3 Times the RTP on Online Slot Machines Can Be Deceiving

Two Phones With Mobile Slots

Return to player (RTP) provides an indication on how much money you’ll win over time with a given slot. You stand a better chance of winning by continually playing slots with high payout percentages.

Unfortunately, the RTP isn’t always so transparent with online slots. In some cases, it can be downright deceiving and cause you to face lower payback than what you’re expecting.

The following post discusses three different times when payout percentages can be tricky. It also covers other stats that you should think about when choosing a slot.

1 – When the Operator Has Options

Some online slots developers offer uniform payout percentages for their games. If you’re playing Rival Gaming’s Diamond Temple, then the RTP will be the same no matter which casino you choose.

Certain other developers, meanwhile, give casino operators the ability to pick from multiple RTP options. Play’n GO, for instance, usually features options ranging from 96.3% to 94.1%.

Another example is Real Time Gaming, which offers options of 97.5%, 95%, and 91% RTP. Real-time doesn’t even list payback in its info screens because of these multiple options.

You may be misled when searching for a game’s RTP and expecting the listed percentage. If you look up Betsoft’s Greedy Goblins and see 97.2%, for example, then this is the payback that you’re expecting.

Ideally, you’ll check out the info screen whenever playing a game at a new online casino. Of course, this route doesn’t work when the payout percentage isn’t listed (RTP), but it’s valid most of the time.

If you choose Play’n GO’s Book of Dead at two different casinos, for instance, then you should visit the info section each time. This way, you won’t get duped if one casino operator picks a lower payout percentage.

2 – When Feature Buy Changes RTP

Feature buy allows you to trigger a bonus (usually free spins) immediately. For example, you might have to spend 100x your stake to get three triggering scatter symbols on the next spin.

This option is great for when you don’t feel like waiting around for the bonus to occur naturally. After all, some slots only offer the bonus on one out of every 300 spins on average.

Of course, bonus buy is an expensive choice that requires heavy consideration before using. It also normally changes the RTP.

The good news is that feature buys usually increase the payback. After all, many bonuses have lucrative modifiers that boost your payouts.

However, I’ve seen instances where bonus buy lowers the payback. For instance, this option might drop the payout percentage from 96.5% to 96.2%.

Why a developer would punish you for spending so much to trigger free spins, I don’t know. But this scenario does happen, which is why you should carefully scrutinize the info section before buying a feature.

3 – When the Volatility Rating Is Off the Charts

You might find a slot with 98% RTP or higher and think that you’ve got a great chance of winning. However, you also need to take the volatility into account.

Row of Progressive Slots

A game with a 9/10 or 10/10 volatility rating will feature wild short-term results. Furthermore, the payouts you receive probably won’t be anywhere close to the stated RTP—for better or worse.

If you play the same game for millions of spins, then your winnings will fall somewhere in the neighborhood of the given payback. However, you’re highly unlikely to play any single game for this long.

Your results for any given session are rarely going to reflect the stated payout percentage. However, the results will be even more skewed when the volatility is crazy.

Why Knowing the RTP Is Crucial

You may not obsess over payback when playing online slots. However, you should at least make it a point to learn payout percentages for the following reasons.

Know Your Long Term Chances of Winning

If you’re a non-gambler who only plays slots once in an eon, you don’t really need to consider RTP too much. Again, the payout percentage isn’t going to have a huge impact on your winnings for one or two sessions.

Assuming you’re somebody who frequently plays slots, though, then you can look forward to more winnings over time with high RTP.

These winnings may not come all at once through a specific game. But if you consistently choose high-paying slots, then your long-term winnings will be respectable.

That said, it pays to know the payout percentages. By knowing this information, you can continually choose games that pay more.

Avoid Getting Ripped Off

A half percent here or there won’t make or break your slots session. For example, you probably won’t freak out if the RTP is 96.3% versus the 96.5% you’re expecting.

However, you certainly don’t want to walk into a situation where you feel ripped off. If you believe that you’re playing a game with 96.5% payback and are actually on one with 94% RTP, then you’ll feel slighted.

Studying payout percentages is the easiest way to dodge this scenario. You may not always choose games with 97% or 98% payback. But you’ll least avoid the ones with 94% RTP or less, thanks to research.

Plan Your Bankroll Accordingly

Bankroll management helps in a variety of ways when gambling. First off, it sets forth a clear plan so that you’re less apt to risk too much money.

You can go through your finances and figure out what kind of funds are available to gamble with. If you determine this amount to be $300, then you’re less likely to risk any more than this.

Casino Gambling Floor

The next step involves breaking your bankroll down into units so that you have an easy way to keep track of your funds. Here’s an example on doing so:

  • You have $150 for an online slots bankroll
  • You spend $0.50 on average per spin
  • 150 / 0.5 = 300
  • You have 300 units for your bankroll

You might also set a stop-loss limit, at which point you’ll quit a session after losing so many units. If your stop loss was 60 units in the example above, then you’d be guaranteed at least five sessions (300 / 60).

Other Important Stats Behind Online Slots

While RTP is incredibly important to slots success, it’s not the only stat that you should consider. Here are some other numbers to think about when playing mobile slot machines.


As covered earlier, volatility has a large impact on your short-term winnings. If you’re dealing with a small bankroll, then you want to pay special attention to this factor. Low or mid volatility improves your chances of lasting longer with a small bankroll.

You can check out a game’s help screen to see if a volatility rating is available. Most slots rate somewhere between 5/10 and 7/10 on this scale (alternatively 3/5 or 4/5). The more-extreme games, however, carry a 9/10 or 10/10 rating (alternatively 5/5).

Hit Rate

Hit frequency is closely correlated with volatility. It determines the probability of you scoring at least one payout in a given spin.

Slots with a 30% hit rate, for example, will see you win on three out of every ten spins on average. Many slots feature a hit rate ranging from 25% to 35%. However, some games go above or below this range.

Bonus Frequency

The bonus frequency determines how often you’ll see the bonus round. In the best-case scenario, a game will deliver the bonus on one out of every 50 spins.

Other games are much stingier in this regard. The worst offenders may only offer free spins—or whatever the bonus may be—on one out of every 400 rounds.

Again, some developers provide feature buy. You might consider exercising this option sometimes if you get tired of the main game. Be careful, though, because it costs quite a bit to use.


Online slots RTP is usually as it appears on the help screen. As discussed throughout this post, though, the stated payback can change for one reason or another.

Varying RTP options and feature buys alter payout percentages. Meanwhile, extreme volatility can make a slot feel like it has a different RTP than what’s listed.

Provided you know the factors that affect payback, then you can check to ensure that you’re indeed dealing with the stated RTP.

When playing online slots, you should focus on games with at least 96% RTP. Anything lower than this is unfair according to industry standards.

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