Those huge, beautiful casinos in Las Vegas weren’t built with nickels and dimes – every time you place a sports bet, play a hand of blackjack or make a spin on a slot machine, the casino or sportsbook has a built-in advantage often referred to as the “house edge” or RTP. This doesn’t mean that the games are unfair – it is simply how they are designed, to ensure that the casino will (almost) always come out on top regardless of how many players win any amount of money during the evening.
A Simple Example – the Roulette Wheel
We’ll use a standard European wheel for this short example as it’s the simplest of the bunch! A standard European Roulette wheel has 37 pockets – the first 36 correspond to the numbered spaces on the layout where players place their bets, but then there is also the additional green zero pocket. By the way, if this kind of thing interests you, I recommend you check out the Casino news blog here – there are always loads of good articles about the goings-on behind the scenes at casinos!
If you bet on red or black, odd or even, or high or low and the ball lands in zero you will lose your wager. This is because the green pocket is the “house edge” in this game. Note if you bet “straight-up” you are only paid at 35 to 1, too, even though there are 36 pockets on the table. When you first hear it put like this you may think it sounds a little unfair, but the casinos have to make their money somewhere, and this small advantage guarantees that they will earn 2.7% of all the bets placed at the roulette table.
Sure, the casino could have a bad night where a player wins a huge amount of money and their total earnings from their “house edge” or RTP aren’t enough to cover the sum won by the player, but casinos don’t care about single nights – they look at things on an annual basis, and the math guarantees that over the longer term, the casino will come out ahead eventually.
Which Games Have the Lowest RTPs?
Let’s start with the games which have the highest RTPs first – if you are visiting land-based casinos, stay well away from those “big wheel” type games, as they will often have an RTP in the region of 80-90%. That might not sound so bad, but imagine it as every pound, dollar, or euro you gamble at that game the casino is taking 10-20% of it. Does that still sound reasonable to you? I’m sure to some people it might be until we get onto the next categories of games.
By far the biggest earner for every casino, whether it be land-based or online, are the slot machines. A typical RTP has been set now at 96%, and this is the figure that most game developers will aim for when creating their games. So playing these games, the casino is keeping 4% of your money from every spin over the long term – but unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Many slot developers now offer casinos “variable RTP” settings, meaning that they can choose what RTP they want the game to run at – you can play the same game at two different casinos and yet the RTP might be dramatically different. One developer that is well known for this is Play’N Go, who will often offer up to five different RTP settings to their customers ranging from the standard 96% all the way down to somewhere in the low 80s!
We shouldn’t single Play’N Go out for this, however – Real Time Gaming have done this for the decades they have been in operation – long before it was a legal requirement to display the RTP of the game somewhere, which is the case today, so make sure you check what RTP a slot is running at before beginning to play!
The reason this is so important is that the number of spins you can expect to get from the same bankroll drops dramatically with every single percentage point of RTP that is deducted. For example, let’s say you start with 100 bets worth of cash in your bankroll, playing Play’N Go Book of Dead at 96%, you can expect to get around 2,476 spins for your money.
Now let’s say you switch to a different casino that has the game running at 91% instead. Starting with the same 100 bets worth of funds in your bankroll, you can only expect to get 1,101 spins for your money. Well over half as much playtime is just being given away because you didn’t check the RTP before beginning to play!
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak, you should be looking at playing table games such as Blackjack or Baccarat. With the correct strategy, these games can have RTPs above 99%! Video Poker can be a great option as well, but all of these games have something in common – they require you to spend some time learning the ins and outs before you start to play. If you want the best chance of a big win at the casino, spend the time learning to play games that require an element of skill – the casinos know that most players will play these games without any idea about the correct strategy, and that can mean an RTP as low as 60-70%. Don’t fall for it!
Blackjack in particular is easy to learn the correct strategy for and is a really fun game once you do. Also check out Double Double Bonus Poker – loads of fun, loads of big-win potential.
So, now you know why RTP is so important in gambling – make sure you take heed of this advice before you next play!