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RTP (Return to Player)

While older pokies may have used mechanical reels that allowed smart players to learn timings and potentially improve their odds, modern video pokies, including online poker machines, rely on random number generators to hit a specified RTP, or return to player. The RTP is what determines just how much a machine will pay back to players on average.

That may sound simple, but return to player is one of the most misunderstood topics in all of casino gambling. Let’s took a look at what exactly RTP means, and what impact a pokie’s return to play has on your play.

What is Return to Player?

Return to player is the amount that a given poker machine (or any other electronic casino game) is expected to give back to players on average. Expressed as a percentage, RTP tells players what proportion of their bets will eventually be paid back in prize money.

Obviously, not every game has the same RTP, and the true return of a machine is often unknown to players. Casinos will occasionally advertise a particular poker machine or group of pokies based on the RTP they offer; you may have seen this in a casino if you’ve noticed a “98%” or similar poster hanging over a poker machine before.

Casinos want to make a profit on their machines, so you will rarely—if ever—see pokies that offer a RTP of 100 percent or more. However, there are occasional exceptions, which we’ll talk about more below.

How is RTP Calculated?

RTP calculations are tremendously complicated, as they must take into account the payouts and probabilities of every possible outcome on a poker machine. However, a very simplified example might help you better understand the concept behind return to player.

Imagine a poker machine that costs one coin to play and only has ten possible outcomes, each of which is equally likely to happen. On seven of the outcomes, the player loses. On two of them, the player wins two coins; on the final outcome, the player wins a jackpot of five coins. What is the return to player?

Well, for every ten spins you play, you would expect to win back nine coins after having paid ten. In other words, you would get 90 percent of your money back in the long run; put another way, this machine has an RTP of 90 percent.

Misconceptions About RTP

Some players have used RTP to justify mistaken ideas about when poker machines are hot or cold. Many people have what seems to be a logical belief: if a machine is either far above or far below its RTP, the machine will have to “make up” for that by swinging in the other direction in order to hit the return that the operator is aiming for.

However, this is not the case. Operators don’t need their machines to “cheat” like this in order to hit their RTP; instead, the law of large numbers will do that for them over time. Even if a machine runs hot or cold for a short period of time, that will ultimately have an almost imperceptible impact on the long run returns of a machine. By making sure that every spin is truly random, a machine’s operator can be mathematically assured that it will approach its RTP over time, coming closer and closer as more and more spins are played.

How Can I Get the Best RTP?

Because of that randomness, there isn’t much you can do to influence the RTP you receive when you play. However, there are a couple measures that you can use to ensure you get the best possible returns on a given machine.

First, if there is a premium on prizes for playing the maximum number of coins, then you’ll definitely want to make sure you play at that level. Often, playing the top number of coins per line will make the most valuable symbol on a machine pay out much better than it would otherwise, increasing the RTP.

In addition, you’ll want to look out for progressive jackpots that are unusually large. You’ll be no more likely to hit a jackpot just because it hasn’t been won in a while (remember, every spin is random), but the added value of a big progressive jackpot can push a machine’s return much higher. A typical progressive jackpot has a base RTP, which is then increased by the player-funded jackpot; if that jackpot gets large enough, the RTP might even get over 100 percent, making the machine theoretically profitable to play.

Most of all, it’s important to remember that online pokies tend to have a much higher RTP than their land-based counterparts. If you want to get the best returns possible, your best bet is to play online pokies!

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