What Does RTP (Return to Player) Mean?

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What Does RTP (Return to Player) Mean?

Kia ora Kiwi punters! So you’ve seen the term return to player, or RTP, thrown around a bit. Maybe it makes a little bit of sense, maybe it makes no sense at all - either way, we’re going to break it all down and figure out exactly what RTP is, what it means for your casino gaming, and how you can use it to your advantage when you’re having a punt at the best online casinos.

Online Casino RTP - What It Means to You

RTP, in a nutshell, is how much an online casino game will payout over time, and it's shown as a percentage.

So as a quick example, a pokies game with an RTP of 95% should pay out around $95 for every 100 dollars played through the game. So if you put in $100, on average, you should get $95 dollars back.

Another way of looking at it, is that the RTP is the opposite of the house edge. If an online casino game's RTP is 95%, that means that the house edge is 5%, meaning they are making a 5% profit on that game over time.

Now, one important thing to note is that this isn't a hard and fast rule for every time you play a game. RTPs are an average, which means they are calculated based on thousands and thousands of gaming sessions, played over and over again. So don't think that if you play a game for 10 minutes, that you'll get that exact RTP. Think of it more as a guide rather than a set-in-stone rule.

But wait, RTP goes beyond that and can have a big impact on how you gamble online. It can also impact how to find RTP on slots that suit your style to a tee. Keep reading and we'll get into that stuff too.

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How to Calculate RTP

Hang on tight for some quick maths!

RTP is calculated by dividing the amount paid back to players by the total of all bets made. For example, if you have a game with RTP 97%, that means that for every $100 wagered, $97 will be returned to players over time.

So that means that for every $100 you put into the game, you would, on average, get back around $97 (and the casino keeps the remaining $3). And if you're putting in 100 bucks a spin across thousands and thousands of spins, even though your individual winnings might vary, the RTP makes it so the house always wins in the long run. Again, RTP could be seen as the opposite of the house edge. Remember that the house edge is how much the casino makes, on average, with every dollar bet.

This is a pretty rough breakdown, but let's have a look at the average RTPs of casino games:

  • Online Slots - 93-99%
  • American Roulette - 94.7%
  • European Roulette - 97.5%
  • Baccarat - 98.5%
  • Craps - 95% to 98.6%
  • Blackjack (single deck) - 98.5%
  • Three card poker - 98.5%
  • Pai Gow poker - 97.5%

One thing to note here though is that RTP doesn't really take into account how often and big you might win a game, regardless of the RTP.

Take a game like European Roulette for example. While that game overall has an RTP of 97.5%, meaning the house will always keep 2.5% of bets, you can still make bets that can win big. For example, if you bet on red, you would only have a roughly 50% chance of winning that bet, but you could also double your money with that bet. So even though you could make a bet that would double your money, that would happen less often, and at the end of the day, the house always takes home 2.5% of every dollar gambled.

It's the same with pokies. While some pokies might have an RTP of 99.5%, you can still win big with huge jackpots. On the other hand, you could easily putter away with 5 cent bets forever, knowing that you're not going to lose your money any time soon. We'll go into depth about this stuff a bit later on.

Highest RTP Pokies

Let's have a wee looksie at some of the highest RTP casino pokies out there today. Once you've finished reading this, go and have a play at the real money pokies online to get an idea of what we mean about high RTP.

1429 Uncharted Seas

RTP: 98.5%

Created by software developer Thunderkick, 1429 Uncharted Seas is a 5 reel, 3-row pokies game that kinda feels like if Jules Verne wrote a kids picture book. It's full of lovely pastel images of moons, suns, lobsters, and even mermaids gallivanting through an ancient ocean.

Win by catching three, four, or five matching oceanic icons, where the octopus, mermaid, and turtles can pay prizes up to 50x your bet. If you get three compass symbols, you'll win 10 free spins. If you catch four or five compasses though, you'll win 20 or 50 free spins respectively.

With a pretty high RTP of 98.5%, and the ability to win up to 670x your bet, it's well worth dipping your toes into. Click on the link above to play it for free in demo mode.

Book of 99

RTP: 99%

Set in Ancient Greece, Book of 99 is a five-reel, three-row pokies game, and features some sweet cartoon-style graphics with all the ancient characters of yore. A cyclops, heroes, harpies, and more.

The idea is to collect the 99 ancient books to trigger a round of free games. If you want, you can also trigger the free games by getting enough wilds, or through the special expanding symbols.

Being one of the highest RTP casino pokies, with the chance to win 12,070x your bet, Book of 99 is one of the best pokie games for newbies and pros alike. Click on the link above to play it for free in demo mode.


RTP: 96%

Another magic gem from Thunderkick, Magicious is a five-reel, three-row pokies game that would be pretty close to paradise if you're a fan of magic shows. Featuring a magician and his beautiful assistant (or maybe it's the other way around?), your job is to make expanding wild symbols appear from thin air, giving your multiple respins.

Magicious isn't too big on wild features or confusing you, but rather it's a nice simple pokies game with a solid RTP, and the ability to win up to 1,400x your bet. Click on the link above to play it for free in demo mode.


RTP: 94%

Created by software giant NetEnt, Blood Suckers will have you shouting “muahahaha” as you spin its five reels and three rows to bring out what bumps in the night.

Land three or more scatter icons to trigger the stake and hammer bonus, where you'll need to open creepy coffins to slay one vampire after another. If you succeed, you'll win a devilish bonus payout.

With an RTP of 94% and the chance to 900x your bet, Blood Suckers is a scarily good time. Click on the link above to play it for free in demo mode.


RTP: 98%

You have got to be joking - a five-reel pokies with 10 paylines and an RTP of 98%? That's almost unheard of! Created by Yggdrasil, Jokerizer is a bit of an online pokies classic that has been joking around for 10 years.

There's a reason it's still doing its thing after all these years too - there is a lot more than meets the eye. While the Joker can only appear on reels two, three, and four, if he lands on the three centre reels, you'll get a mystery win with anything from 1,000 to 6,000 coins.

That sort of big win combined with being one of the highest RTP casino slot machines is just another reason Jokerizer is still a fan fav. Click on the link above to play it for free in demo mode.

How do Online Casinos Apply RTP to Casino Games?

Online casino operators are in the business of making money, and part of that is ensuring players have a good experience. RTP is basically there in order to vouch for a game's credibility.

It's how online casinos can look at a pokies game and say "yep, we're confident this has an RTP of x%". If the player can then see what the RTP is, they will have a fair and clear idea of what they are getting into. By establishing a proper RTP, it helps the game get approved by the gambling commissions, such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Commission, or the UK Gambling Commission.

It's that credibility that helps a game attract players, because each player then knows exactly what they're getting into. So how do online casinos actually apply RTP to their games? Well, there are a couple of different means.

When it comes to pokies, some casinos will simply do the math on their own, and then work out what they think the RTP is. They might look at how much money goes into the machine as part of playtesting, and then figure out how much money comes back out of it.

However, if a casino is using a developer's pokies game to run on its platform, then that developer might apply the RTP directly. The developer will know how their game works, what it needs to do, and can give an exact figure for the RTP.

Either way, whether the operator does it themselves or hands it over to a developer, they usually look at how much action there is in the game. If they can keep a steady stream of players coming in, and the game tends to pay out a little more than it takes in, then that usually means a high RTP.

When it comes to table games like online European Roulette, for example, calculating the RTP is a lot easier. That's because you can clearly see there are 18 winning numbers, and 19 losing numbers, so that's just basic pen-to-paper maths.

Whatever the game, once the RTP is determined, one of those gaming authorities we mentioned earlier will verify it so that punters know that it's all legit, and everything is ka pai and legit.

And if a casino doesn't show you their RTP figures on the games available? Well, it's possible they don't actually know what it is.

For example, if they are using a third-party game to power the casino, there might be no way for them to get hold of that developer's information on RTP. They might not even have access to the game itself. In those cases, casinos usually make a note on their websites that the RTP information is not available.

What Percentage do Pokie Machines Payout?

Among all the online casino games, RTP is probably most relevant to pokies, because you can get through games very quickly compared to other games. When you're rocketing through your spins, you are getting a more accurate reflection of the RTP than if you were to play a few games of blackjack.

As the online punting public became more educated about RTP, it pretty much became the first thing people looked for when choosing their favourite pokies. Even before they check out what the games are all about, if they see a high RTP, that will get their attention.

Most slot machines pay out at around 94% to 96%. Some of them, like the Jokerizer game above, pay out even more than that. Compared to pokies in bricks-and-mortar casinos, that's very, very generous. After all, more people play in online casinos than they do in real-life casinos, so online casinos need to be more competitive with their RTPs.

How to Find the RTP of Pokies

If you'd like to know what the RTP of any given pokie is, just search the name of the game in our search bar above, and we'll send you to a page with a full breakdown and review of the game. If by chance we don't have a full review of the game, a quick Google of the game's name and "RTP" should send you to the software developer's page for the game.

What Is Low Variance vs High Variance in Online Pokies?

We hinted earlier that sometimes RTP isn't the only number in town when it comes to picking your ideal pokie. There are some pokies that have low variance/volatility, and there are some pokies that have high variance/volatility.

Low volatility means you can expect a steady gambling experience where you might win regularly, but the wins will be kinda small. If a pokies game has high volatility, that means you won't win as often, but when you do win, you'll win big.

So how do you use this information? Well, the high volatility games are great if you want to take a chance on winning big in your online casino play, but it comes with the risk of losing it all quickly. Think of games where you get to have a crack at winning a substantial amount of money like you can with progressive jackpot pokies.

Games that are low RTP offer steadier payouts, but you don't stand to win as much and you need to put in a lot of gameplay before you see any real money. This is good if you want to be playing pokies for hours, and spend your bankroll slowly and surely, with little wins along the way.

So, if you're playing for fun – by all means – try out the high volatility games. If you're playing for cash though, it might be better to stick with low RTP casino games because they offer more consistent and reliable payouts.

When looking for the variance or volatility of the game, search the game's name in our search bar, and we'll let you know.

RTP in American Roulette

As you may or may not know, when it comes to American Roulette vs European Roulette, American Roulette is the slightly less generous cousin of European Roulette, as it has an extra zero on the wheel, giving the house a slightly bigger edge.

Now while the odds on each particular kind of bet can vary wildly from 1/1 to 35/1, as we mentioned before, the house always wins, which means the overall RTP is rocksteady at the end of the day for the casino.

Here's what the odds of each bet is, and you'll notice the house edge and RTP stay the same, no matter the bet.

Bet TypeOddsProbabilityHouse EdgeRTP
Six Line5/115.79%5.26%94.74%

RTP in European Roulette

As we mentioned above, because European Roulette only has one zero, it has slightly better odds for the player, which means a lower house edge, and a higher RTP.

Again, take note that no matter the odds of each bet though, that the RTP remains the same. The house always wins, even it's just a little bit.

Bet TypeOddsProbabilityHouse EdgeRTP
Six Line5/116.20%2.70%97.30%

What RTP can you Expect Playing Online Blackjack?

Without sounding too wishy-washy, there are many different versions of online blackjack, which means their RTPs will vary from game to game. If you look at games like Super Fun 21, Perfect Pairs Blackjack, or Pontoon Blackjack, they all have RTPs that are much lower than traditional blackjack games.

This leads us to those traditional blackjack games. If you play with a perfect strategy, Premium Blackjack has a (theoretical) RTP of 99.67%, and Classic Blackjack has a (theoretical) RTP of 99.4%. Both are obviously very good RTPs for the players.

You have to remember though, a perfect blackjack strategy is very hard to maintain, and that's why we say those RTPs are theoretical. In the long run, though, online blackjack does have a very high RTP for both versions.

So basically, if you want to play blackjack that has a good RTP – although not perfect – then stick with those games that have a decent RTP of around 99%+.

Conclusion - RTP and What It Means for You

If we've done our job right, you'll have RTP on your mind every time you look at a new online casino game, especially when it comes to the new pokie games. Knowing the RTP means you can get a good idea of whether or not to give it a go at playing online, and if so, how much money to put in.

If you want to play for hours on end without risking too much of your bankroll, stick with low volatility games that have a moderate return. You'll be happy knowing every minute you play you're getting closer to your bankroll goal. If you like the high roller lifestyle though, check out some of those volatile games that offer big jackpots and the chance to walk away with thousands of dollars in one bet.

If you want somewhere to start, the six highest paying online casinos all clearly show the RTPs of their games. Alternatively, have a look at our best pokie games and have a crack yourself to get a feel for how the RTP affects the games you play.

The only way to get the hang of it is to play, so get clicking and start playing!

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