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Sarah Ryan
Sarah Ryan
3 April 2023
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    Return To Player Variance: An In-Depth Guide

    Are your favorite games at the casino, online or offline, games of chance? Games where you’re able to risk a little for the potential chance of a lot in return? Games of chance like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, or slots? Then you should familiarize yourself with the many variables and principles pertaining to return to player rate. 

    Return to player rate, RTP for short, or sometimes referred to as a payout ratio, refers to the rate of money won divided by the money staked on any given bet. The house edge, on the other hand, is the rate governing the innate advantage that the house has over all casino players. 

    This rate is calculated by subtracting 100% with the estimated percentage of a game’s RTP payout ratio. For example, if a game has an 80% payout ratio, then subtracting that percentage from 100% would equate to a 20% house edge. In addition to being affected by RTP rate, your bankroll (as well as the winnings and losses therein) will also be governed by the laws of volatility and variance.

    Before you even put a single penny on the table, you should know how these variables factor into each game you can play at the casino, online or offline. Lets cover some of these important bases, including:

    • Payout Ratio/Return To Player Ratio

    • Average RTP Of Different Betting Strategies

    • Game Variance And Volatility

    • Expected Returns/RTP Of Different Games

    The last one might marginally vary depending on which casino you play with, but there are still general RTP rules of thumb worth knowing. With that in mind, let's explore how variance and return to player rate both affect different casino games.

    What Is Return To Player Rate? What Does Return To Player Rate Mean?

    If the last section was too general and too succinct of an RTP summary for you, then let’s take a deeper dive into examining common payout ratios behind common, popular casino games of chance.

    These payout ratios can remain relatively the same over the course of a casino game, or change drastically depending on the terms set forth by the casino operator, as well as which way the odds shake out. With all of that in mind, let's explore two games that can have widely varying payout ratio and return to player rates: roulette and blackjack.

    Roulette Payout Ratio

    Roulette is a notoriously high risk but high reward casino game of chance, with typically 1 in 37 odds of hitting the single biggest prize. In European roulette (the version with the best RTP ratio), you can determine the winning probability from betting on red or black by dividing 18 (the # of each respective color’s numbers) with 37 (the total # of numbers on the wheel).

    The payout ratio is nearly two times the bet, or to be more precise, 97.3%. Subtracting that figure from 100%, the assumed house edge would amount to 2.7% in your standard game of European roulette. This type of roulette game will typically have the same RTP ratio across different color and number bets, but American roulette games are known to have a less lenient RTP ratio.

    Slot Payout Ratios

    Typically, RTP for most slots games ranges from 92% to 99%, and this RTP is determined by:

    • Game rules

    • The payout table

    • Slot reel symbols

    Slots often vaguely describe their variance in terms of nebulous descriptors like “small”, “medium”, or high. Luckily, we’ll get to a more detailed explanation of casino variance and volatility shortly. 

    Blackjack RTP

    Blackjack rules can vary heavily from game to game and casino to casino. As a consequence, so can the RTP of different casino blackjack games. Not only that, it can even change from card to card. Typically, this RTP percentage will range between 95% and 102%, and of course, figures over 100% are the best for potential returns.

    Card counters are able to exploit this RTP by estimating the payout ratio of a blackjack deck, but most casinos have means of detecting and limiting card counters.

    Payout Ratios, Variance, And Volatility

    The variance of a game refers to the evolving, varying bankroll shifts that occur while playing a casino game. A game with low variance involves smaller, more frequent winnings, whereas high variance games entail frequent losses, but bigger payouts in the instances where you win. Big, frequent losses are traded off for bigger wins.

    We would consider higher variance games all the better, for the following reasons:

    1. It’s easier to potentially win a satisfactory outcome all at once

    2. You’re able to bet less from your previous winnings

    3. You can continue to potentially win a similar amount from smaller stakes

    Bet Sizes

    Remember that RTP payout ratios are based on the estimated house edge over single games. With that in mind, it’s important to mentally discern the distinction between the return to player percentage per game, and the expected return of your betting strategy per each session. This expected return will be affected by variables like bet size, game selection, and other common sources of variance and volatility.

    Bet size is a key variable that will fluctuate the payout ratio. For instance, low bets on a low variance game will leave you playing for longer, but for less probable long term winnings than high variance games. Therefore, your betting strategy (or strategies) should focus on compromising a satisfactory win size with a satisfactory play time.

    In roulette, playing $2-4 per bet with a $100 bankroll is an optimal wager distribution. For more on effective roulette strategies, review our in-depth betting strategy guide. All in all, for the optimal potential return, you should consider playing online casino games with high variance, as you can bet smaller, for the chance of potentially winning bigger. 


    We hope this article has helped you better understand the importance of variance and return to player percentage in online casino games, and we hope you’ll consider playing responsibly and risk-free with the best online casino no deposit bonuses.

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