Slot payouts explained

Since their first appearance on the scene in the late 1800s, slot machines have been fairly easy to operate – but not so easy to understand when it comes to the payout.

The experts have gone into the nitty gritty details of this immensely popular pastime to try and make it a bit clearer for international players both online and at land-based casinos.

While WHERE we play (online versus mobile versus physical slot machines) is different, the actual HOW the playing goes down is essentially the same.

The biggest issue for players, especially new players, is interpreting the slots payout mechanics. RTP, volatility, percentages, house edge – while these are all globally recognised terms in the gambling world, they can confuse players and stop them experiencing the full thrill that modern slots can offer.

What are slots payout percentages?

Payout percentages are the average amount of money that a player will get back compared to the average amount of money a player wagered.

This may seem a bit confusing, and you may think that it is a given for every time you hit the slots, but it’s important to note that this is an AVERAGE. It’s a mathematical or statistical number that is developed from a long-term observation of players on that game.

The payout percentage does not guarantee what you will be getting out, but it does give you an indication of how often you can get a win IN GENERAL.

An example:

  • Your favourite slots game has a payout percentage of 94%.
  • You bet $100.
  • ON AVERAGE, the slots game will pay out $94 in winnings.

Playing slots games with higher payout percentages will keep you playing for longer than those with lower percentages and give you more winning opportunities.

So why would I play a game that pays back 94%?

Because this formulation does not take into account the reason why players gamble – LUCK. While over the long run the slots game will pay out at 94%, there is always that chance that it will hit the right reels for you and pay out that jackpot.

And, yes, this formulation means you seem to be losing more than what you are putting in. That’s why the saying “the house always wins” is so important to responsible gambling. No casino in the world pays out more than it takes in.

What is RTP?

RTP or Return To Player is just another way of saying Payout Percentages. Depending on where you are playing (the location of your online or mobile casino or the actual physical country you are in if you are playing at a land-based casino) you will find reference to either RTP or Payout Percentage. It changes from place to place but means the same thing.

Payout Percentage is the percentage of money paid out versus the amount of money gambled.

RTP is the amount of money returned to player versus the amount of money gambled.

Same thing, different words.


What is the house edge?

House edge is another term you will often hear in the gambling world. It’s closely related to Payout Percentage and RTP and is, in fact, the mirror of those terms. While Payout Percentage and RTP refer to the statistical average of how much a player can expect to get back from a game or slots machine, house edge is the statistical amount a casino will make off the player.

In the above example, the slots game had an RTP or Payout Percentage of 94%. This means the house edge is 6%. When the RTP means the expected Return To Player or Payout Percentage of 94%, the house edge means an expected take of 6% for the casino over the long term.

There is always a house edge. Different games have different house edges. Slots games have different house edges because there are so many different games. The house edges on table games are more set, and more in favour of the player. For example: baccarat house edge (betting on the banker) 1.06%, blackjack (single bet) 1.5%, Pai Gow Poker 1.3%.

You can see that the house edge, and by inference the RTP, is far more favourable to the player in table games than in slots games. This is because table games have more of an element of skill and don’t rely purely on luck like slots game.

What is variance?

Variance or volatility refers to how often a slots game pays out winnings or jackpots. It also relates to the size of the winnings.

  • Low variance slots games have frequent wins but usually small amounts.
  • Medium variance slots games have frequent, mid-sized wins,
  • High variance slots games have very few wins but the amounts can be huge.

Classica Vegas-style 3-reel slots are normally low to medium variance. Regular small wins that keep the game ticking over and the player spinning the reels.

Progressive slots are the perfect example of high variance slots, not many wins but, if you do hit that jackpot, you can expect a multi-million, life changing amount of money. These are the slots that most players around the world will throw a bit of their bankroll at for the excitement of MAYBE hitting the big one but will still save the majority fo their funds for playing their favourite games.

Where do you find the Payout Percentages or RTP?

At online casinos you can normally find the RTP posted on the information page on the game screen (it may be under a question mark icon, an ‘i’ icon, or part of the hamburger – the three lines that denote more options or information).

Land-based casinos are a bit different. The casinos and game developers don’t always publish the RTPs of their games and the casinos are able to affect the outcomes on a game-by-game basis (not illegal in any way but it is up to the casino to decide how they want the Payout Percentage to be set). If they do post the RTP or Payout Percentage, it will be found near the game rules or the symbol values.

For online and land-based casinos though it is as easy as doing a Google search for the slots game. Try the game name + RTP and you should find the information you need.

Why understanding payouts pays

By understanding RTP, house edge and variance you can choose the slots game that suits your style of play, your playing goals, and your bankroll.

If you are looking to spend some time on a slots game and play consistently, look for a game with a high RTP (above 97%) and a low to medium volatility. You can expect lots of small wins which keeps your bankroll ticking and allows you to enjoy your game for as long as you want.

If you are looking for a big win, look for a good RTP (above 95%) and high variance game. Progressive jackpots are an example. This is where you can win those huge jackpots – but you will be waiting for a while between any wins. Remember, to qualify for the biggest wins you’ll need to play at max bet which will burn through your bankroll very quickly.

Slots payouts explained

Loose slots machines

There is one more term that you may encounter when playing slots. You may find casinos talking about ‘loose’ or ‘tight’ slots. This is just another way of talking about RTP.

A ‘loose’ machine refers to a machine with a high RTP. A ‘tight’ machine is a machine with a low RTP. The looser the machine, the more often the player will hit wins.

Where do I find the best paying out online slots games?

There are so many online slots games available, and so many online casinos that offer online slots games, that it’s almost impossible to point to any one game.

However, the crew do know that choosing the right online casino can go a long way to putting you in front of the online slots games you’re looking for.

Our preferred online casinos for playing online slots offer a range of RTPs and a variety of volatility options to cater to every need.

  3. Europa Casino
  4. LeoVegas Casino
  5. 888Casino
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