Difference Between Theoretical and Actual RTP

It feels like it was only yesterday that online casinos took over the internet. However, they have been around for over twenty years at this point! Because of that, player expectations for games and operators have sharply increased. We insist of great visuals, fun special features and big jackpots! Not to mention the most important thing of all – a high return to player percentage, or RTP.

As operators and software providers competed for players, they met these requests head on. We see this most commonly in slots, which have an average RTP of 96%. However, other games in the Online Casino, Online Gambling & Variations world have also begun following this principle. The RTP set by these games is theoretical, which is not the same as actual RTP.

What’s the Difference?

Theoretical RTPs are not set by playing ten or twenty rounds. Instead, software providers will have their game go through millions of rounds to find the average return to player. The RTP value you see listed is a result of this testing. Only developers can do this type of testing due to the sheer number of rounds that have to be played. Even then, the value is not absolute. As you go through more rounds, you would eventually see your results approach the theoretical RTP.

However, that would require many rounds to be played, far more than you could squeeze in one gaming session. Because of this, your actual RTP will be different. You may end up with significant losses that put you well below the theoretical RTP. Alternatively, you could win big and end up well ahead of the listed RTP value. Actual RTP is subject to luck, as are all online casino games.

How Does Theoretical RTP Affect Me?

It may not seem like getting a high theoretical RTP is very important with this information in mind. However, you should still be on the lookout for casino games with a higher RTP. In one or two gaming sessions, you will not get anywhere close to the listed return to player. Maybe even more, if you only play a few rounds every day. However, this changes if you stick to a title long term.

Narcos video slot

Learn more about slots RTP and why you should be looking for games with a high theoretical return to player.

As you play more rounds, your actual RTP will start getting closer to the theoretical RTP. Even if you are just trying a new game, a higher theoretical RTP usually means better payouts. Not always, mind you. Progressive jackpot slots offer the best possible rewards, but their listed RTPs are often below 96%. However, even that has started to change thanks to the competitive market of online slots.


What should you take away from this? Theoretical RTPs are useful, but they are not absolute. Luck plays a major factor in whether you come out ahead and by how much. Your actual RTP will vary from what the software providers have listed in the short term.

However, the longer you stick with a game, the closer the actual RTP will be to the theoretical RTP. As such, a game with a high theoretical RTP is better if you plan to stick to it long term.