The house always wins. It’s a phrase we’ve become so used to hearing that it’s almost a cliché now. Some people believe that that means that there’s no point in even bothering to place a bet in a casino, but of course that’s not true. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to win money at a casino, but it does mean that well-run casinos will always end the year in the black. For every win that you get, other people elsewhere on the casino floor are losing and they’re losing enough to mean that your wins are more than covered.
That’s why the house always wins, so as long as you know that going in then that’s the most important thing. Bet for long enough and, unless you’re either incredibly lucky or have a perfect strategy, then the chances are that you’ll lose the money that you won. The only thing you can do is work hard to shift the odds slightly in your favour. One of the key ways that you can do that is by making sure that you only play the games on offer where the house edge is the smallest. Some games are better than other on that front, of course, so here we’ll have a look at the best and worst bets offered by casinos to make sure that you’re forewarned and therefore forearmed.
The Worst Bets
Let’s start by having a look at the sorts of bets that you should absolutely avoid as much as possible. Obviously, the odds are always in the favour of the casino thanks to the house edge employed on all games that they offer, but some have larger edges for the house than others and you really should try to avoid them wherever possible.
Wheel of Fortune
Some people will enter a casino analytically, knowing that it’s all about playing the best games in a cold fashion if they’re hoping to win. Others will have a feeling that they’re in a lucky mood, so the sign of a big wheel that promises decent prizes if they can stop it in the right place will appeal to that misplaced sense of arrogance.
It’s those sorts of people that the Wheel of Fortune is aimed at, offering people the chance to win an increase on their wager in exchange for a small stake. Normally there are six options, which means that some casinos call it the Big Six Wheel. There’s the chance to break even, win two, five or even ten times your stakes, as well as hit a large paying jackpot. Mostly, though, the odds are stacked against you winning and the casinos know it.
House Edge: Up to 24%
Caribbean Stud Side Bets
It’s always tempting to take out side bets because you feel as though you’re increasing your chance of winning. Casinos aren’t run by stupid people, however, so the reality is that there’s an increased chance in you losing more money if you take them up on their side bet offers.
In most casinos, the side bet gives you access to the progressive jackpot, so the amount of risk varies depending on how big this is. Generally speaking, though, there’s no jackpot that makes it particularly worthwhile because your chance of actually hitting the necessary things to trigger the jackpot is so rare.
House Edge: Typically Around 26%
As an aside, side bets are pretty much always a bad idea to play. By paying the extra money for an event that is extremely unlikely to happen, you’re shifting the house’s edge even further away from what is acceptable. The rule of thumb you should work to is to never take side bets in the casino.
Deviating from Basic Strategy in Blackjack
Blackjack is one of the games that we’re going to talk about as being one of the best bets you can place in a casino, but that’s only if you follow what is known as basic strategy. Many people sit down at the blackjack table either not knowing basic strategy or they are willing to follow their ‘hunch’ about how the cards are going to fall, which can shift the edge dramatically in the house’s favour.
Blackjack is also another game that offers a side bet in the form of insurance, which protects the player against the dealer getting blackjack but is lost money if the dealer doesn’t. Once again, that’s the sort of thing that moves the edge further over to the house’s side of the aisle and therefore is worth avoiding at all times. Paying it every now and then is the equivalent of following your hunch, so don’t do it.
House Edge: Around 8% for Insurance & up to 20% Over ‘Hunches’
Casino War Tie Bet
Have you ever played Casino War? It’s the most simplistic card game that you can play, basically seeing the person with the highest card between you and the dealer being paid out. That’s it. Different casinos have numerous different quirks to their rules, such as whether or not Ace is high or low, but generally it’s pretty self-explanatory.
What you need to watch out for is the insurance offered on you and the dealer being tied. If you do get the same card then you’ll be paid out at 10 to 1, but as with other side bets, the chances of it happening are slim. As a result, paying the insurance results in the casino’s edge shifting massively and you lose out as a consequence.
House Edge: 18.65%
The game that is essentially bingo to British players might seem like it’s an easy one to get a prize or two in, but the reality is that the odds are usually massively in the casino’s favour. There are different house edges depending on where you play and the rules employed, but the key thing to remember is that you’re always likely to lose out if you play this.
House Edge: Ranges from 4% to 35%+
It’s the fact that casinos really don’t want you to know, but the chances of winning on the slot are really not in your favour. Every game has different odds, of course, so it’s impossible to talk in a definitive fashion. Yet one thing we can say with a degree of certainty is that it’s rare for the odds to be even close to being in your favour.
Interestingly, the lower the stake, the higher the edge is for the casino. The more that you have to pay to play a game the more likely it is that you’re going to win. For that reason, it might seem like you’re playing with lower stakes if you use the lower denomination games that only require 5p or 10p to play, but you’ll spend more money trying to win over the long term and, when you do, the payouts are obviously much lower.
House Edge: Around 12% on Average
Things to Bear in Mind
When it comes to the house edge being against you, there are a couple of things worth bearing in mind. The first is that games that offer progressive jackpots can grow to such an extent that the size of the prize negates the house’s edge completely. A software engineer bet $100 on the MegaBucks in 2003, for example, and won the $39.7 million progressive jackpot. The odds were against him but the prize made it worth the risk!
The other thing that’s important to remember is how many games can be played in a short period of time. After all, Keno might have one of the worst house edge’s but if only four games of it are played in an hour then is that better or worse than a game with a lower house edge that can be played thirty times in an hour? Let’s say that it costs $10 per Keno game in a Las Vegas casino, that means that you’d lose $40 per hour if you failed to win any of the games on the assumption that four are played per hour.
Conversely, let’s imagine that you play a $2 slot that allows sixty spins per hour. Even if you won a third of your stake back during that time, you’d still be losing $80 on a game that on paper has a better edge for the player. It’s not something that you should allow to dictate your play, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind in order to avoid getting caught up in the idea of allowing the house edge to dictate what you play.
The Best Bets
It’s important to remember that the casino always has an edge. The difference comes down to how big or small that edge is. Picking a game where the house’s edge is 2% puts you in a much better position than one where the house’s edge is 20%, after all. Here’s a look at the best games to play.
Whilst roulette is an obvious answer, it’s also a complicated one. For starters, it depends on whether you play European or American roulette. The former only has one 0, whilst the latter normally has a 0 and a 00. That means that the house’s edge on an American roulette table is slightly more in their favour than on a European table, but it’s still a much better game than most of the others we’ve told you about.
Another variation is French roulette, which has a number of rules that shift the odds even more in the player’s favour. A French roulette table already boasts an edge of 2.703%, which is better than both of the other types mentioned, but on top of that, there are the la partage and en prison rules that makes things even better for the player by cutting the edge in half.
En prison kicks in when the ball lands in 0 on a French roulette table, at which point those that placed even money bets will be allowed to choose whether to lose half of their stake or let it be ‘in prison’ until the next go. If they choose prison and the ball again lands in 0 then they lose all of their stake. La partage, meanwhile, simply sees the player receive half of his stake back.
House Edge: Varies, But as Low as 1.35% (Outside Bets With La Partage Rules)
We mentioned blackjack earlier as an example of a bad bet, but that’s only if you move away from basic strategy. Stick to basic strategy, which most casinos actually allow their croupier to tell you how to play, and you’ll keep the house’s edge down to around 0.5%. That’s one of the best house edge’s of any game from the player’s point of view, so it really is worth learning how to play it.
The house edge only really comes into play over time, of course. After all, if you’ve got the self-discipline to sit down and play just one hand then there’s a chance that you could win or lose the amount you’ve staked and therefore made the house’s edge either 0% or 100%. Over time, though, sticking to basic strategy will keep the house’s edge low whilst veering from it every now and then will push it up to 2% or more.
House Edge: Around 0.5% with Basic Strategy
As with roulette, this is a slightly confusing one because of all of the various options on offer on a craps table. Opt for Snake Eyes or Boxcars bets, for example, and you’ll see that the edge sits at just shy of 14% for the house. Stick to the likes of the Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come options on the table and, depending on the odds offered, you’ll find that the house edge is significantly lower.
Again, the house is still more likely to win than you are, but not every single roll will affect you if you take those bets so that means things are in your favour for around 50% of the bets, too. The complicated nature of the game means that you’re asking for trouble if you play it without knowing how it works, so make sure you do your research before picking up the dice.
House Edge: Around 1.4%
Baccarat is another slightly complicated game that it’s worth learning how to play before you sit down at the table. There are two bets that are worthy of your attention, though. The Player bet has a low house edge compared to most other games in a casino, whilst the Bank bet is even lower.
The one thing to remember about baccarat is that where you play it will dictate how often games take place. Something like mini-baccarat on the casino floor will be a fast-paced game resulting in numerous hands played every hour, whilst baccarat in the high-rollers room is a much slower and more considered game.
House Edge: 1.24% for Player Bet, 1.06% for Banker Bet