Pokies RTP and Volatility Explained - A Complete Guide

Chloe Wilson - EditorChloe Wilson - 23 March 2021 in Features

How Volatility and RTP Works In Online Slots

RTP (Return to Player) and volatility are two fundamental aspects that largely determine how much and how often you can expect to win on a particular game. Learn how RTP and volatility affect your gameplay and how to factor in these aspects to choose pokies best suited to your budget and betting strategy.

Why RTP and Volatility Matters

Fundamentally, the game engine behind a pokie machine is made up of its RTP (Return to Player) percentage and volatility. Put simply; these two aspects determine how much and how often you can expect to win in a specific game.

A pokie's RTP implies the percentage of all placed bets returned to players as winnings over time. Volatility then indicates the game’s pay out frequency and the general size of its wins.

Once you have understood how these two factors affect your gameplay, you will know how to pick games suitable to your bankroll and bet size, and consequently, enhance your winning chances.

RTP Explained

Key Points:

  • star RTP expresses the percentage of all placed stakes that a pokie returns to players in the form of winnings over time.
  • star Ranges from 94% to 99%.
  • star Measured over a near-infinite number of spins.
  • star Does not express how much you can expect to win during any given gaming session.

Return to Player percentages express how much of all placed stakes a pokie returns to players as winnings over time. Online pokies RTPS range from 94% to 99%, with most games hovering around 96%.

If a pokie has an RTP of 96%, the remaining 4% is the casino's edge. This means that the casino keeps $4 when a group of players collectively bet $100. The remaining $96 are then distributed as winnings to the players.

It is essential to keep in mind that RTPs are calculated over an almost infinite number of spins. This means that RTP percentages do not indicate how much you can expect to win during any given gaming session. You must also keep in mind that winnings are distributed to all players. Hence, you cannot expect to win $96 if you bet $100 on a specific pokie.

Volatility Explained

Key Points:

Volatility, or variance, is often expressed as a number on a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 scale. It is also commonly labelled as low, medium or high. Game providers express volatility differently, and there is no set industry standard for measuring game volatility.

In low-volatility games, you can expect frequent wins. However, you will mostly win smaller amounts. When you play volatile games, it may take some time before you hit a win - however, the wins are much more substantial.

This does not mean that you cannot win big on low-volatility pokies. Betsoft's Dim Sum Prize and Jungle Books from Yggdrasil are two excellent examples of low-volatility pokies with decent max wins. However, compared to highly volatile alternatives such as Sakura Fortune from Quickspin, there is a significant difference in how much you can win.

Let us look at three pokies from the renowned software developer, Betsoft, to illustrate how volatility relates to a game's potential max win:

Take Olympus

Take Olympus

  • RTP: 95.49%
  • Volatility: High
  • Max Win: $143,089
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Book of Darkness

Book of Darkness

  • RTP: 96.48%
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Max Win: $39,331
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Take Santa’s Shop

Take Santa’s Shop

  • RTP: 96.08%
  • Volatility: Low
  • Max Win: $11,049
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The Relationship Between a Pokie's RTP and Volatility

As you can tell from the examples in the previous section, there is no direct relation between a pokie's RTP and its volatility. In other words, a low-volatility game can have a high RTP and vice versa.

A game's RTP percentage merely dictates the percentage of bets returned to players. The game's volatility then decides how the allotted funds are distributed in terms of size and the number of individual wins.

How to Choose Pokies Based on RTP and Volatility

Key Points:

When playing online pokies, you want to win as much and as often as possible.

However, by considering RTP and volatility scores, you can pick games suited to your playing strategy and bankroll. Pokies are games of chance, of course, but you should always strive to increase your odds as much as possible.

If you have a limited bankroll, it is wise to play low-volatility pokies. That way, you can aim to rack-up several smaller wins that gradually increase your bankroll. Once you have a bankroll that can sustain you until you hit a big win, you can switch to more volatile games and pursue larger wins.

If you have a larger bankroll, you may want to consider playing more volatile games right off the bat. The important thing here is to be patient as your balance will probably decrease significantly before you hit a win. However, when you do win, the massive win multipliers in these games are likely to make up for all your losses and leave a significant surplus in your cash balance.

As far as RTP is concerned, you always pick pokies with as high RTP as possible. You will notice that many pokies have an RTP of approximately 96%, irrespective of their volatility scores. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid pokies with an RTP below 96%.

How RTP and Volatility Affect Bonus Wagering

Key Points:

  • star Play low-volatility pokies when wagering a no deposit bonus.
  • star Aim to simply wager the bonus, and not necessarily to win big. That way, you can play with real money and not be restricted by win limits and wagering requirements.

When wagering a bonus, your best chances are to play low-volatility pokies. By scoring several smaller wins, you can gradually complete your wagering requirement.

If you play a volatile game, you will likely run out of bonus credits before you hit a win. If you do win, however, the win is often big enough to clear your wagering requirement and leave substantial funds in your account.

Having said that, the casino's win limit will restrict how much of your winnings you can withdraw any way - at least when you play pokies for free with a no deposit bonus.

Therefore, we would advise you to wager no deposit bonuses on low-volatility pokies. Once you have converted your bonus credits to real money, you can play without being restricted by win limits and wagering requirements.

Not familiar with how wagering requirements and win limits work? Read our featured article, How Wagering Requirements Work, for in-depth explanations of all casino bonus terms.

Recommended Pokies With Different Volatility

With such a vast selection of games, it can be hard to determine which pokies to play. Read on to discover six excellent pokies with low, medium and high volatility.

Our Top Low Volatility Pokies

These games are an excellent option if you have a limited bankroll or are looking to wager a no deposit bonus.

Esqueleto Explosivo

Esqueleto Explosivo

  • Provider: Quickspin
  • RTP: 96%
  • Max win: 700x bet.

Esqueleto Explosivo is a fun-loving and humoristic pokie, themed on the Mexican holiday, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). With impeccable graphics and animations, a decent RTP and low volatility ensuring frequent payouts, it is not hard to see why Esqueleto Explosivo has become Thunderkick's flagship game

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Dim Sum Prize

Dim Sum Prize

  • Provider: Betsoft
  • RTP: 97.18%
  • Max win: $11,621

If you enjoy Asian food, Dim Sum Prize is right up your alley. This slot blends fun bonus features and stunning graphics with mouth-watering dishes such as dim sum, Bao buns and spring rolls. The reel set has been cleverly designed to look like a food stall, and the game unfolds on five reels and ten pay lines. This slot also has several bonus features which have been cleverly crafted to fit the theme. Three food coupons trigger the free spins game, while Teatime Wilds award you respins. Lastly, the Surprise Bamboo Basket can appear at any time and award you Teatime Wilds or coupons for the free spins game.

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Our Top Medium Volatility Pokies

If you have a somewhat substantial bankroll and are willing to take bigger risks in hopes of more substantial returns, these two games are an excellent starting point.

Quest to the West

Quest to the West

  • Provider: Betsoft
  • RTP: 96.98%
  • Max win: $154,854

Quest to the West is a classic Eastern Asian-themed slot using five reels and 25 pay lines. The game narrative revolves around a gang of heroes set out to find the Monkey King, and stunning, signature Betsoft 3D-graphics paint a gorgeous mountain backdrop with temples, waterfalls and blooming cherry trees.

The game’s main bonus feature is its Quest to the West feature, during which you Monkey King Walking Wilds. Any spin that three or more Monkey King symbols trigger the feature, after which you are awarded respins during which the Monkey Wilds gradually move to the left and awards you more respins. The feature ends when there are no more Wilds on the reels.

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Miles Bellhouse and The Gears of Time

Miles Bellhouse and The Gears of Time

  • Provider: Betsoft
  • RTP: 96.98%
  • Max win: $82,954 (1084.8 x the max bet)

Miles Bellhouse and The Gears of Time uses a 5x5 Cluster pays setup and signature Betsoft 3D graphics. The game narrative revolves around the scientist, Miles, who conducts crazy experiments with time in his lab.

As with all Betsoft games, the graphics and animations are nothing short of excellent, and three exciting bonus features support the storyline and make for a highly engaging gaming experience. Lastly, the game's exceptionally high RTP makes Miles Bellhouse and The Gears of Time a compelling choice.

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Our Top High Volatility Pokies

If you wish to apply an “all or nothing” approach in your quest for a potentially life-changing win, you should play highly volatile pokies.

Here are two brilliant volatile games with impressive max wins.

Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf

  • Provider: Quickspin
  • RTP: 97.35%
  • Max win: 1,268 x your bet (250,000 coins)

Despite being Quickspin's first release, Big Bad Wolf still holds its own against newer titles - and it is not hard to see why. With a sky-high RTP of 97.35% and a super-high volatility score, this game offers some genuinely spectacular wins.

However, it is not only its lucrative game engine that has made Big Bad Wolf so popular. The game is based on one of the world's most beloved fairy tales, and Quickspin uses excellent graphics, and innovative and highly animated bonus features, to tell this beloved tale and turn it into a highly lucrative pokie.

Take Olympus

Take Olympus

  • Provider: Betsoft
  • RTP: 95.49%
  • Max win: $142, 612 (2,328 x the max bet)

In this epic-style pokie based on Greek mythology, you encounter Greek deities in your quest for massive wins. Betsoft has come up with quite an original concept in this pokie as you cycle through the gods during the game.

With every tenth spin, a new god takes command of the reels. During the spins, the deity will load its dedicated superpower, which comes into play during the God Event that takes place at the end of each cycle. The game's stunning backdrop depicts temple ruins and Greek statues, and on the five reels, you will and each of the five deities. In addition to the original Cycle of Gods feature, Take Olympus has two additional bonus features that complement the game narrative and make for even bigger wins!

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