Volatility and RTP are fundamental terms in the world of online slots.
Both play a central role in determining a game’s hit rate, maximum exposure and pay-out structure.
But what does RTP stand for, and how does volatility influence the player’s choices and impact playing experience?
How RTP works
All casino games, including table games and slots, have an RTP (return to player) percentage.
In essence, the RTP is the game’s theoretical pay-out percentage calculated over billions of game rounds.
The higher the theoretical RTP percentage is, the lower the house edge.
For example: for every $100 wagered on a slot machine with a theoretical RTP of 94%, $94 is returned to the player in the form of winnings, and the casino is left with $6 in profit.
However, since the RTP is theoretical and calculated on such a large number of game rounds, players may get a completely different result over hundreds or even thousands of spins.
The more game rounds played, the closer the actual RTP will be to the theoretical RTP, but for a particular player of a game, the individual results can vary wildly.
What is volatility?
Volatility is another important factor when it comes to a game’s payout structure, but it is separate from the RTP percentage.
So what does volatility mean in slots? In a nutshell, volatility is the game’s hit rate in combination with its maximum ‘exposure’ (the maximum possible win on the game).
Slots with high volatility may offer a maximum payout of thousands of times the bet stake, but players might need to play hundreds of spins to trigger a free spins bonus or land a big win, the possibility of large wins tends to be balanced with the lower wins or ‘dead spins’ in-between.
Slots with low volatility are on the other side of the spectrum.
Low volatility games tend to have a high hit rate and lower exposure, which essentially means that the player can expect to land smaller wins more frequently.
A low volatility slot may not be able to pay out those enormous prizes, but the higher hit rate balances out the experience for the player.
Most online slots can be placed somewhere in the middle of the volatility index.
What is most important for the player’s experience?
Most of us know how important RTP and volatility are for a slots’ payout structure, but what is most important for the player’s experience?
The seemingly obvious answer to this question would be RTP – after all, players who choose slots with a higher return to player percentage are more likely to win than players who choose slots with a lower return to player percentage, at least that’s what the math indicates.
However, many players are willing to sacrifice a bit of RTP in return for higher slot volatility.
Players who prefer to go for the biggest prizes are much more likely to pick the slots with the highest maximum exposure, even if it involves more “dead spins” and higher risk.
Much boils down to the experience that the player wants and their budget.
To that end, volatility is usually the most important factor for the player’s experience whilst on any given game, as they will directly experience the math model that dictates gameplay.
In practice, the small variations in RTP won’t tend to be noticed by a player during normal play sessions, simply because it needs billions of spins to prove the theoretical payout percentage and for their session to come close to the theoretical payout.
The RTP simply allows operators to predict the profitability of a certain game over time.
A slot with high volatility, on the other hand, can reward the player with a huge win on any spin, regardless of the RTP.