It’s true: casinos can be intimidating places for the uninitiated; the flashing lights, the impatient croupier, the grumpy guy at the Blackjack table. Do you split? Is it time to double down? Should you raise the ante or just bail out and head for the bar?
As with most things in life: knowledge is power. Fortunately for you, we’re bringing you some basic casino 101 on the secrets of the house edge. Our top five guide to the games to aim for when you are heading for the casino – both online and offline.
First things first: let’s explain what the house edge is. Casinos are businesses and they need to make money. The house edge is the mathematical advantage that any gambling game will have. It is the profit that the casino will make on each game.
One of the best examples of house edge, which makes it very easy to understand, is Roulette. On a Roulette wheel, there are 36 numbers. If you bet a single number and it hits, you win 36 times your stake. The odds of hitting a single number are 36 to 1.
However: on a typical Roulette wheel, there are 37 slots. The extra slot is the zero. When this number hits, the house wins. All odd/even, Red/Black, and number bets lose. The only bet that wins is a straight up on the zero. The zero basically represents the house edge. For a single zero table, that house edge is 2.70%. If the casino turned over a million dollars on the roulette table over a weekend, it would expect to earn $27,000.
Every game at the casino comes with a house edge. If you’re nervous of the Baccarat and Blackjack tables, it’s time to wise up and overcome your fears. These table game classics come with a much better house edge than the slots, keno, and the wheel of fortune.
Calculating the precise house edge of Blackjack is tricky. There are a lot of different elements to factor in. Will the dealer hit on a soft 17? Can you split cards more than once? Is it a single deck game? Are you playing using ‘basic strategy? Does Blackjack pay at 3 to 2 or 6 to 5? There are also dozens of different version of this classic card game. You can find scores of them at any online casino.
If you keep it simple, use basic strategy, and play a single deck with ‘liberal Las Vegas’ rules, it is possible to get the house edge as low as 0.16%. That means you lose only 16 cents for every $100 gambled. In reality, you are more likely to end up with an edge of around 1.00%.
Here’s the good news: online casinos are competitive and there is a lot of choice. Avoid games that offer big jackpots and seek out a Blackjack table with a low house edge. This is where you can max out your game play and unlock some real value.
Unlike blackjack, there really is no strategy to baccarat. James Bond might look pretty cool, with his shaken martini and a femme fatale in tow, but it is essentially a game of luck. What makes it appealing is its low house edge. If you are playing ‘common rules’, the house edge is about 1.09%.
In baccarat, you have the choice of three bets: player, banker, and tie. If you bet the banker, there is a commission to pay if the bet wins. It’s normally about 5%. This creates the house edge. Look hard and you can find baccarat games with lower commissions.
Roulette is one of the most popular games at the casino. Easy to understand and simple to play. Just walk up, drop off your chips, and hope for the best. People talk of systems, track the wheel, and watch the numbers. In truth: if the table is balanced and fair, this is a game of pure luck. European roulette has a single zero and a house edge of 2.70%. American roulette has both a single and double zero, with a house edge of 5.26%.
However: there are some interesting twists. If you can find a roulette game that offers ‘la partage’, the house odds shorten dramatically to 1.35%. This is when a player loses only half their odds/even stake when a zero hits. Check out a few casinos to see if you can track down a Roulette game that offers this deal.
Read the small print. Check the Terms and Conditions. It may not be the first thing you do when you want to get stuck into the slots, but the house edge is critical when you play these popular games at any online casino.
With slots, the house edge is called the RTP (Return to Player). To find out what the RTP on any given slot, just click the question mark icon or ‘rules’ link. The exact RTP should be displayed. One of the lowest RTPs on any slot is on NetEnt’s Mega Joker at up to 99%. This is a house edge of 1.00%. You do have to make the maximum bet to get the best RTP. Once again: shop around for the best deal.
Craps is one of the most fascinating games to play at any casino. It’s complex and takes time to learn. It’s also the croupier’s favourite game with one of the only bets in the casino without any house edge. With so many betting options, the house edge varies from nothing to nearly 17%.
To get the only zero house edge bet in the casino, you have to play the odds bet. The odds bet pays 2 to 1 on points of 4 and 10, 3 to 2 on points of 5 and 8, and 6 to 5 on points of 6 and 8. Trouble is: it’s so tempting to take a punt on rolling snake eyes (1,1) or boxcars (12,12) with sucker odds of 33-1. Don’t do it!
The secret: do your research. The house edge varies from game to game and from casino to casino. The basic rule of thumb is this: the easier a game is to play, the more likely it is that it will have a high house edge; scratch cards, keno, and the lottery all are very hard to beat.
Take the time to wise up and learn games like Blackjack and Baccarat. This way, you can get a lot more bang with every buck you bet. Get an education – get the edge.