What is RTP in Pokies?

A study conducted by the UK Gambling Commission in 2023 indicated that the vast majority of gamblers didn’t understand the concept of RTP. Our team has come to the rescue of Aussie punters, who are even less familiar with gambling concepts due to the lack of proper online casino regulation.

RTP, short for return to player, is a percentage representing the amount of prizes distributed by pokies machines to players based on the money played.  

The pokies RTP shouldn’t be taken at face value, it is an average calculated across thousands or millions of spins. The gaming experience is unique since online pokies outcomes are randomised by random number generators; however, the RTP is always realised in the long run.

Casinos and developers must inform users about the RTP of each poker machine so that they know what they are getting into in advance. All casino games have a house edge, the casino’s mathematical advantage, so the question is which games have the lowest.

How the Pokies RTP Works

The RTP in slot machines communicates the casino’s edge for a specific game in a crude way. Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat, and other table games have ingrained rules that ensure the casino has a slight edge and makes a profit in the long run, indifferent to the outcomes of a single gaming session or a few hundred of plays.

Although the RTP is referenced in the reverse way to casino games house edge (we say a slot has an RTP of 96%, while roulette has an edge of 2.5%), it provides the same info. The return to player rate percentage is ingrained into the programming of each slot game, ensuring that on average, after thousands or up to billions of spins, the casino will profit accordingly.

A slot game with 96% RTP suggests that the casino will keep 4% of all played funds. For example, A$100 played on X pokie with 96% RTP means that the casino keeps A$4 and returns A$96 to the player(s).

The above example can help you understand how the RTP works in practice, yet the situation isn’t that simple. You might play 500 spins to lose 500 times in a row or tap for your first spin to see that you won a multi-million-dollar progressive jackpot.

Ultimately, that’s the fun part of gambling. However, knowing the RTP of a game is still important.

Calculating the RTP in Casino Games

Online casino developers calculate the games’ RTP using automated systems. They do so before releasing their games to the public, ensuring that their model works as intended. Companies then release their online slots’ RTPs, and independent gambling bodies and regulators put them to the test.

Online casinos and physical casino venues often run in-house tests quarterly to see how each online slot performs. Did the RTP average out or has a game paid less or way more than it was intended? Significant discrepancies could indicate a system error or problem in the RNG of the game. Although such instances have been noted in land-based casinos (see Crown pokies rigged for more), we haven’t heard of anything similar at online pokies sites.

As a user, you can easily calculate the online pokies RTP. Assuming the percentage is set at 95%, it would mean that on average, the casino will pay back A$95 on every A$100 you bet. Remember, though, that online pokie RTPs are calculated across thousands of spins or more. You cannot make a short-term strategy by using this metric alone.

On the other hand, the online casino games RTP is not fixed. The bets you make on blackjack and the decisions taken during a craps round influence the casino edge. If you prefer games with fixed, yet random, winning odds – you should stick with online pokies.

How to Find the RTP of Casino Games

In most cases, you can find the RTP of an online pokie by launching the game and viewing the paytable or information leaflet. Casinos often publish a webpage listing their complete gaming catalogue and every game’s RTP. The third option is visiting the developer’s website and finding the game’s information leaflet to discover the RTP. Our pokies reviews take the official data from casino developers and source them to our readers, along with demos to try out each game for free. Occasionally, though, the situation is not so clear-cut.  

Online gambling authorities set rules that pokies developers and online casinos must abide by, including publishing their games’ winning odds. The UKGC, MGA, Ontario Gaming Authority, and US state authorities are considered some of the strictest bodies worldwide. They don’t issue licenses unless casino sites have the necessary disclaimers in place. The RTP of every casino game is just one of these aspects.

Aussie online casinos are not regulated at a local level so they don’t have to abide by such rules. This doesn’t mean their games aren’t tested or regulated; however, some companies are subject to less rigorous tests. For example, RealTime Gaming doesn’t publicly state its games’ RTP, while their progressive jackpots haven’t paid out in years. No wonder they are licensed by Curacao, a body licensing any gambling site or company applying for a permit. On the other hand, NetEnt and Nolimit City pokies are licensed by the MGA, the UKGC, and other government bodies, while also being subjected to random RTP tests by independent testers like eCogra and BMM Labs. Their games’ RTP can be found on their official sites and at online casinos hosting them.

My advice is to avoid pokies without public RTPs. Unless someone hard presses casinos and companies to create pokies with fair odds, they are unlikely to do so. Some interesting facts to know include:

  • MGA-licensed online pokies must have a 92% minimum RTP, except for progressives which can be as low as 88%.
  • Physical casinos in Australia must have pokies with at least 90% RTP.
  • The average RTP at online pokies is 94 – 97%, while some games reach 99% RTP.

Can You Influence the RTP in Pokies?

Players cannot influence the pokies RTP. The outcomes are completely random and determined by RNGs. Placing smaller bets and therefore playing a gaming machine for longer makes it more likely that the RTP will average out, but there are no guarantees. It could take months for this to happen.

Having said that, there are occasions where players and casinos can influence a pokies RTP.

  • Players who play pokies using the bonus buy feature, Ante Bet, or similar features (Big Bet in BTG pokies, Golden Bet in Yggdrasil games, etc.) enjoy a slightly higher RTP than the original percentage. Developers release all applicable RTP settings when add-ons influence their pokies long-term outcomes so that they are 100% transparent. However, players must pay more money per bet or significant fees to utilise these features for an extremely small advantage over the standard version.
  • Casinos, conversely, can influence the games’ RTP in a more significant way. Casino developers often release two or three versions of the same pokie designed with different RTP settings. Not all developers do that, but I’ve seen Pragmatic Play, Red Tiger Gaming, and other vendors releasing the same slot with configurations providing completely different odds (i.e. 94%, 95.2%, and 96.5%). Then, it remains to the casino’s discretion to rent the version they prefer. I generally avoid games by developers with varying RTPs, since you cannot know the exact odds of the game you are playing.

Does the RTP Matter in Online Pokies?

Even though I spent a couple of pages discussing the meaning of RTP in pokies and how it works, I don’t believe it makes any huge difference. Everyone likes to have a sense of control, and knowing the pokies’ RTP provides gamblers with just that. From there, all that is left to do is spin and spin to see what happens. As long as you are playing legal pokies tested by independent bodies, you can rest assured knowing the RTP will be somewhere between 94 – 97%. Unless you are planning to wager on the same poker machine for weeks back-to-back, the RTP doesn’t matter. Luck does.

On the flip side, some other metrics like volatility, hit rate, and maximum win influence your gaming experience in the short run. They don’t determine the winning odds like RTP does, but they tell you how often a game hits or how big or small the prizes are likely to be.

Pros gauge all these areas to pick an online slot that meets their expectations. You should do the same instead of randomly selecting online pokies based on the theme or after only considering the RTP.  

Conclusion

This article has explained the meaning of RTP and how it works in practice. It doesn’t hurt knowing this value, however, playing games with public and verified data is the most important thing. You can check our guide covering the highest-paying pokies based on RTP and payouts if those two aspects matter to you.

Nonetheless, our experience tells us that playing at safe online casinos with good bonuses and the right bankroll management mindset is what sets apart amateurs from winners.

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