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The RTP is an important factor you should always consider before playing a casino game. RTP stands for Return to Player, and it basically tells you the percentage of bets in a game that are paid out to players as winnings. Or rather, which percentage the casino keeps as their winnings. Another way of looking at this is that the RTP tells you what the house edge is in a game. But what does it really matter, and how does it impact your winning chances? Read on and we’ll tell you all about it!




What Is Return to Player?

The Return to Player (often shortened to just RTP) is a percentage that tells you how much the game will pay out as winnings, on average in the long term. When we say long, we mean a theoretical average that’s calculated over millions of spins on slots, or millions of bets in table games like roulette, blackjack, and baccarat. One important factor is that the RTP is not, and never will be, accurate for you in the long run as it’s an average for all players, not just you and your game session.

Let’s take a simple example for the purposes of this in-depth online gambling guide. Say a particular slot you want to play has a stated RTP of 98%. In this case, it means that for every pound you bet, you can expect to win back an average of 98p. The extra 2% is going to the casino – this last bit is known as the house edge, or to put it more simply, the expected profits made by the casino for each bet. That might not sound like a great deal, of course, but 98% is considered to be a very high RTP percentage. 

And we must take into consideration that it is an average. You can always beat the odds and walk away as a winner. It’s just that X number of other players will end up losing to the casino to balance it out.

How Is RTP Calculated?

Not to go too geeky here, but the way RTP is calculated on a general level is quite simple. It is the total amount won (or returned) to players divided by the total amount that was wagered by those same players. So, while it isn’t calculated on the actual history of a single game, it is simulated by computer algorithms to play millions of rounds in a short space of time to replicate something that had been played by thousands of players over many years or decades. And because each spin uses a random number generator (RNG) to ensure that each spin has exactly the same chances of winning as the next one, we know that the RTP is accurate.

You’ll sometimes get lucky, and all the big wins will just be rolling in, while at other times, the same slot might give you nothing but losses. In short, for one player to win, someone else has to lose. The only certain thing is that the slot, or the casino, always gets to keep between 2% and 5% (or whatever percentage the house edge is) of the bets, while the rest is paid out as winnings to random players.

Since the RTP is always lower than 100%, this means if you keep playing and playing, you'll lose in the end. You can, of course, be lucky and get quite a few big wins, but the trick is to withdraw your winnings at some point. If you keep betting your winnings repeatedly, the slot will leave you empty-handed. Unless you win a jackpot, of course…

Return to Player in Online Slots

In slots, the house edge is always displayed as RTP. A normal video slot will usually have an RTP of between 95% and 98%, at least in online slots. In slot machines you might find at land-based casinos or elsewhere in the real world, the RTP can be as low as 50% or 60%! So playing slots online is always the best bet. 

Something you should be aware of, though, is that the RTP of a slot is not always the same. You might find the exact same slot at two different casinos, and they can have different RTP. This is because some game providers let the casino choose the game’s RTP, which again means the casino can choose its house edge for that slot. 

You should be aware that one slot can have multiple RTP percentages listed within the same game at the same casino. This will happen if the slot has a skill-based element, or something where you as a player can have an impact on if and when you win. For example, a slot that has a gamble feature (where you can either cash out your winnings or gamble them for the chance to double the win) will often list two RTPs, one for if you use the gamble feature, and one for if you don’t. 

Likewise, a jackpot slot might show one RTP for the main game, and another for the jackpot part of the game. 

RTP in Skill-based Games

In skill-based games, like table games, the RTP is never completely fixed. Although in table games you usually won’t find an RTP percentage listed, as it will be called the house edge instead. In most table games you’ll see that the lowest possible house edge is listed, meaning the RTP will be high. But, to get to the house edge that is listed, you’ll have to play a perfect game. Certain choices, like placing bets that are not theoretically the best ones for the position you’re in, will lead to a higher house edge than the one that’s listed.

For example, in the game of craps the house edge you’d see displayed would probably be a very low 1.14%. But this is only for some bets. Some bets you will give the house an edge of 9%, meaning an RTP of only 91%. Likewise, when playing baccarat, the house edge can be as low as 1.06%, but also as high as 14.1%. So it’s not just about the theoretical RTP in a specific game, it’s also about what you bet on, and how you bet. That is, when you’re playing skill-based games where you have an impact on how the game is played.

Does the RTP Really Impact Your Winning Chances? 

Yes, and no. Of course, if you play and play and play millions of game rounds, then yes, the RTP will impact you. But if you’re like most casual players and play maybe some hundreds of game rounds per session on a specific game, the RTP won’t have much of an impact on you. In many ways, the RTP is much more important for the casino than for an individual player. 

You should never forget that time is the casino’s best friend, meaning that the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose. The casino always wins in the long term. Therefore, as a player, you shouldn’t play millions of game rounds. When you get a win you’re happy with, you should cash out your winnings and not trust that your luck will continue. If you keep on playing, chances are that you’ll eventually lose, whether the game has an RTP of 95% or 98%. 

Always remember that the RTP will never be 100%, as the casino needs to make a profit in order to be able to offer the game. When you win, and basically get more than your fair share of the RTP, it means another player gets less than what their theoretically allotted RTP should be. And when you do win, that’s purely down to luck. You can’t trust your luck to last forever, no matter what the RTP. 

What is more likely to impact how much you win on a game, especially on slots, is the volatility. 

Nerijus Grenda
Nerijus Grenda
Published: 25 May 2022
Updated: 26 Jul 2023
Nerijus Grenda is a prolific contributor to the GoodLuckMate site. With a deep understanding of the online casino industry, gained from his own experience as an avid player, he offers valuable insights on what sets the best casinos apart from the rest. As a writer, Nerijus shares his expertise through expert analysis and thoughtful commentary on various topics related to online gambling, including casino reviews, game guides and industry trends.

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