Game Selection Strategy Guide
Game selection is an important part of online casino strategy in virtually every genre. However, it’s very rarely given an in-depth explanation so that players can know exactly what they’re looking for and why. In what follows, we break down everything that you need to know about online casino game selection strategies and how to get the most from your play before you ever put in a single bet.
A Introduction to Game Selection Strategy
There are lots of casino games within each genre, so when you go to play, you have to pick out one of those individual titles to pick from the group. The way you choose from those games can set you up to have better or worse chances to win, and it can impact your overall experience beyond that as well.
As a result, the strategic side of game selection is very important to both the quality of your experience and your chances of winning overall.
Most people just jump right into whichever title looks good at the time, or they will go purely off of some preference they have in terms of rule variations, graphics or aesthetics. Instead of using those types of things, we’re going to give you the information that you need to make more informed decisions so that you can pick in a way that will maximize your winning opportunities.
The Terminology of Casino Game Statistics
To help us with our game selection strategies, we’re going to need to know a few terms that have to do with the statistics of casino games. Most players will be familiar with these on some level, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually understand what they are or why they are important.
Each of these terms will be an important part of your casino game selection strategy, and we’re going to break them down in a way that everyone can understand.
Payout Rate and RTP Percentages
The payout rate of a casino game is a percentage that shows how much of the money that you pay into a game is paid back out in prizes. Consider the following example:
- Let’s assume that there is a version of blackjack that has a payout rate of 98.5 percent.
- For every €100 that you wager on the game, you’ll get back €98.50 in prizes on average.
- This amount will fluctuate and can be higher or lower for each set of bets that total €100, but the long-term average will be this 98.5 percent mark that’s €98.50 out of every €100.
RTP percentage is another term that’s used to mean basically the same thing. It stands for “return to player” percentage, and it essentially means the same as payout rate. The difference is that RTP is an industry term for the payout rate of online slots, while the phrase “payout rate” is generally reserved for non-slot titles.
In terms of how this affects strategy, with all else being equal, you’ll increase your chances of winning with games that have a higher payout rate. This makes perfect sense because you’re getting back more of the money that you put into the game on average.
This isn’t a completely ironclad rule, but it’s the case for most casino games the overwhelming majority of the time.
Also known as the house edge, the house advantage is a measure of how much the house will take from what you wager, and it’s expressed as a percentage. Here’s a quick example:
- Suppose there’s a style of video poker with a house advantage of 1.25 percent.
- For every €100 that you wager, this means that the house will take an average of €1.25.
- Again, there will be some fluctuation on this amount, but the average over the long-run will be 1.25 percent, which comes to €1.25 for every €100 wagered.
The house advantage of a game and the payout rate always add up to 100 percent. You can subtract the house advantage from 100 to get the payout rate, or you can subtract the payout rate from 100 to get the house advantage.
For example, in this video poker game noted above with the 1.25 percent house advantage, that means that the payout rate would be 98.75 percent.
In the same way that you want to keep the payout rate as high as possible, you also want to keep the house edge as low as possible. However, this is not the only consideration, and there are other things to consider like what we’re going to look at below.
Volatility and Variance
Volatility, sometimes called variance, is a measure of how far your session results will be away from the average payout rate or house advantage in a game.
Roughly speaking, this is a measure of how bad the swings will be in a game.
For slots, for instance, a game with a low volatility will have few swings and a balanced pay table. On the other hand, a slot with a high volatility will have large swings and an unbalanced pay schedule with some huge prizes that are very hard to win at the top end of the table.
Here are some things to know about the volatility of casino games when it comes to your game selection strategy:
- A low-variance game will have smaller prizes that you win more often.
- A high-variance game will have larger prizes that you win less often.
- Several shades of gray can be found between these two extremes.
- The higher the volatility of a game, the more conservative you’ll need to be with your bankroll management strategies.
It’s worth noting that some games will have different wagers that have different levels of volatility. Roulette is notorious for this, and a straight-up wager on a single number will have a much higher volatility than a bet on something like red, black, even or odd, and this is in spite of the fact that they both would have the exact same house advantage in most variations of the game.
Forming Up a Game Selection Strategy
With the information above in mind, it comes time to learn how to actually form strategies for picking games. With all else being equal, you’ll want the game with the highest payout rate and the lowest house edge. From there, you have to balance some other factors.
One factor you need to account for is the volatility. This is something that’s a matter of taste and play style. For example, if you prefer high-volatility games and that whole style of play, then you’ll want to gear your play towards games with larger top jackpots (progressives if available). On the other hand, if you prefer games with a lower volatility and the play style that comes along with that, then you’ll avoid games with top-heavy pay schedules.
Another factor to account for is your skill level in certain games where it’s relevant. Just because the maximum payout rate available in a blackjack or video poker game is one thing doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to consistently hit that number. Only you can tell how good you are at a particular game or genre, and you’ll need to adjust what you expect your effective house advantage to be in those types of games as a result.
Finally, sometimes you’ll make a decision where you take a game with a slightly smaller payout rate in exchange for the volatility level that you want. It’s very popular for players to give up half a percentage point of house edge in exchange for fewer swings, for example, and that’s another thing to consider with your game selection.
The topic of strategy in game selection often does not get the attention it deserves because most people just assume that players know how to go about it. With the information above and the methods we have put together for using that information to pick and choose from the available casino games in your preferred genre, you’ll be able to better make these decisions in a way that will help you to have the type of play experience that you’re looking for while also increasing your chances to win.