If you’ve played online slots for any length of time but don’t consider yourself a slot pro, then you’ll no doubt have heard of RTP and volatility but not necessarily know what they mean. Moreover, you may not know why they matter in the online slot world. Both RTP rates (which stands for “return to player”) and volatility are surprisingly important when it comes to gambling on your favourite slots, and choosing games without paying attention to these two details can make you miss out.
Fortunately, that doesn’t need to be the case. I’m going to introduce you to both concepts today and explain why learning about them can see you enjoy a more fulfilling experience when playing slots, potentially with the prospect of winning more frequently. Here’s what you need to know:
What Is RTP and Volatility?
Whether you’re based in the United States, Europe, or the UK or playing at sites which don’t necessarily correspond to your region, such as international online casinos for UK players, you’ll come across RTP rates and volatility. Let’s begin by looking at the two concepts and explaining what they mean.
- RTP: RTP is defined as the amount of each bet that the casino puts into a giant pot for every player to win.
- Volatility: Volatility dictates how frequently a slot will pay out and what scale of prizes it will deliver to players.
If that doesn’t sound like it tells you very much, don’t worry. I’m going to explain both concepts in a lot more detail next.
How Does RTP Affect Gameplay?
Imagine that you wager $1 per spin on a slot. RTP rates tell you exactly how much of the bet is being put into an imaginary giant pot for you and every other player to win. For instance, if the slot you are playing has an RTP rate of 94%, this means that $0.94 of every $1.00 bet is made available for players to win. Obviously, this doesn’t sound like much, but in reality, this will happen to every bet ever made on a game, so the total amount available to win is many times more than $0.94. For instance, if 10,000 players each bet $1 before a win is paid out, there will be $9,600 in the pot to play for.
RTP Versus House Edges
What about the $0.06 that hasn’t been made available in that pot? Well, that is what the casino keeps as pure profit, as is known as the house edge. Again, if you wager $1 on a spin, and $0.94 is made available for all players to win in a pot, the casino is guaranteed to pocket $0.06 of that bet, no matter whether you win or lose. Once more, if 10,000 players all bet $1, the casino is guaranteed to take $400 of the total $10,000 spent, come rain or shine.
The Ideal RTP Rates in Slots and Games
The casino is always going to take a cut, so you’re not likely to find games with an RTP of 100%. There would be no point in a casino offering those titles. What’s the best you can hope for, and what is the average RTP rate, then? On average, slots should have RTP rates of 95% or 96%, with the latter more common amongst newer titles. RTP rates can naturally head north or south of that mark, though. The higher the RTP rate, the better the slot is for you. NetEnt, for instance, has an exceptional record of supporting games with higher RTP rates, with titles such as BloodSuckers well known for its 97% RTP.
Volatility is a little trickier to explain, but if you stick with me, you’ll grasp it in no time. Volatility determines how the game plays and how much risk is involved. Also known as variance, you can consider it a sliding scale, with the value and frequency of payouts determined by the game’s volatility level. Here’s what I mean:
- Low Variance: Low variance slot machines pay regularly. However, to offset this, most tend to be relatively small-scale wins compared to your stake. However, the surplus of small wins means that you can play for extended periods without ever really losing or gaining much.
- Highly Volatile: Highly volatile games are the opposite of low variance slots in that they certainly don’t pay out frequently. However, when they do, the wins tend to be of considerable value. The idea here is that you need a large balance to sustain your losses until that big win comes around.
- Medium Variance: Medium variance/volatile games offer you a bit of both worlds. Consider this option the lucky dip of the casino world, with wins being big or small in value and coming frequently or infrequently. Most slots you can find online have what can be approximated to be medium volatility.
Of course, each of these types of variance and volatility levels may be suitable for some players, not others. Players on tighter budgets tend to prefer low variance slots to help keep them in the game, while those at no-limit deposit casinos, such as high rollers, often prefer the highly volatile types. Choosing a slot based on your play style and budget is very much recommended, as you’ll have more fun and be better informed about the type of wins you can expect and when.
Tips for Handling RTP and Volatility Online
Before you start playing games with this newfound knowledge, allow me to share a few final tips regarding RTP rates and volatility. These should help you understand what’s going on more clearly. My top tips include:
- Avoid playing online slots with RTP rates of less than 95% unless they are jackpot games. They simply aren’t worth it.
- Some buy-a-bonus slots have flexing RTP rates, depending on whether you’ve bought the feature outright or not.
- RTP rates can be changed by casinos, but you can always find out what they “should be” by visiting the website of the software provider behind the slot.
- Volatility levels are usually defined as low, medium, or high. However, some software providers use larger scales, sometimes 1-5 or 1-10, with the higher figures being the more volatile games.
- You may be able to adjust the volatility level in some games. If you can, there will likely be a button on the menu which allows you to choose betting systems. Check the paytable of any game to see if volatility is adjustable.
- If you like a game but not its volatility or RTP rate, it is worth shopping around. There are many clone slots out there which are played similarly but have different RTP rates and volatility levels.