The casino is called the house. Naturally, the odds in all the games are in the house’s favor. The mathematical average that the house expects to win on each bet is called the house edge. Let’s use slot machines as an example: Let’s say that a slot machine is programmed to pay back 90 coins on average for every 100 coins you put in. Since the machine is going to keep 10 out of 100 coins (on average), the house edge is 10%. So the tricks to try to come out ahead when gambling are to:
play the games with the smallest house edge, and
learn the best strategy for those games. For example, Blackjack has a small potential house edge (0.5%), but you only get the edge to be that small if you know how to play Blackjack properly. If you’re just winging it, the house edge will probably be closer to about 3-5%.
By the way, this is one reason why Vegas casinos don’t cheat — they don’t have to. They already have the advantage on every game, so there’s no point. Most players have no idea how to play table games properly, so they’re giving the casino an even higher edge anyway. Casinos make most of their money on table games from those players. But even when players become experts at their games, the edge insures that the house still has a small advantage even over them. [Exceptions include Blackjack and certain Video Poker machines.] By the way, the other main reason why Vegas casinos don’t cheat is that gambling in Nevada is highly regulated, and no casino would risk losing its license by breaking the rules — especially since most major Strip casinos are now part of the “legitimate” business world and traded on Wall Street.
Why play when there’s a house edge?
You might wonder, “Why play at all if the house has the advantage?” That’s a good question. You’re likely to lose when you gamble, which is an excellent argument for not gambling.
But of course, even if the odds are against you, it’s possible to win. Anything can happen in the short term. The odds are against your สล็อตออนไลน์ได้เงินจริง getting heads twice in a row from two coin flips, but it could happen. Let’s say you’re playing Baccarat with a 1% house edge (normally it’s 1.06%, but we’re rounding). Your expectation from playing 200 hands at $5 is to lose $10.60. So why play Baccarat? Because it’s unlikely that after 200 hands you would have lost exactly $10.60. After millions of hands, you can expect to lose 1.06%, but after only 200, anything’s possible. You could be winning or losing 30% or more. In the short term, anything can happen, and usually does. You’ve probably heard the term standard deviation, and that’s what it refers to. (About.com has a good article about standard deviation, including how to calculate it for a particular game.)
Of course, the other reason why people play even though there’s a house edge is that it’s fun.
Why is a low house edge important?
You might wonder, “If you’re just hoping to win in the short term, then why bother looking for the games with the lowest house edge?” The answer is that:
(1) The smaller the house edge, the more likely you are to win.
(2) The house edge constantly grinds away at your money, and the higher the edge, the less time your money will last. Running out of money while you still want to play isn’t fun.
(3) The longer your money lasts, the longer you’ll play, and the more opportunity you have to win.
Let’s say you play a slot machine with an edge of 10%, and that it keeps exactly 10% of the batch of coins you feed it every time (although we know that in real life, it would take 10% only in the long term, with anything being possible in the short term). After running 100 coins through it, you’ll have 90 coins left. If you run those 90 coins through it, you’ll have 81 coins left. The next rounds will leave you with 73, 66, 59, and 53 coins. This continuous reduction effect is called the grind.
Now let’s say that you’re playing a slot machine with only a 2% edge. (And pretend again that this is a magical slot machine that takes 2% of each and every batch, with no short-term deviation.) After running your 100 coins through you’re left with 98. Run those 98 through and you’re left with 96. The next rounds will leave you with 94, 92, 90, and 89 coins. You’ve got a lot more money left than you did with the 10% edge machine.
The lesson here is that the house edge affects the amount you gamble, not the amount you bring to the casino. You might think, “Okay, I’m bringing $500 to play slots. With a 5% house edge, I’ll lose $25.” Wrong. That’s true if you only play your $500 once. If you keep playing, the machines can grind all your money away. The same is true of table games. Say you sit down at a Blackjack table and buy $500, planning to bet $25/hand. The house edge doesn’t cut into your $500, it cuts into however much you lay on the table, which will probably be more than $500. If you’re playing $25 a hand, 100 hands per hour, and you gamble for eight hours without losing it all, then in that eight hours you’ve gambled $20,000! After betting your $500 the first time (say, 20 hands at $25/hand, which takes maybe 15 minutes), you’ll probably have most of that $500 left, and you’ll bet it again and again. The house edge will slowly grind it away, and if you play long enough, you’ll be left with nothing.
The best ways to reduce your exposure to the house edge are:
1. Play the games with the smallest house edge. (Losing 1% on $20 bets is a smaller loss than losing 5% on $5 bets.)
2. Make small bets.
3. Play at a relaxed pace. The larger casinos train their dealers to deal, deal, deal, because the faster the games go, the more money they make. If a game is going too fast for you, bet less or try a smaller casino or a downtown casino where the play is more relaxed.
House Edge of various games
Here’s a chart showing the house edge for the most popular games. This assumes that you’re playing skillfully — for example, if you’re just guessing at Blackjack rather than using established Basic Strategy, the house edge will be several percent instead of 0.5%. Likewise, if you make the sucker bets in Craps, the house edge will be massive instead of a mere 0.8%. It’s important to note that even if you don’t play table games perfectly, you can still play with WAY better odds than you can get on a slot machine. For more on this, see our Crash Course in Table Games.
House Edge (with skilled play)
Maximum Payoff per unit bet
1.5 to 1
Craps, 1x Odds
2 to 1
800 to 1
1 to 1
35 to 1
Slot Machines, flat top
5,000 to 1
Slot Machines, progressive
millions to 1
thousands to 1
State Lottery, typical
millions to 1
(Progressive slot machines are the kind with the really big jackpots.
We’ll cover those in the slot machines section later.)
Naturally, the more money you can win, the more interested and excited you’ll be. That’s why slot machines are so popular — you can win thousands (or millions) for a measly quarter or two.
Not so with table games. Bet $10 at Blackjack, and a win will bring you only $10 or $15. And a loss will wipe out your $10 — a much bigger loss than the 25¢ you lost on the slot.
Looking at it that way, it would seem that you should play slots instead of Blackjack, because the potential reward is greater, and the amount of money you’re risking is smaller. On just one play, sure, that would be true. But if you’re playing for a long period of time, and if you care how much money you lose while trying to hit the jackpot, then slots are much worse for long-term play compared to blackjack. If you’re playing for more than a couple of hours and you want to lose as little as possible, Blackjack (and most other table games), with the lower house edge, is a better bet.
Nobody would play slot machines if there weren’t that chance of the big payout. But the penalty for the chance to win that big payout is a high house edge. Take a look at the table again (above), and notice that there’s an almot direct correlation between the house edge and the amount you can win from one bet. The more you can win at once, the higher the house edge.
That doesn’t mean that low-edge table games are superior in every way, just that you’ll lose money a lot slower over the long term. The penalty for that low house edge and the ability to play for a longer period of time is that you forfeit the chance to win BIG, like you could with a slot machine or Keno. Many gambling authors will tell you never to play progressive slot machines or Keno since they both have a high house edge, but put that into perspective: If you’re comfortable losing, say, $50 while trying to win a huge slot jackpot (even though you know it’s about as hard as winning the lottery), who’s to say that it’s not your decision to try? And sure, Keno has a 25% or more house edge, but is losing a $1 Keno game really a big problem?
So unlike most authors, I won’t tell you to never play Keno or progressive slots. I’ll just explain exactly what you’re up against, and let you make your own decisions about how to gamble your money. If you don’t want to lose much, you should concentrate on the games with the smallest house edge, but playing occasionally on high edge games won’t be devastating as long as you understand the risks and you limit your play.
There does happen to be a middle ground, a compromise — a way to possibly win a lot more money at a table game while keeping the small house edge built into the table game, and that’s to make BIG bets at the table game. Most Blackjack players bet $1, $5, or $25 a hand, but there’s no reason you couldn’t bet a huge chunk of your bankroll at once (as long as you don’t exceed the table limit). Of course, this is risky, and you could wind up winning or losing a large amount of money very quickly, but although your risk is higher, you have a better shot of actually winning a lot of money than you do with slots or keno. (In fact, this idea is the heart of the Half-Bankroll strategy I discuss later on.)
You could do the same thing (betting big) with slot machines (there are $25 and $100 a spin versions), but you shouldn’t. If you’re going to be making really large bets, stick with a game with a low edge.…