Return to Player (RTP) and Hit Frequency: What Do These Mean?
Return to Player (RTP) is the term casinos use to describe the percentage of all the wagered money a VLT or slot machine will pay back to players over time. For example, if you make a hundred $1 bets on a machine on which the RTP is 90%, you might expect to get back about $90 in wins. Of course, both house advantage and RTP are generally calculated over the long term. Almost anything can happen in the short term (see Short Term Volatility versus Long Term Predictability), so you should only ever bet with money you’re prepared to lose.
Yet a 2018 report from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Center for Gambling Research shows that Nevada’s nickel slots deliver 94.39% RTP (5.61% house edge) on average. Anthony Lucas, a professor of hospitality at UNLV, explained casinos’ thought process when it comes to higher payout percentages.
You may have already noticed that RTP is really just the flip side of house advantage. If a machine has a 20% house advantage, then the average RTP will be 80%, meaning that over time the machine will keep about 20% of all money bet and will return the other 80% to players in wins.
Hit frequency is the term casinos use to describe how often a machine will stop on a winning combination. For example, if a machine has a hit frequency of 8%, it means that the machine will stop on a winning combination about 8% of the time. Blazing 7s slot machine. It’s worth noting that many slots and VLTs allow players to bet on multiple lines on each spin. The result is that, on a single spin, a player could get one or more winning combinations, along with numerous losing combinations. To the player, it may feel as though he is winning more often, but as always, over time the losing combinations will far outnumber the winning ones.
Among slots and VLTs there can be great variation in the hit frequency. Some slots have a hit frequency as low as 3%, while other games, such as video poker, have a hit frequency of almost 45%. The video poker hit frequency might sound very appealing, but remember that in almost half of those “hits,” the player just wins back his original bet. A machine with a 3% hit frequency may sound very unappealing, but it likely offers players a chance to win a very large jackpot. (Machines with large, progressive jackpots tend to have a lower hit frequency, but offer larger jackpots.)
Games with a low hit frequency are often perceived by players as “tight” because the wins can be so far apart, while games with a high hit frequency are sometimes perceived as being “loose” because there are so many small wins.
Remember, “hit frequency” is how often (on average) a winning combination will come up. “Return to player” is how much or what percentage of all money wagered that a machine will return over time.