Understanding The House Edge

  • Updated
  • By Amy McDonnell
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Millions upon millions of pounds are spent at casinos every single day and millions upon millions of pounds are paid out to lucky players every single day. So, you might be wondering – how do they make sure they don’t go out of business when someone is on a lucky streak? 

That’s where the house edge comes in.

What is the house edge?

Put simply, the house edge is the mathematical advantage that a casino has over its players. Every game you’ll find in a casino has a built-in profit for the house. This is done by offering odds that aren’t what is known as ‘true odds’.

Still confused? No problem. Take, for example, a coin toss. As we all know, the probability is 50/50 because you have an equal chance of the coin landing on either head or tails. 

Therefore, if you were to place a £1 bet and were paid £1 for a win, that would be true odds. However, it’s more likely that a casino will pay out say, 95p, for every £1 bet which gives the casino an inherent advantage of 2.5%.

The house edge is essentially the difference between the true odds of a bet and the odds that the casino offers. This helps guarantee a long-term financial strategy to keep them open, even when players win a large payout.

Isn’t that cheating?

No. The house edge isn’t and has never been a secret. Everyone entering a casino should be conscious that in the long-run, it’s pretty much impossible to beat the house. 

Yes, you can have a short-term lucky streak, but the longer the play, the more likely it is you’ll lose your cash.

Which games have the best house edge?

If you’re looking for a safe bet, it's probably best that you leave the casino now. All bets come with a risk and no matter what the house edge is, it’s one that will inevitably bite you in the arse.

However, if you’re looking to lower your risk when you do play, the casino games have the lowest house edge.

Craps

If you know what you’re doing, craps can be a great game to play to make some money. If you opt for a don’t pass/don’t come or a pass/come bet, the house edge can be as low as 1.36%. Choose the wrong bet though, and the edge can reach above 10%.

The main problem with craps, however, is that it’s very complicated and overwhelming for new players. With lots of complicated jargon and ‘sucker bets’, it can be easy to lose a lot of money and have no idea how. We recommend that you get to know the game before putting down your chips.

Blackjack

A regular game of Blackjack can see the house edge sitting at 2-3%, making it a low-risk game to play, but you can improve your advantage. If you play using basic strategy, you could be looking at a house edge of just 0.28%. That’s pretty good going for a card game.

Alternatively, if you master the art of counting cards, you can actually increase your odds by 2-3% over the house. However, this is a difficult method that, while not illegal, it's frowned upon in many casinos and if you’re caught you may be asked to leave.

Baccarat

Not just for 007, baccarat is a simple game that offers a low house edge and is fairly straightforward. To play, you simply need to be able to count to nine and the basic game requires you to bet on the ‘player’ at a 1.2% house edge or the ‘banker’ at a 1% house edge.

The ‘tie’ bet has a huge house edge of 14%, so if you are going to channel your inner James Bond, avoid this bet under all circumstances.

Which games have the worst house edge?

Not all games at the casino are going to be as generous as the ones we’ve just mentioned. Some of the choices will leave you wishing you’d stuck to Blackjack.

Slot machines

Playing on online slot machines is sometimes considered a fools game because the Return To Player (RTP) can vary from a generous 3% to a whopping 20%. Because slot machine results are generated by RNGs, there is no telling whether you’ll lose all your bankroll or hit the jackpot.

Many believe that there’s a strategy to winning on slots but put simply, there isn't. It’s a game of chance that, given enough time and money, you'll most likely lose a lot of cash.

Keno

If you’re looking for a fast way to get rid of your money, play keno. It has an astronomical house edge of up to 29%.

A game similar to the lottery, you pick one or more numbers from a grid of 80. The casino chooses 20 numbers and you're compensated depending on how many matches you get and how much you wagered.

Not difficult to play, but difficult to win.

What about roulette?

Roulette is probably the most recognisable game in a casino and doesn’t have an awful house edge, but it depends on which type you’re playing.

Opt for European roulette and you’ll face a modest 2.7% house edge, however, if you choose American roulette, that 00 will practically double the edge to 5.26%.

But should you play? As long as you don’t fall victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy, roulette is a simple and fun game to play with a reasonable house edge that can see you make a good amount of money, should you play strategically.