 97.30% in European roulette.

Going by these numbers, the European version is clearly the smarter choice to play if you’re in it for the long run.

The 2.6% difference in RTP between these two variations may not seem like that big of a deal. But, when making even money bets, you have two losing pockets instead of one when playing American roulette.

Over time, you would inevitably end up losing more money in American roulette than in European roulette.

Return to Player in Blackjack

Blackjack games are arguably the most favorable in terms of pure RTP numbers. With a Return to Player of around 99%, blackjack is an excellent game if you want to get the most out of every penny you bet.

Moreover, if you play the game according to the optimal blackjack strategy, you can achieve an RTP of over 99.5%.

RTP in table games

That said, only a small percentage of blackjack players manage to maintain such high percentages in the long run. Still, even with fairly poor strategic decisions, you can expect your blackjack RTP to be rarely below 95%.

Additionally, as we mentioned before, the RTP can slightly vary based on the specific blackjack variations.

There are many blackjack variants you can find in online and land-based casinos. The most popular ones include classic blackjack, Spanish 21 blackjack, blackjack switch, Face Up 21, and many others.

Return to Player – Key Takeaways

With all of the information we’ve discussed on this page, you can understand why it’s so important to know how RTP works and how to pick the most suitable games for you and your bankroll.

This little telltale number helps you get the best value for your money, which is key to long-term success.

Luckily, when you’re playing online casino games, RTP numbers are always transparently listed. So, you can always quickly compare games before you play.

Of course, remember that lower RTP slots will generally pay more money, but much less often. This is because RTP and variance go hand in hand together.

Ultimately, if you took the time to read this comprehensive guide, you’ve learned everything you need to know about how Return to Player works. All that’s left now is to put your knowledge into action and start playing your favorite casino games!


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