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house-edge-intro-210314House Edge

Knowing which games to play and where to play them will greatly increase your chances of taking home rather than getting taken.

Let’s face it: casinos stay in business by slowly emptying the pockets of gamblers. They don’t want to bleed you too quickly because then you will storm out in a fury and never come back. But if they do it at the right pace, players will win just enough to stay entertained and keep playing over an extended period of time.

The money which the casino takes from players over this extended period of time is referred to as the house edge. This series will focus on the theoretical house edge, which assumes that gamblers make the correct decisions in any given situation. It does not always equal the real-life amount which the casino takes home (that is the hold percentage), but it can tell us how much money the casino should make. From this we decide which games to play and where to play them.

Before choosing where to gamble with your hard-earned cash, do your homework on these three questions: What should I play? Should I play in a casino or online? Geographically, where should I play?

This series will cover the following topics:

Dulling the House Edge: How to Avoid Getting Taken at the Casino
Avoid Feeding the House by Gambling in Your House
Not Just What But Where: House Edge by Geographical Location

Know what to play

The first step to becoming an expert in casino strategy is to know which games to play and which to avoid. In every casino there are games of skill and games of chance. It is usually a better bet to play games of skill, as the casino cannot rig the game against you; you are the master of your own destiny. A good example of a game of skill with a low house edge is blackjack.

On the other side of the coin, games of chance are typically less kind to players. Roulette and slots are difficult to win, bleeding you and bringing big money into the casino’s purse. But surprisingly, a game of pure chance has the lowest theoretical house edge of any casino game: baccarat. Players duel the dealer directly on the luck of the draw, neither side has a built-in advantage.

Shop around online

Just as websites like Amazon and Ebay provide great places to find low prices for the items you need, browsing online casinos is a good way to find games with low house edges. Internet casinos generally have player-friendly promotions and lower edges on games like online blackjack and slots.

Web-based casinos have lower edges than brick-and-mortar establishments for a few reasons: they are more abundant, so face stiffer competition for players, they are less costly to operate so don’t need to make as much money off of players to be profitable, and many of the larger ones receive more visitors per day, so again don’t need to make as much money off of each individual player. We would advise financially-conscious gamblers to look around online before settling on a favored venue.

Physical location matters

If you insist on gambling in a land-based casino, be aware that the house edge of a given game can vary depending on location. We will analyze variances found in blackjack, roulette and slots to find the best and worst places to play. For example, differences in blackjack rules mean that we find different edges in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Europe. Spoiler: one rule specific to European-style blackjack makes the dealer more likely to win, meaning a higher house edge and lighter pockets for gamblers. The same goes for roulette, but in reverse. American roulette carries a significantly higher edge than its older European counterpart.

Geographic difference is especially important when determining where to play slots (although you’d be best advised not to play them at all). The house edge is determined by the computer program controlling the machine. Various national, state and local governments have different regulations on how much money slot machines pay out. In the US, Nevada slot machines carry the highest edge in the country.

Most countries have strict regulations on how much money casinos can take from slot players. The UK is not one of them, with no regulations on house edge. While manufacturers claim that most machines are programmed to pay out 90 percent of what they take in, it is reported that in many cases they take much more.

How to make money and take money

This three-part series should do wonders for your casino strategy. Your chances of taking home money don’t depend on the arbitrary whims of the gambling gods, they depend on mathematics. Know what you are doing when you walk into a casino, or log into an internet casino. You can be assured that the casino did its homework.