Understanding Slots By The Numbers That Matter
Last Updated: February 1, 2024
Online slots are the simplest of casino games and a great way to enjoy a bit of downtime. You can switch off, spin the reels, and hope to hit a lucky streak or two. You can play slots with themes you like, by developers you prefer, and with features you enjoy, like Megaways or Cluster Pays.
But if you want to be a more savvy player and find the kind of slots that will suit your attitude to risk and reward, then you should take a look under the hood and analyze the numbers that drive the payouts too.
This guide just does that as we explain the key numbers that slot payouts are built on and gives you advice on how to use this information to find the right games for you.
Return to Player
When it comes to payouts, the most important number in any slot game is the Return to Player (RTP). This tells you how much a game will pay out on average over time. Most games have an RTP of around 95.5% to 96.5%. At 96%, that means for every $100 wagered, $96 is paid back out in winnings. The rest – $4 – is the house edge, retained by the casino. It’s how they make a profit.
Of course, this figure is not absolute; it is an average based on game testing over millions of spins, and in reality, the RTP when you play will almost certainly be different. However, it is still an indicator of the kind of returns you can expect and is a useful comparison tool with other slots you might want to try.
The average may be 96% but there are some slots that have a greater RTP that you might want to try. Famously, Relax Gaming’s Book of 99 has an RTP of 99%, and Thunderkick’s 1429 Unchartered Seas comes in at 98.5%.
It’s not the only number that counts, but it is a significant one. And it’s worth researching before you start spending your money to be sure that you are getting good value.
The maximum win is another key stat you should know before you play. It tells you how much you can win on one spin, and it is always expressed as a multiple of your stake. So, a 1,000x maximum win means you can win up to $1,000 with a $1 stake.
Online slots have a big range of maximum wins, from just 100x right up to huge numbers like 300,000x in Nolimit City’s popular Tombstone RIP game.
Maximum win values can make a game look very enticing, but it’s important to remember that the odds of winning these prizes are very low indeed. Not all game developers are willing to share those odds, but some do, and it makes for interesting reading.
For example, Nolimit City is totally transparent about the numbers in their games, which they publish on their own site. They state that the odds of hitting that 300,000x max win on Tombstone RIP are 1 in 130 million.
A tough gig, right? But if you think it’s impossible to win these prizes, think again. Back in January 2022, someone won the top prize on Tombstone RIP by cracking the special Boothill Free Spins round with just a 10c bet!
The hit rate is another important number to look for. This tells you the average number of spins required to trigger a win of any kind, small or large. Hit rates are very varied, from as low as 10% right up to as high as 40%.
But don’t automatically think that a game with a high hit rate is better than one with a low hit rate. You should look at this number in conjunction with the RTP. Ultimately, a game with a lower hit rate will pay out less frequently, but in order to maintain the integrity of the RTP, it will have to pay out larger prizes in those wins.
Games that follow this payout pattern – low frequency, high-value wins – are also called high variance, or high volatility, slots. That is because their pay distributions vary wildly from the RTP number, making each session unpredictable. You might play 500 spins and finish with an RTP of just 50% across all your play.
Or you might get very lucky and end up with an RTP of 1000%! Ultimately, this makes these slots riskier as the odds of hitting a win are lower but offset by the greater value of those wins.
Some developers publish hit rates by game on their own websites. But if they don’t, then you can look at specialist reviewers like All Slot Sites who publish the results of their slots test sessions, including the hit rate over 200 or 300 spins. This review of Pragmatic Play’s Big Bass Floats My Boat turned up a very low 10% hit rate in testing, for example.
Free Spins Hit Rate
By now, based on these numbers, you might have a good idea of the kind of online slot you want to play. One with a high RTP, an enticing maximum win, and a hit rate that means you won’t be waiting too long for your next payout, sounds good.
But wait … here is another one to consider.
Free Spins rounds are the bonus feature every player wants to unlock when they play slots. They give you free shots at winning, and they are always configured with enhanced gameplay that makes it easier to hit the bigger prize values.
But the tough part is triggering these bonus rounds. It can take 100s of spins. That’s why it’s good to know what the odds are before you start. Again, some studios are more forthcoming with this information than others, but it pays to do your research.
Pragmatic Play slots sometimes publish this information within the game screens. For example, their 2024 release, Gates of Olympus 1,000 has a Free Spins round hit rate of 1 in 448. Nolimit City also provide this information for their games. The infamous prison break game, San Quentin xWays, has a Free Spins round hit rate of 1 in 230.
As you can see, there is a lot of variation. But as a rule, free spins will normally take between 100 and 300 plays to trigger. Knowing what the odds are in the game you are playing will help set expectations as you begin your session.
Other Important Slots Numbers
We are nearly ready to wrap up, but before we do, here are a few other slots numbers to consider.
- Paylines – to score wins in slots you need to land identical symbols across paylines. But different slots have different numbers of paylines, from 5 or 10 to 100,000s. Just because a game has more paylines doesn’t mean it pays out more money, but it may increase the frequency of those wins.
- Paytable – you should never play a slot without looking at the paytable first. This will tell you the value of every symbol on the reels and how much you get for landing 3, 4, 5 or more on a line.
- Stake Size – if you are considering bankroll management, you should also look at the range of stakes available for a game. Some start with low stakes of just 1c, 5c or 10c, whilst others require a minimum bet of $1. And if you want to bet big, find games with a bet range that allows you to stake $100s per spin.
Beyond the visual appeal and gameplay of an online slot are important numbers to consider when choosing your next game. Here are the key takeaways from this article.
- Return to Player (RTP) is the most important stat to look out for. You should always aim to play a game where the RTP is higher than 95%.
- Think about how the game arrives at that RTP. Does it do so with small numbers of high value wins (low hit rate, high volatility), or a high number of low value wins (high hit rate, low volatility). If you like high-risk, high-reward slots, go for the high-volatility games. If you are risk averse, choose the low-volatility games.
- Look at the maximum you can win. If you enjoy chasing huge payouts, then look for games with the highest maximum wins. But keep in mind that the odds of winning them are always very low.
- Find out about free spins hit rates too. These are another good indicator of how lively a slot can be, and how frustrated it might make you! Again, high-risk slots usually have very low odds of hitting the free spins but may pay big when you get there.
- Don’t forget to consider the paylines, paytable, and stake settings, all of which will impact the size of the payouts you can get from an online slot.
Picking a slot is all about personal choice. Being armed with this information will hopefully help you choose wisely. Whatever you do, make sure you play responsibly.