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Posted on 14th May 2024

How to Pick the Right Slot Machine: RTP, Variance, and Everything in between

Struggling to find the perfect slots — those that are most likely to hit? Below is everything you need for a smart choice and maximum fun (and, of course, wins) at the virtual reels!

Table of contents

  • RTP or Insight into the Potential Returns
  • Focusing on High RTP Slots
  • Variance and Volatility — Is There Any Difference?
  • Choosing Slots with Individual Goals in Mind
  • Beyond RTP, Variance, and Volatility

Without a doubt, slots have always attracted a large part of the gambling community. No wonder why — have a surprising variety of shapes, no rocket science is needed to figure out the play, and there’s enticing potential for wins from even small bets. More so, they’re arguably the biggest chunk of any online casino gaming lobby.

However, that’s where things usually get confusing — how to pick a winning slot machine among countless options? You may rightfully think it’s not possible, as these games are about randomness and pure luck. But what if we say there’s a trick? Or several?

Actually, there are a few important things every player can learn and use to choose the best slot and increase their chances of gaining an edge over the casino. Dive in — we’re about to explain the details!

RTP or Insight into the Potential Returns

 

The “RTP” abbreviation, which means “Return to Player,” is often thrown around in the casino games setting. And that’s for a reason — it’s among the keys that dictate the potential wins players can expect in any game, including slots. So, that’s definitely a detail worth considering when wondering how to pick a good slot machine. But there are nuances to learn.

Let’s start with the basics: RTP is the precise percentage of all wagered money a specific slot can pay back. Think of it this way: every dollar wagered goes into a big pot. The RTP tells what portion of that pot finds its way back to players in winnings. To illustrate:

You`ve engaged in the slot with 95% RTP and placed a C$100 bet. When you finish the play, your return may be around C$95, while the house (casino) keeps the remaining C$5.

However, if spinning the reels ended purely that way each time, there wouldn’t be so much excitement around them, would it?

Here’s the catch: RTP is just a theoretical number. And it’s based on millions, if not billions, of spins made over the long run. To get a more clear picture, take a look at how it is calculated:

From this, it follows that RTP, in no way, can apply instantly to every single spin or even a few ones. Instead, over the short term, different factors can come into play and influence the game outcome. It may be either luck, special features, or simply RNGs (random number generators that ensure unbiased spin results). In an individual playing session, users might hit the jackpot and walk away with a considerable payout (much more than the RTP suggests) or get no single return at all — keep that in mind.

Focusing on High RTP Slots

The RTP percentage of each slot is set by its developer and can’t be changed since then. That is, there’s no secret way to influence the game payout. But still, with the right approach, RTP can be an advantageous tool — the higher the RTP, the more likely the wagered money will do a victory lap back to the player. That’s why, for many, the question of how to pick the best slot machine essentially boils down to finding one with a high RTP.

While the industry average standard for slots RTP falls around 96%, there are titles that feature more juicy rates of 97% and up to 99%. That’s where the house edge is the lowest and the potential for grabbing wins is the highest. So, bear these numbers in mind when next deciding on a slot.

Interesting to know: There are slots with an RTP of 90-93% or even low. Generally, these aren`t worth the attention, as the house here carries a considerable advantage. But there`s an exception — slots with progressive jackpots. Their RTP is set low to fill the prize pot and, at that time, keep the balance.

Where to look for RTP? Most casino operators and game studios display the RTP in the game info. If not, a quick online search for the specific title can usually help find out its RTP rate.

A quick tip: NetEnt and Playtech are among those online software developers known for designing high RTP slot games. Take a look at their titles!

With all that said, it’s important to remember: it’s the long game that matters with RTP. In other words, for those who enjoy spinning the reels regularly and do this over a considerable period, the RTP advantage eventually becomes visible: the actual payout percentage will get closer to the theoretical RTP.

Variance and Volatility — Is There Any Difference?

RTP apart, there are two other crucial things to know about slots — variance and volatility. They can tell a lot more about how these games work. Combined with RTP, they help much better understand what to expect from playing a particular title. So, they can guide any player on how to pick the right slot machine to fit their unique playstyle, budget setting, and, most importantly, risk appetite.

Quite often in the gambling space, slot variance and volatility are used as synonyms. While they’re not technically the same, they’re closely related. Moreover, variance is essentially the bigger picture of volatility.

Sounds a bit confusing? That’s at first glance only. Let’s define these terms.

Variance means how much the winnings will differ from what the slot machine is designed to pay out in the long run. In short, it`s the deviation from the RTP percentage.

In a nutshell: that’s the difference between what the players expect to win and what they really get in the result over a long period of play. It’s also about how unpredictable the slot machine can be.

Volatility focuses on the frequency and size of winnings to expect, usually in a short timeframe, like a few game sessions.

In a nutshell: that’s how much and how often the players can win over a short period.

Now let’s put this all in gambler’s language: overall, that’s how risky it may be to play the chosen game. While RTP is about expected returns, these things are exactly about how these returns are paid out. Both are typically categorized as low, medium, and high. When thinking of how to choose a slot machine based on variance or volatility level, it’d be comfy to rely on these tables (just keep in mind the period they apply to):

Where to check this info about a slot? Unfortunately, that’s not what is often shared in the game description, as with RTP, and the calculation formula is pretty complex. Sometimes low/medium/high levels of volatility (and the variance it creates in the long run) may be shown right after opening the game or found on a developer’s site.

However, the level can also be checked by spotting several clues:

  • Look at the paytable and check the gap between the payout of 4 and 5 matching symbols across the reels (the bigger it is, the higher the level)
  • Pay attention to the maximum bet allowed (the smaller it is, the more likely the level is higher)
  • Play demo mode (if available) to see how often and what amounts the game pays out

Choosing Slots with Individual Goals in Mind

The thing is that what makes a slot ideal always depends on your personal goals as a player. In other words, the format of play you stick to. With this, the perfect solution for how to pick slot machines becomes clear: ask yourself what’s the main point of your play — high thrills & massive wins, just casual fun at the reels, or something in the middle of the road?

Is your playstyle all about chasing epic rewards, taking big risks, and sitting on the edge of the seat? Then, slots with high levels of volatility/variance are the way to go. These give an opportunity to catch those desired large prizes. But come prepared — there should be enough budget and a good betting strategy to support the long gaming sessions and stretches between rare payouts. And remember, if it’s a progressive jackpot machine, a low RTP rate is okay.

Have a not-too-big bankroll and wanna just spin the reels from time to time for fun? For such a relaxed gaming session, low volatility/variance slots and industry average RTP (96%) options would be fine. A high number of small yet frequent wins, almost no risk involved, and the potential to take the current bank further — what’s else needed for a light, stress-free casino adventure?

Looking for a balanced slot experience? The choice should then better fall on medium volatility/variance titles — that’s where the sweet spot between decent winnings and thrilling but not insanely risky play lies. Such slot machines are, so to say, a comfy middle ground where the bank won’t be burning through too quickly and a few satisfying rewards will land along the way.

Beyond RTP, Variance, and Volatility

The slot payout potential and level of risk, however, aren’t the only pieces of the puzzle when it comes to how to pick a slot machine. That would be a bit dull if every slot was just about different RTP and volatility, wouldn’t it?

These games are packed with a diversity of little yet exciting details, making each title completely unique. And that’s not only about themes, ranging from ancient mythology tales to familiar fruit stories. That’s about nuances in each game setting, noticing which can turn the playtime more rewarding and level up the winning odds. Or simply make the journey more fulfilling.

Here we’ve gathered three of the most important ones — those that can become your little helpers in choosing the best title.

  • Wilds & Scatters

Those reel symbols are highly beneficial — if land, they can change the course of things in a positive way. Wilds usually act as substitutes — take the place of other symbols (except scatters). This means they can complete winning paylines where they wouldn’t appear otherwise. Wild symbols come in lots of types, from those that can cover a whole reel to those that will stay there or move to another one with the next spin.

Scatters, on the other hand, can open up bonus rounds or trigger unique prizes. But it’s necessary to hit more than one scatter (often 3) to activate such special features.

All of this means that it’ll pay off to carefully review everything a slot paytable offers. Understand if there are wilds, scatters, or other bonus symbols and how they work. This will give a clearer idea of how many favourable elements are out there to help turn the odds in your favour if you choose to play that game.

  • Multipliers

Exactly as the name suggests, multipliers do one very nice job — multiply the wins by a certain number. Ever wish your prize scored from one or more paylines could be even bigger? Then, it’s worth hunting slots with a multiplier feature, and the higher its number, obviously, the better.

Generally, the multiplier range falls between 2x and 10x. But check this info for the specific title — rarely, it’s possible to stumble upon the whopping numbers. Again, pay attention to the rules of how multipliers apply within a particular slot, so you can stop your choice on the one that gives you the biggest advantage.

  • Jackpot Slots

Roughly speaking, all slots offer a kind of “jackpot prize.” But precisely, jackpot slots are a bit different. And that’s the option to consider for those who aim for big wins. While they’re still a variation of a classic slot machine formula, there’s a staggering reward up for grabs here.

Before engaging in a jackpot slot, learn their main types — this allows for picking the one that, from all angles, matches your preferences and strategy.

  • Progressive — a portion of the players’ bets goes into the prize pool; upon the winner gets the pot, the jackpot resets; may be spread over different games
  • Fixed — the prize pool is fixed from the start and doesn’t change regardless of the number of participating players or anything; also called a “cash pot jackpot”
  • Network — the prize pool is filled up with bets made across several casinos
  • Local — opposite to network; the prize pool is filled up with bets made within one platform

Now, if asked how do you pick a winning slot machine, a few great practical insights will undoubtedly come to mind. RTP, variance and volatility levels, small details — all of that matters to make the right decision.

By the way, there are plenty of other helpful tips, strategies, and ideas in our Guides & News section — be sure to check them out to upgrade your online casino experience even more!

And ultimately, remember: the game choice is always up to you. Just treat your slot play as a funny adventure and stick to your budget — go give those shiny reels a few spins!

 

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