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RTP (Return to Player Percentage)

If you've played any slots or table game in the casino, you'll know all about House Edge (or you should do).

The House Edge is the statistical advantage the casino has over the player. In the long-term, the House Edge always outweighs the player payouts - it's what keeps the casinos in profit.

Slots are no different, and over a long period you're more likely to lose on games than win.

Not wanting to put you off, there's a way to beat the casino: pick games with the lowest house edge possible. Conversely, you need to find games with the highest RTP (Return to Player percentages) around.

What is RTP?

The RTP is the 'Return to Player percentage'. Programmed into the slot, the RTP is the long-term, theoretical, payout made to players.

Here's an example:

You play a popular Microgaming slot that carries an RTP of 96%. If you bet £100 on the slot, you should - over time - get back £96. The remainder goes to the casino, making the House Edge 4%.

You play around 1,000 spins and indeed win around £955, although it's cost you £1,000 to win that (and that £1,000 included some of your winnings as you went).

Of course, you could get lucky and hit a big jackpot early on. Let's say you started with the £100 and win £150 after two or three spins. You decide to cash out - suddenly the RTP has jumped to around 145%.

But here's the problem with slots: you don't know when you're going to hit the jackpot. And often, players will head back to slots and continue losing - or winning very small amounts.

How Is RTP Decided?

While it's true that online slots are totally random, what isn't random are the numbers of symbols featured on each reel.

When developers make slots, they program reels to feature a certain number of regular and bonus icons. They may pack the reels with expanding Wilds or bonus Scatters, or cram in more low-paying symbols. Essentially, it's all in the 'game maths' of the slot.

Example Slot: The 96% Payout

For example, let's take a 5-reel slot with 30 possible stops on each reel. In total, there are 30x30x30x30x30 (30 the power of 5) possible outcomes for the paylines: 24,300,000.

Depending on the number of each unique symbol, you can work out the probability of hitting a winning combination. Let's say there are 10 unique symbols in the game: 1 Scatter, 4 characters, and 5 Ace-10 symbols.

With those parameters, you can work out the total payout percentage, or RTP. The regular symbols might return 60% (lots of common wins), Scatter wins return 6%, and the Bonus returns 30%. Add these up and you get an RTP of 96%.

So, for every £100 gambled on the slot, £96 is returned to the player.

Of course, the Scatter probabilities can raise with more than two or three Scatters per reel. The addition of a Wild can also alter the payout percentage. If the bonus is a Free Spins round, and it can be retriggered, that can also change the payout percentage.

Choosing the Right Online Slots

Slots with lots of bonus symbols won't trigger big payouts too much - it just wouldn't be profitable for the casino. These slots will tend, therefore, to have a lower RTP. Lower-variance slots, which provide the chance to win plenty of small wins, will have higher long-term RTPs.

Of course, it's hard to know exactly how many of each symbol a developer has programmed into a slot. All you can do is give a slot a few thousand free-play spins to test the variance and frequency with which big wins crop up.

The Highest RTPs Online

Online slots players already have a huge advantage over their land-based cousins: the RTPs online are higher. In live casinos, RTPs are around 80-90%, in accordance with UK Gambling Commission rules.

Online, however, the RTPs can and do go much higher. It's not unusual to find slots RTPs around 93-98%. What you get depends on the game maths of the slot, and the developer.

There are lists of average RTPs out there, but avoid trawling the net by simply checking the Paytable when you play. Alternatively, many online casinos will list the RTP on their game rules pages.

RTP Testing And Reviews

Most licensing jurisdictions, like the UK, Malta and Gibraltar, insist on software being externally tested before it hits the market.

Independent bodies like eCOGRA or GLI test hundreds of games to ensure their payouts are accurate. Testing is done on a monthly basis to make sure players are protected.

Reputable online casinos usually display their testing certificates on their homepage. You can read and print out certificates and read about the confirmed payouts of the casino sites.

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