Base vs Theoretical RTP With Progressive Slots

Theoretical RTP Over Slots Machines

Return to player (RTP) is a very important concept in the slots world. It indicates how much money you stand to make, on average, when playing a particular game.

A slot with 96.5% RTP, for example, offers a better long-term deal than one with 95% payback. By consistently choosing slots with high RTP, you have a better chance of winning.

However, not all slots payout percentages are what they seem on the surface. Progressive slot machines offer a perfect example of this fact.

With a progressive slot, you want to understand the difference between base and theoretical RTP. The following guide discusses more on progressive games along with why the distinction between theoretical and base payback is important.

How Do Progressive Slots Work?

A progressive slot machine features a jackpot that grows slowly with each bet. It takes a small percentage out of every wager to fund its jackpot.

Here’s an example on how this works:

  • You bet $1 on a progressive game.
  • The slot takes 1% out of each wager.
  • You’re contributing $0.01 to the jackpot with every dollar bet.
A progressive slots jackpot continues growing until somebody finally wins it. At this point, the developer will seed the top prize at a certain value.

Most of these jackpots are only seeded at a few thousand dollars. However, the biggest and most popular progressive jackpots can feature seed values worth $1 million or more.

The seed amount has much to do with how large a progressive prize grows. A bigger jackpot is going to draw more players and, thus, become worth even more over time.

What Is Base RTP?

Base RTP refers to a progressive game’s payback when its jackpot is first seeded. It indicates how much money you can expect to win back from a slot before the jackpot begins growing.

For example, a developer might seed a particular progressive game’s jackpot at $50,000. The slot will offer base payback worth 94% at this point.

Row of Movie Based Slot Machines

This concept is important because it provides a realistic idea on potential winnings. After all, your odds of winning any progressive jackpot are long.

Many progressive slot machines feature a rather low base payback. You shouldn’t be surprised to see progressive games with less than 92% base RTP.

What Is Theoretical RTP?

Everything regarding slots payout percentages is theoretical to some degree. After all, slot machines are very volatile.

However, progressive slots especially embrace the theoretical side. All of the RTP that comes from a growing jackpot is nothing more than theoretical until you actually win.

Here’s an example on how theoretical payback works:

  • A slot offers 95% base RTP
  • The jackpot begins at $100,000
  • The progressive prize reaches $1 million
  • You now estimate the theoretical RTP to be 98%

This concept is important because it indicates when a progressive game is offering more long-term value. Again, though, you only realize this value when hitting a jackpot.

Additionally, you won’t really know the exact theoretical RTP of any progressive game. You don’t have enough information to make this determination.

Instead, you need to guess on theoretical value by looking at the jackpot seed, base RTP, and where the jackpot is now. Simply put, a jackpot that has grown far above its seed amount will offer considerably more value.

Which Type Of Payback Is More Useful?

Base RTP is more useful for practical purposes. It provides a realistic idea on what you can expect to win without added jackpot money.

High base payback indicates that you’ll collect many smaller payouts while chasing a big prize. Even if you never win the big one, you’ll at least better sustain your bankroll.

Meanwhile, low-base RTP suggests that you won’t win as frequently. Your bankroll is more likely to disappear faster as a result.

Theoretical RTP has its merits, too. It comes into play when you’re looking to get the most long-term value out of progressive slots.

Different Types of Casino Slot Machines

However, theoretical payback isn’t very realistic. If you estimate that a progressive slot offers 105% theoretical RTP, for example, you’re still highly unlikely to win $105 for every $100 wagered.

The theoretical figure is also nothing more than a guess. Slots software developers don’t give you enough information to determine the exact payout percentage as a jackpot grows. You’re merely guessing and hoping that you are right.

Can You Beat Slots With Over 100% RTP?

As the word “theoretical” implies, you’re far from guaranteed anything when playing progressive slots with over 100% payback.

Yes, theoretically, you should be making long-term profits when playing these games. Here’s an example to show what should happen based on the numbers:

  • A slot offers 94% base RTP
  • The jackpot begins at $500,000
  • The progressive prize reaches $5 million
  • You now estimate the theoretical RTP to be 102%
  • You’ll theoretically win $102 for every $100 wagered

The reality, however, is a different story. The reason why a progressive slot can provide over 100% RTP to begin with is due to an increased jackpot amount.

Again, you need to eventually win one of the big jackpots you’re chasing to ever realize over 100% payback. The odds of you doing so any time soon aren’t exactly on your side.

Furthermore, you have to guess when a progressive game’s RTP exceeds 100%. Without all of the necessary information available, you’re merely making an estimation.

Assuming you could somehow find slots with 100%+ RTP all of the time, then you might eventually realize the profits. However, it would take countless hours and lots of wagers to accomplish this feat.

There are some slots that offer 99% RTP. If you look around you might be able to find a few more than what we found.

Why You Should Closely Consider Both Types of Payback

Earlier, I suggested that base RTP is more important when choosing a progressive slot. It provides a better idea on what type of payout frequency you can realistically expect.

However, I don’t suggest completely abandoning theoretical RTP. This figure still has the potential to pay dividends.

The best approach is to consider both base and theoretical payback. This way, you get the practical side of base payback and the profit potential of theoretical RTP.

You’re highly unlikely to benefit from theoretical payback anytime soon. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking into consideration. When consistently playing games with jackpots that have grown, you stand to make more money per dollar wagered over time.

Other Tips for Progressive Slots

Return to player isn’t the only worthwhile concept in progressive slots. The following tips are also important when trying to boost your winnings.

Understand the Long Odds

I can’t reiterate enough how long it normally takes to win a progressive jackpot. Even a $5,000 or $10,000 progressive prize can carry long odds.

Once you begin going for jackpots worth seven figures, the odds of winning can range in the billions. For example, you might only have 1 in 5 billion odds of winning a jackpot that’s currently worth $2 million.

Of course, the hope is that you get lucky and defy the odds. Realistically speaking, though, you should understand just how difficult it is to win a big progressive jackpot.

Prepare Your Casino Bankroll

You should consider developing a proper bankroll management plan before playing progressive slots. This way, you can prepare for the high volatility that these games often come with.

The most critical aspect behind slots bankroll management is determining how much money you can afford to lose. You’re dealing with negative-expectation games here, so you don’t want to risk money that’s needed for bills and other expenses.

After going through your finances and figuring out how much you can afford to lose, you can take things a step further by determining how long your bankroll will last.

Here’s an example:
Slot Machine

  • You bet $0.50 on average.
  • You perform roughly 600 spins per hour.
  • 600 x 0.5 = $300 wagered per hour
  • The average RTP for your favorite games is 96%.
  • 300 x 0.96 = $288 in hourly winnings
  • 300 – 288 = $12 in hourly losses
  • Your bankroll is worth $200.
  • 200 / 12 = 16.67
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last for 16.67 hours.

Remember, all of this math is merely theoretical because you could win serious profits or quickly lose everything. It all depends on volatility and random chance. Nevertheless, it’s good to have a general idea on how long your funds will last.

Go for Casino Bonuses and Comps

Most land-based and online casinos offer loyalty programs. You should take advantage of these programs to add additional money to your bankroll.

Land-based casinos offer comps like free drinks, meals, hotel stays, cash back, and shopping credits. Online casinos give out cashback, free spins, and deposit bonuses.

0.1% is a common starting cashback rate for both online and land-based casinos. In this case, you can earn $1 back for every $1,000 wagered.

As for online casino bonuses, you can place a deposit and qualify for a match bonus and/or free spins. You then work on meeting terms and conditions so that you can withdraw winnings from the bonus.


The RTP is exactly as it seems with nonprogressive slots. After all, the maximum payout doesn’t grow in these games.

A progressive slot, on the other hand, features an ever-changing jackpot. The top prize continues growing until it’s finally won.

With that said, you want to separate between base RTP and theoretical RTP with progressive slots. The former is best for figuring out your short-term chances of winning. Most progressive games feature between 92% and 95% base payback.

Theoretical RTP, meanwhile, accounts for the base payout percentage along with the increased jackpot. You must estimate this figure to the best of your abilities.

Using knowledge of both theoretical and base RTP, you can improve your long-term chances of winning with progressive slots.