Thursday, May 31, 2012

Casino RTP Is Really Freaking Important

RTP stands for Return To Player and is one of the standard concepts in casino gaming. Basically, it determines the percentage of money put in to the game that is then returned to the player over a period of game play.

So for example, if I start a game with $100 and play some number of games, if the game has an RTP of 99%, I would expect to have $99. If the RTP was 95%, I'd expect $95, and so on.

A line that you will hear frequently, if you spend any time researching RTP, is that RTP is practically unimportant. There are MANY more important elements to a game than just RTP, these people will say. That is correct. Most of the things about which the player cares are not associated with the RTP of the game. And that is exactly why these people are full of shit.

RTP has nothing to do with any other element of the game, which means that the best games are designed, and then have the best possible RTP applied to them. When these people try to redirect your attention away from RTP, they are essentially saying "pay no attention to the math behind the curtain."

Of all of the mathematically quantifiable elements of a game, RTP is the most important. It is what determines how long you will play. It doesn't help you determine if you will be one of the BIG winners or not, but there really isn't anything that will tell you that. For the purposes of this article, we will be assuming that your play will follow the mathematically probable trajectory of a slow, downward curve.

This chart is a gross approximation, but it's not far off the mark. Your play would see fluctuations up and down around that trend line, and the magnitude of these fluctuations is generally referred to as volatility or variance. But the important part is that the behavior may jump around, but it always follows the trend line. And over a significant amount of time, a mere 1% difference in RTP can have a large effect on overall play time.

Again, this chart is pretty gross in its approximations, but it gets the point across. The volatility is the "ride" on which the machine takes you, but over time, the end-point is going to, with a high degree of probability, be similar. This is why the RTP matters. No matter what anyone tells you, RTP matters.You want a machine with the highest RTP that you can get.

These people's argument is also made void and just plain stupid because implied in it is the assertion that the slot is in fact a good slot. RTP takes a large sample size of games to make its effects absolutely felt. And if the slot is in fact good, you will be playing it frequently. If you play the game frequently, it won't take you very long until you reach a game count that conforms to the RTP.

Thus, a good slot can not only have any RTP within reason, a good slot is even more affected by RTP than a bad slot because players will so easily hit a large number of games. So when players demand a high RTP, saying that RTP doesn't matter is like saying "don't worry about the calories in this cake, because cake doesn't determine your weight." Yeah. It's true. But if you really like cake, you're going to get pretty fat. On the other hand, I don't care how many calories are in mud, because I'm never going to eat it. The more delicious the cake, the more important calories become.

Of course, these people are pulling this trick to hide the fact that their RTP's are in all likelihood terrible. Online gamblers are not dumb. In fact, if a recent study by Nottingham Trent University is any indication, online gamblers are incredibly well-informed. That means that they would compare RTP's between casinos, thus applying free-market, downward pressure on prices. Casinos don't want this, so they hide their RTP's.

This is why my #1 and #2 casinos are who they are. Both Pinnacle/Galewind and Net Entertainment provide RTP's. Galewind does one better and provides fully documented RTP auditing results. My #3 casino does not provide RTP's, and I suspect that they aren't very good. Still, I felt the need to include at least one US-facing casino on my list.

IGT, whose clients include big names like Virgin and Mr Green, sort of provides RTP's, but there are some serious issues with them which I will be discussing in another post.

Playtech, Microgaming, and Real Time Gaming do not provide any RTP data. That's bad. And if the complaint data available at places like Gambling Grumbles and Casinomeister are any indication, these three companies are truly the giant, pus-filled zits on the ass of online gaming. With complaint numbers are off the charts, and them having never even made motions toward releasing their RTP data, one is left to conclude their RTP numbers are awful and likely hidden with very high volatility. I would not be surprised to learn that their RTP's are below 90%.

I would never be caught dead at a casino running Playtech, Microgaming, or RTG.

Excellent RTP's are one of the big reasons why I only ever play at Pinnacle and Net Entertainment. They both offer 9-to-1 on Baccarat's Tie bet. Their video pokers are all good, with Pinnacle's being fantastic. Pinnacle's slots are all over 97%, and most of Net Entertainment's slots are around 96%. Indeed, these are the way ALL online casinos should be.

Only a maniac would play a casino with low RTP's, and since you're not a maniac, I recommend going to one of these two casinos.

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