Before going deeper into each casino game, it is important to know exactly what odds are. Odds refer to mathematics in that they represent a basic probability of a potential outcome and are usually expressed in a decimal or fractional format. A well-known example is the traditional coin toss before a football game. By flipping a two-sided coin, you know that there are exactly two possible outcomes (unless by a quirk of fate the coin comes to rest on edge): heads or tails. The probability of the coin landing heads up is one out of two, expressed 1 to 2 as a ratio. Another way to express the odds of a coin toss outcome is in percentages. Ask anybody what the odds are, and they will likely reply: “Fifty-fifty.” This refers to the 50% chance that either head or tails will result.
Just like a coin has two sides, a roulette wheel has 37 or 38 slots, a standard deck has 52 playing cards, and a die has six sides. These numbers and the various results of each play represent the probabilities of the games. It is easy to see how math and odds are very much a part of casino gambling. While most players are busy having a roll of the dice at craps tables, or taking their next hit at blackjack, they rarely stop to consider the actual math behind their wager, and how placing certain bets will either increase or decrease their overall expectation of winning. Smart gamblers realize that there are strategic ways to bet and play certain casino games that will make all the difference. They also know that if one’s goal is to walk away a winner, certain games should be avoided. With that in mind, we’ll begin to explore which games offer the best odds.
Best Odds, Worst Odds
Most everyone, from the total beginner on up to the professional, knows that a casino is an entertainment business that generates revenue from its players. How are new and extravagant casino resorts built? More recently, from hefty borrowing, but historically from the combined deficit of the players. Every casino game has an inherent advantage for the casino known as the ‘house edge’. This percentage represents how much the casino expects to make from every betting unit wagered. For example, the house edge in double zero roulette is 5.6 percent. So, for every 100 betting units wagered, you can expect to lose 5.60. This may not seem like a lot, but several important factors must also be considered.
Let’s say you’re playing blackjack at 25 units a hand, and the table is averaging 60 hands played per hour. Multiply 25 times 60 hands and you are playing through 1,500 units an hour. Let’s say you play for four hours. That means that you play through about 6,000 of which the casino expects to grab 0.8 percent – if you’re playing perfect basic strategy. This amounts to a loss of only 48 units – which isn’t that bad – making blackjack one of the better options for players. Consider how much the house would expect to gain by your playing roulette for the same amount of time. Roulette is a slightly slower paced game, with maybe a round every couple minutes or so, and not many players are quite avid enough to spend four hours at a table. But, for arguments sake, we will examine that at a rate of 30 rounds per hour with a flat bet of 25 credits, playing for four hours, a casino would expect to make 157.80 from your play. Again you might say, well that’s not an overly exaggerated amount to expect to lose during a session at a casino, but keep in mind that it’s playing over time that makes it add up. Twenty such sessions a year would set you back 3,156 credits and multiply that by the number of years you plan to play, and you’ll see that it really does add up.
Some people gamble at a casino for the fun and excitement that this unique form of entertainment delivers. That is perfectly fine, as gambling at a land-based casino or at a casino online can be a leisurely, enjoyable hobby. Recreational players don’t mind parting with a small amount of money because they can rationalize the experience in saying it was the price paid for a little fun. This is fine as long as that person is an occasional player, or if they hadn’t really planned to devote the time to studying the games or taking steps to ensure they actually win money during sessions. However, the truth is that – given the choice – most players prefer to win, and there are proven ways to dramatically reduce the chances of losing – namely by not playing games with bad odds – such as keno. Keno carries one of the highest house advantages of all games, weighing in at a hefty 25%. This is actually as good as the odds get for keno, with the odds varying from casino to casino.
Game House Edge
Craps (double odds) 0.60%
Baccarat (player) 1.63%
Pai Gow Poker 2.5%
Roulette (single zero) 2.7%
Three-Card Poker 3.4%
Let It Ride 3.5%
Sports Betting 4.5%
Caribbean Stud Poker 5.26%
Roulette (double zero) 5.6%
Big 6 Wheel 11.1% to 24%
This chart shows the expected house edge for casino table games and also sports betting. For any given session on any given day, these percentages can fluctuate quite a bit, however they represent a fairly accurate expectation of the house’s advantage over time. To see how the house edge is playing out for players at online casinos, you may wish to examine a monthly ranking of recent online casino payout percentages, broken down by category such as table games, slots, poker games and overall payouts.
Looking at the chart above, you’ll see that craps, blackjack, and baccarat offer the smallest house advantage. These are the games you should focus on. Coincidentally, craps and blackjack are two of the most popular casino games. If you already know a thing or two about blackjack, then you probably know that it is one of the only games where a skilled player can not only eliminate the house edge, but go a step beyond that by creating a player’s edge. How is this possible? Learning basic strategy to perfection is the first step. Next is becoming a knowledgeable and accurate card counter. Lastly, adjusting bets and hand decisions based on the count while masking your expertise to the dealer, pit personnel, and preferably other players. Unless you are already a natural genius at math, this will likely take hundreds of hours of practice. Few ever make it to the level of professional blackjack player. If you are able to someday acquire this elite status, you can expect to have an edge over the house at somewhere between 0.5 and 2 percent. Again, you might say this doesn’t seem like a lot. It’s time my friend, time that makes things add up. A professional player can expect to make in the neighborhood of 30 units per hour playing blackjack, depending on betting level. This is a lot more than minimum wage, but it is not a salary by which millionaires are made either.
This is just an example of one way to make smart play work for you. Instead of giving up a big advantage to the house playing a game like keno, try learning basic craps or blackjack strategy and you’ll likely notice a decrease in your losses and an increase in your winnings right off the bat. Focusing on low house edge games like blackjack, craps, etc is the smartest play when it comes to casino gambling.