If you move in gambling circles, you have surely heard sentences like “the house always wins” or “you can’t beat the odds”, but most of us never really stop to think about what it really means. The house does indeed always win in the long run, and there is a very good reason for it. Every gambling game out there is set up to give the casino a small advantage, which is called the casino edge.
The edge varies between different games and each game has its own way of realizing the casino edge. Since every game is different, the edges are also quite different and there is a very good argument for never playing some casino games and always focusing on others, simply because the casino edge is smaller.
Of course, it’s not all about mathematics in gambling and many players simply enjoy some games more than others. Many games that offer extremely low house edge such as video poker are not often played, while others like video slots get a lot more action. Some games, like blackjack, require you to play the optimal strategy in order to reduce the house edge to the minimum.
We bring you a short rundown of some of the most popular online casino games with a focus on the house edge, how to maintain it as low as possible and how to pick your game, going from those with the highest house edge to those with the lowest.
The table below shows the payout rates and house edge of some of the most popular online casino games, as well as the standard deviation in the games. The higher the payout rate, the more favorable the game is in the long run. Bear in mind that high standard deviation means a lot of variance in the game as well.
|Game||Payout Rate||House Edge||Standard Deviation|
|Keno||75%-85%||15%-25%||1.30 – 46|
|Video Slots||80%-98%||2%-20%||Depends on Slot|
|Roulette||2.70%-5.25%||97.30%-94.75%||Depends on Bet|
|Video Poker (Jacks or Better)||99.54%||0.46%||4.42|
|Craps – Pass/Don’t Pass||98.59%-98.64%||1.36%-1.41%||1.00|
|Odds – 4 or 10, 5 or 9, 6 or 9||100%||0%||1.10-1.41|
Keno is a fast paced game and it can be a fun one to play, especially for players who are used to playing Bingo games. However, Keno offers extremely bad odds for the players and a very high house edge. If we were to pick one game to suggest you stay away from, it would have to be Keno, despite the fact that it is sometimes fun to have a whirl.
At most online casinos, the house has an edge in the range of 25% to 30% on every bet you make. This means you will be losing a quarter of the money you invest in the long run and the game runs so fast that even maintaining a playable bankroll will get very difficult very fast.
If you are looking to have some quick fun for a low buyin, go for it, but beware that Keno is one of the lowest value gambling games and winning at it even just on the night can be extremely difficult.
Over the years, video slots have achieved great popularity in both live and online casinos and they account for the vast majority of all the casino action. However, most slots don’t offer nearly the best odds for the players, as the house edge in these games tends to be in the range of 3% to 20%.
Many slots in live casinos will gave a 10% edge or higher, which is insanely high and very hard to beat even in the short run. Online slots are usually better, offering 3% to 5% house edge and giving players a more realistic chance at winning in the short run.
When playing online, you can easily find the particular slot’s payout rate either in the paytable or somewhere else on the casino site, as online casinos are bound by their licenses to disclose such information. Live casinos, on the other hand, offer much less information for their players and usually take a lot more money from the slot machines.
That said, the myths that some slots take 50% or even 30% of the money are usually not true, assuming you are not playing in a rigged or unlicensed casino, which you should avoid at all times.
Roulette is one of the most popular table games out there, as the popular wheel has been around for many years in live casinos and it is the one game that broke the most casinos out there. In Roulette, stakes can get really high, winning runs are very possible and plenty of people have made a fortune playing.
The game of Roulette comes in several different variations in live casinos, with online casinos adding even more over time. European Roulette is the most popular variation of the game, with a single zero slot and no special rules. The American version was invented later for the Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos, and by adding another zero slot, the casino owners simply doubled their edge without notice. French version, on the other hand, offers players some extra chance when betting on even money bets, which reduces the house edge on such bets somewhat.
The most common version of the game, European Roulette boasts a house edge of 2.70%, which is very competitive with most other games and is actually quite reasonable. This edge manifests in the fact that the casino pays out 35:1 on all number bets, while there are in fact 37 numbers out there. American Roulette has 38 numbers and the same payouts, and thus the edge is increased to 5.26%. When betting on even money bets in French Roulette, the house edge is reduced to just 1.35%.
Craps is one of those games that high stakes gamblers are absolutely crazy about, with dozens of people often flocking to Craps tables in live casinos to watch the exciting action. Craps can also be played online, and while the game may not be as exciting online, it is still one of the more adrenaline pumping ones.
The basic bets in Craps include Pass/Come and the Don’t Pass/Don’t Come bets. The house edge on these is 1.41% and 1.36% respectively, which is very low and in line with some of the finest gambling games out there. However, Crapes offer players a chance to bet on many other things as well and these prop bets are where most players lose lots of money.
Not all prop bets are negative expected value. In fact, betting on 4 or 10, 5 or 9 and 6 or 8 bets will not cause you to win or lose any money in the long run, as the payouts on these bets are truly in line with the odds of hitting. Other props, on the other hand, are quite negative value, with bets like hard 10 giving the house an edge of over 11% and Place bets being in the range of 2% to 10% each.
If you are going to play Craps, don’t try to be a hero by putting money on these bets. Keep it simple by betting the pass/don’t pass line and possibly upping your stake by betting on the even money bets that don’t give the house any edge.
A very popular game among Asian gamblers, Baccarat is a game where the player is not offered too many options, and the only choice is whether you will bet on banker’s or your own hand. Betting on banker gives the casino a 1.06% edge, while betting on player gives the house an edge of 1.24%, making it always better to bet on banker in the long run.
Of course, since many players are superstitious and believe they can anticipate the outcomes of random events, player bets are still common. Many players aren’t really interested in how big the house edge is or what the mathematical odds are, which is why you will often find players in all types of games making big mistakes and betting against what is prudent and reasonable.
If you are going to play Baccarat, we suggest a simple approach of betting on the banker and hoping you catch a hot streak. With some luck, this may very well happen, but the game’s low standard deviation makes it somewhat hard to win big at Baccarat except if you are going to make very large bets.
Blackjack is probably the most popular card game out there and is offered in many variations at online casinos. Blackjack gives the players an option to draw more cards, stand, split or double, which means that only playing the optimal strategy will get you the optimal results.
In fact, playing Blackjack wrong on purpose could result in the casino having an extremely high edge, as you could bust most your hands and simply hand over the money. Of course, no one goes this far in playing Blackjack wrong, but most players don’t play the optimal strategy either. Every time you play in any different way, you are just losing more in the long run.
Playing optimal strategy in Blackjack variations where the dealer stands on soft 17 results in a house edge of just 0.28%, which is probably the best you can have in any gambling game. However, you would have to find the ideal table with rules that benefit the player the most and play every hand in the best possible way for this edge to be maintained.
Video poker machines have been around for decades, and unlike most other gambling games, they offer almost even odds for the player and the house. In most versions, the house does still have an edge, but it is almost always under 1%, which gives players a very realistic chance at winning.
Of course, even at very close odds, there is still a chance at both winning or losing, but with variations like Jacks or Better, players can have a 99.54% payout rate and with just a little luck on their side, they can come out on top.
Some versions of video poker offer even better payouts, with Bonus Poker standing at 99.64%, giving the house only a 0.36% edge and some variations of Deuces Wild even offering a 100.76% payout rate, although most online casinos don’t offer a paytable that makes this possible.
One important thing to keep in mind is that every version of video poker has an optimal strategy, and only playing this strategy will result in the player getting the maximum return from every hand. Many players who play video poker games don’t know these strategies, which means that casinos usually end up winning more than they should. Learning proper strategy before jumping into video poker games is an absolute must.