RTP: The guide to smart gambling

RTP: The Guide to Intelligent Gambling

12 min

Our easy-to-understand guide teaches players what RTP is in gambling. Expect to find out more about pokies volatility and hit frequency, too – both features that affect your play.


Smart gambling would not be complete without looking at the NZ laws that ensure you play in a fair environment! CasinoAlpha gathers all the information you need.

Unrevealing RTP in gambling

Short for Return To Player, it is a rate that may give you an idea of your gaming session’s outcome.

For instance

The average RTP on NZ online pokies is around 96%. This applies for a series of multiple rotations – do not expect to get NZ$ 96 for each NZ$ 100 you wager. If however, your cumulative bets over a while reach NZ$ 100, you will see that what gets back to you nears NZ$ 96.

The difference between theoretical and actual RTP

Theoretical RTP is what you will see in the long-term – for a game with a 98% return rate, you will lose 2% of what you staked if you spin for 500-1000 times.


But on your first spins, you may lose more than that: nobody can guarantee that, should you bet NZ$ 100 on the one hand, you will get NZ$ 98 back every time – this is how the actual RTP works.

How to determine it?

How to calculate actual RTP

To do this, you must divide a machine’s wins by its total turnover


Let’s say that a slot has a monthly turnover of NZ$ 1200000, with winnings totalling NZ$ 1085000. To find out the real return to player rate, divide NZ$ 1085000/NZ$ 1200000. This division’s result will be 9042. Times 100 will mean that the actual RTP is 90.42%, even if the theoretical value is 91.24%.

Be aware

The difference between theoretical and actual values will vary, they may not always be one per cent, like in the example above. The sole contributing factors are the game’s turnover and winnings, which will differ wildly.

We’ve got an easier method too

If you prefer a less technical approach, know that figuring the actual RTP out is possible by playing a specific title for a long time.

So, if you rotate 500 to 1000 times on the same game, sometimes even longer, you may find out. As you keep playing, the RTP will increase and match the theoretical value on the display.

What if the RTP is a range?

If a slot displays an RTP of 95%-97%, for example, it might get more complicated.

What can you expect in this situation?

To better understand it, we must discuss short-term volatility and long-term predictability.

What role does volatility play?


Volatility (or variance) may be low, medium, or high. There are intermediate values, too, like medium-high and low-medium volatilities. The parameter refers to a slot game’s unpredictability, resulting in a lower (or sometimes higher) outcome than the one stated by the theoretical RTP.


Not all licenced online casinos display this parameter – only a few of them do. To verify whether a website shows it or not, we advise you to check the slot’s paytable that interests you.

What if the casino displays variance?

However, if you find an online casino where games state their volatility, here’s what you need to know!

3 main options

  • Low volatility makes winnings more likely – the jackpots will not be very high in value.
  • Medium volatility implies intermediate odds, plus, the wins will generally stand at the average benchmark.
  • High volatility games rarely pay, but they provide higher-valued jackpots.

We also created a table with gaming suggestions for the three main volatility types and their intermediates.

We considered your preferences and stake limits and found the best of all worlds:

Volatility type The player it fits for Recommended slots
Low New players, low-stake bettors Goblins Cave (Playtech), 1429 Uncharted Seas (Thunderkick)
Low-medium More experienced players who want to prolong their gambling sessions Tomb Raider (Microgaming), Diamond Dogs (NetEnt), Starburst (NetEnt)
Medium Mid-stake bettors, players who occasionally like playing with bonuses Hot to Burn (Pragmatic Play), Banana Drop (Microgaming)
Medium-high Players who recently began high-stake betting, those who like quick gambling sessions Book of Dead (Play’n Go), Immortal Romance (Microgaming)
High Experienced high-stake bettors; high rollers, people who often play with a bonus Pyramid: Quest for Immortality (NetEnt), Bonanza (Big Time Gaming)

If you also check the paytables for these slots, you will notice that higher RTPs make for lower variance – for instance, Bonanza has a 96% RTP, while Playtech’s Goblins Cave reaches a 99% rate.

What if it does not display it?

Then, the only way to determine it is to engage in gameplay. It is a long-term process – generally, players can deduce the volatility after 500 to 1000 spins.

Still, high RTP products will most often fall in the low volatility category, while low-RTPs will indicate more volatile titles.

Short term volatility versus long term predictability

Even though you might have one or more winning lines in the short term, you will probably be NZ$3 to NZ$5 short on a NZ$100 wager in a long time.

This variation accounts for multiple situations, while most RTPs display a single percentage as an average of all possible results of your gambling session.

What is predictability about?

Even though you may not foresee every outcome in gambling, knowing the RTP will give a semblance of predictability to the entire experience. Volatile as slots can be, having more losses or wins at the beginning does not mean that this will be your entire journey while playing pokies.

For your cumulative bets, you’ll most likely come up several percentage points short.

What is the hit frequency?

The hit frequency is a parameter that shows how often you will reach a winning combination while engaging in casino play.

For instance

10% hit frequency means that you are likely to have a winning line or bet 1 out of 10 spins. Since you can bet on more lines, it will seem like the winning streak is higher than the losing one, but this is only a virtual impression.

Which frequency is preferable?

While pokies have a low hit frequency, video pokers may go as high as 45% – for example, IGT’s Double Double Bonus Poker. Like in volatility, games with higher hit frequencies will be more consistent in providing winnings.


They will rarely offer high jackpots.

Those with a low frequency will almost certainly have banks of significant value, but only after numerous bets. This is also why progressive jackpots will also have frequencies more deficient than those of other titles, even if the pot connects to a video poker product.

Of course, keno and lottery-style play are even more likely to have low hit frequencies, but with much bigger prizes if you beat the odds.

Unraveling the secrets of RTP in casino games


The return to player rate will, of course, vary by category of play. To give you a clearer picture of this situation, you will see the ultimate list of casino-style features and the associated rates.

Slots (pokies)

Game RTP Volatility
Ugga Bugga (Playtech) 99,07% Low
Mega Joker (NetEnt) 99% High
Ooh Aah Dracula (Realistic Games) 99% Medium
Jackpot 6000 (NetEnt) 98.8% High
The Catfather (Pragmatic Play) 98.10% Low
Blood Suckers (NetEnt) 98% Low


In the case of slot games, the average RTP is 96%. If you want to try some less volatile, more predictable titles, we have got you covered. However, we also included some high-variance pokies for the sake of all our high-rolling readers.

CasinoAlpha recommends New Zealand players to couple high RTP slot games with a free spins no deposit New Zealand bonus. It is smart way to playing your favorite games without making a payment.

Progressive jackpots

Game RTP
Poker Ride (Microgaming) 114.8%
Cyberstud Poker (Microgaming) 111.0%
Rocket Jacks (Microgaming) 100.7%
SupaJax (Microgaming) 100.6%
Megajacks (Microgaming) 99.1%


While progressive jackpots are more volatile than their non-jackpot versions, the rate remains remarkably high. As such, the average stands at 96%, the same as regular slots and video pokers. They sometimes even exceed the 100% mark.

Online Blackjack NZ

Game RTP
Blackjack Variations Switch 99.27%
Multi-hand Blackjack 99.60%
European Blackjack 99.60%
Single Deck Blackjack 99.75%
Double Exposure or Double Disclosure 99.33%
21 Burn Blackjack 99.40%
Blackjack Surrender 99.62%

Blackjack fact to remember

Out of the table games, Blackjack is the most generous RTP-wise. The average is a whopping 99%.


Game RTP
American Roulette 94.74%
French Roulette 98.65%
Double Ball Roulette 94.67%
Double Wheel Roulette 88.73%
European Roulette 97.3%

Across the numerous variations of Roulette online casinos, the RTP stays significantly high. Only the Double Wheel Roulette falls below the 90% mark, while French Roulette stands at over 98%.


Like Blackjack, NZ Baccarat is on the more generous side when it comes to RTPs. Of course, this also means that the winnings will be smaller but generally more consistent.

Its average is an astonishing 98.96%, beating Roulette’s highest return rate.

Live casino games

Live casino title RTP
Craps Live (Evolution) 99.17%
Super Sic Bo (Evolution) 97.22%
Lightning Dice (Evolution) 96.21%
Monopoly Live (Evolution) 96.23%
Mega Ball (Evolution) 95.40%
American Roulette (Playtech) 94.74%
Quantum Blackjack (Playtech) 99.47%

The live versions of table games have nearly the same RTPs as their software-based counterparts.

CasinoAlpha’s authors are specialists on Live Casinos NZ, so you can check and try out any item from our ever-growing list.

Lottery and Keno


Lottery-style titles are well-known for having the lowest RTPs in the gambling industry. The average across the category is 60%, although it may fall as low as 49.59% for specific Keno options.

How to find the RTP on a slot machine (and others)?

Our suggestion is to verify each pokie’s paytable and ensure that the value falls in the intermediate zone. The same goes for software-based table games and live dealer options.

Be wary of the products with significantly lower rates, as they might be operating illegally!


To view the games’ RTPs at online casinos, look for the list of gaming products. Some websites even have a section dedicated to return to player rates. For those that do not, hover over or click on the title you desire to check the paytables.

The best providers in New Zealand and their RTPs

Provider RTP range
NetEnt 96% – 99%
Microgaming 96% – 97.43%
Play’n Go 94% – 97.66%
IGT 94.50% – 97%
Pragmatic Play 96% – 98.50%
Playtech 88% – 99.32%

What about the land-based casinos?

A significant advantage of the best online New Zealand casinos is that they provide higher returns than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

The reason for this is pragmatic at its core: running a land-based venue is more expensive in the long term than managing a gambling website. As such, if you enter a physical casino, expect the RTP for pokies to drop below 90%, with the rare 92% RTP game.


Online casinos that work under a licence must display the RTPs, and there is a minimum threshold to reach. It is an obligation imposed by numerous gambling commissions around the world, the UKGC most notably.

The NZ laws back you up

In New Zealand, there are laws explicitly referring to and other aspects of gambling, too – no game may have a rate lower than 85% for pokies. Furthermore, all NZ casinos have an obligation to display these values for their slot machines.

However, this parameter is not something for the casinos to decide – this is the software provider’s job.

How the authorities decide the value

After the provider tests its new product independently, it must go under further trials.

How eCOGRA does it

For this endeavour, game-testing organisations like eCOGRA will apply their expertise and verdict the game’s legitimacy.


Keep in mind that the eCOGRa-approved rate is still the theoretical one, and there might be differences between it and your actual gaming experience.

How GLI does it

Gaming Laboratories International, the other principal testing authority, tries all possible combinations for their games.

After determining the theoretical value, they will also test the casino conditions’ products to decide whether there is any discrepancy between the stated and actual RTPs.

How does GLI resolve discrepancies?

If the difference is too stark, they may ask for the titles to be taken out of the website and edited to correspond to the authority’s requirements.

The use of RTPs in responsible gaming

Besides knowing that a gaming option may provide more or less during your session, RTPs help you gamble safely.

The gambling laws in New Zealand impose a minimum threshold, meaning that constant losses are less likely. RTPs also help you stay away from gambling addiction because knowing the infamous house edge will make loss chasing less tempting than it would be otherwise.


To ensure that you play safe, always check the casino’s licence on the page’s footer. Moreover, go for well-reputed software providers, as they generally operate under an authority’s regulations.

Decoding RTP in online gambling: key takeaways

RTP is a core component in gameplay.

Our guide aims to show how this value can help you as a gambler, mainly by determining possible results. Moreover, knowing the rate is valuable in safe gambling, which will keep you from going over the top.

CasinoAlpha keeps you informed

We show you which institutions ensure that you play within fair parameters and how these regulations come to be.


Technical resources

To offer you this data, we consulted legal articles and pages detailing the gambling commission’s regulations.

Legal documents

We also looked into the country’s responsible gaming measures, including the limits and display of RTPs.

Besides these theoretical sources, most of our research is empirical.

We engaged in gameplay over an extended period to determine the differences between natural and stated return to player rates. We employed mathematical formulas supported by gambling authorities during our field study and drew our conclusions thereof.


Irina Balcu
AuthorIrina BalcuAuthor & Editor at CasinoAlpha

Irina became interested in gambling after witnessing her friends play casino games. Her interest is palpable, especially when she researches gambling legislation or tries to understand what makes slot machines tick. It’s always analysis time for her. She studies language and literature in her free time and navel-gazes a lot.