Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Featured,Maths & Statistics

Have you ever pondered over the ways casinos rake in their profits? Is it solely reliant on players’ lost wagers? Not quite. Embedded within casino games is an inherent advantage that consistently tilts the odds in favor of the casino. Referred to as the House Edge, this comprehensive guide will delve into its intricacies and provide insights into how you can potentially overcome it.

Defining the House Edge

The term “house edge,” alternatively referred to as the casino advantage, is a prevalent factor across all forms of casino entertainment, be it table games, lotteries, or slots, whether in the digital realm or within physical casino establishments.

The house edge essentially serves as a guiding metric, indicating:

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Payouts

The average payout a game offers throughout its duration.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Best returns

Which games provide players with the most favorable returns on their wagers

The casino advantage stems directly from the nature of the games themselves and is not determined by specific casinos. Thus, irrespective of your chosen gambling destination, if you’re engaging in casino gameplay, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter the influence of the house edge.

Utilizing Your House Edge Knowledge

The advantageous aspect of comprehending the house edge (from a player’s perspective) lies in its capacity to serve as a compass, directing you toward the most lucrative games.

Games endowed with a substantial house edge will inherently yield lower average payouts over extended periods, in contrast to those featuring a more modest house edge. Armed with this easily accessible information, you can adeptly sidestep games that confer a considerable casino advantage over the player.

Comparing Games & Making Informed Choices

The casino advantage, being an inherent quality of the games themselves rather than being determined by specific casinos, remains an inescapable factor regardless of where you decide to invest your funds. Therefore, should you engage in casino gameplay, evading the influence of the house edge proves impossible.

Type of casino gameHouse edge
American roulette5.26%
Baccarat1.01-15.75%
Blackjack0.5%
Craps0-16.67%
Keno20-40%
Slots2-15%
Video poker0.46%
Caribbean stud5.22%
Hold’em2.36%
Sic bo2.78-33.33%

You will see instances where the house edge is variable. This variability does not stem from the casino; rather, it arises from specific conditions intrinsic to the game.

Slots

Diverging from certain casino games where skill and expertise can enhance your winning potential, online slots level the playing field, treating every player equally without a means to improve odds. Your role is to choose paylines, initiate the spin, and anticipate favorable outcomes.

Demystifying RTP Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

RTP, or Return To Player, denotes the accumulated payouts a specific slot machine has dispensed throughout its existence, relative to the funds players have invested. When considering RTP as a percentage, the balance required to reach 100% reveals the house edge. For instance, if a slot boasts an RTP of 90%, the remaining 10% constitutes the machine’s house edge.

Curious about the proliferation of slots in both online and offline casinos? It’s attributed to slots offering a comparatively modest RTP, thereby allowing casinos to amass greater profits—essentially, a more substantial house edge.

In the realm of slots, players amass coins by aligning reels along a victorious payline. Despite the allure of contemporary video slots that feature anywhere from 20 to 100 paylines, their expansive nature amplifies the house edge’s impact.

Consider a machine with 20 paylines as an illustration. Engaging all 20 lines optimizes your chances of securing a victory. However, restricting your play to just 10 paylines slashes your prospects in half. Consequently, by heightening the likelihood of losses, you concurrently elevate the casino’s prospects of triumph.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

💡 Our Suggestions 

If you’re resolute about indulging in casino slots, here are a couple of pointers to consider:

Opt for slots with the highest RTP

Goblin’s Cave, Ocean Princess, and Ugga Bugga, developed by Playtech, all boast RTPs surpassing 99%. This translates to a house edge of under 1% for these games.

Engage with the maximum number of paylines

By activating the complete array of paylines with each spin, you significantly enhance your odds of landing a victorious combination.

Select slots featuring bonus games

The most lucrative opportunities on slots often lie within bonus games. Look for titles that offer bonus levels granting free spins, such as Thunderstruck II or Immortal Romance, both crafted by Microgaming.

Progressive Jackpot Slots 

Progressive jackpot slots largely resemble standard slot games in most aspects. However, the pivotal distinction emerges when, beyond the usual minor wins achieved by aligning symbols across reels, players compete within a network to secure a substantial jackpot payout.

In premier online progressive games, these payouts can ascend to the multimillion-dollar range, constituting genuinely life-altering sums. It’s important to exercise caution though, as certain progressive games mandate that players place maximum bets across all available paylines per spin to be eligible.

💡 Our Advice

Once again, when dealing with progressive jackpot slots, it’s prudent to prioritize titles with the most favorable RTP. As of 2023, noteworthy options encompass Mega Fortune by NetEnt (96.6%), Gold Rally by Playtech (97.01%), and Hall of Gods by NetEnt (95.5%).

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The nature of a progressive slot’s jackpot, whether confined to a specific casino or linked across a network, can influence the game’s RTP. For instance, in the case of Arabian Nights by NetEnt, the RTP stands at 95.60% for a local jackpot and dips to 95.2% for a shared one. It’s also advisable to abstain from progressive slots if you’re not aiming for the jackpot, as this could substantially lower the RTP—dropping to 90.6% in the case of Arabian Nights.

Blackjack 

The landscape of traditional blackjack now encompasses diverse variations, both online and within brick-and-mortar U.S. casinos. The number of decks in play and any rule deviations all ripple through Blackjack’s house edge.

Standard House Edge

Blackjack intertwines player expertise with card luck, making the 0.5% house edge a general reference point. This value is premised on adeptly playing blackjack under standard rules and employing fundamental strategies.

For those unfamiliar with blackjack, the house edge could marginally increase, as a lack of familiarity may lead to suboptimal decisions resulting in busts or losses.

Employing Strategies

Comparable to poker, blackjack is a realm where strategic comprehension wields authority. Various tactics have emerged, promising players a means to safeguard their bankroll and mitigate the house edge’s impact.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Blackjack charts

Among the most widely embraced strategies for achieving success in blackjack is the utilization of a blackjack chart, which can be either downloaded or committed to memory. These charts are easily accessible online through a simple Google search for blackjack strategy. Within these charts, each conceivable outcome based on your cards and the dealer’s cards is depicted. They serve as a compass, directing you on the optimal course of action contingent upon the card combination on the table.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Composition strategies

Composition strategies delve into more intricate terrain compared to fundamental blackjack charts. However, before embarking on this strategy, a firm grasp of the charts is imperative. This approach hinges on leveraging the card values already dealt from the deck as a means to anticipate the remaining cards. Executed adeptly, it has the potential to reduce the house edge to a mere 0.18%, a figure that appears as promising on paper as 0%.

Card Counting 

In the realm of blackjack, card counting entails associating a numerical worth with each card within the deck, and continually tracking this count as cards are dealt. The prevalent approach in card counting is the hi-lo system, which designates values such as +1 to 2-6 cards, 0 to 7-9 cards, and -1 to 10s, Aces, and face cards. As the running count increases, players discern their advantageous position; conversely, a declining count bestows the advantage upon the casino.

Roulette

In roulette, the house edge fluctuates based on the game’s variant. Generally, American roulette yields lower returns to players over time compared to the more favorable house edge of French or European roulette. Numerous strategies have been devised by players to outsmart casinos in this widely enjoyed game.

American Roulette

The American roulette wheel encompasses 38 pockets, which include both 0 and 00 pockets. The table below details the house edge and corresponding payouts for all potential bets achievable on an American roulette table.

Your betThe payoutHouse edge
Red or black1:15.26%
Odd or even1:15.26%
1-181:15.26%
19-361:15.26%
1-122:15.26%
13-242:15.26%
25-362:15.26%
6 line5:15.26%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3)6:17.89%
4 numbers8:15.26%
3 numbers11:15.26%
2 numbers17:15.26%
Single number35:15.26%

Calculating the Casino Advantage To decipher the casino’s edge, one must contrast the true odds of an event with the payouts the house provides for it.

Consider predicting a single number as an example:

🎲 American roulette has 38 pockets in total: pockets 1-36 + 0 + 00 = 38.

🎲 True odds of guessing one single number correctly are 38:1, but the house pays out odds of 35:1.

🎲 On a $1 bet, the player wins back $36, which is $2 less than true odds would pay.

🎲 The $2 difference represents the house edge.

🎲 The house edge calculation in this case: 2 x (1/38) = 0.0526, or 5.26%.

This fundamental principle is applicable to determining the house edge across all American roulette bets.

An exception emerges with the initial five-number bet, exclusive to the American wheel. Regrettably known as the “sucker” bet in gambling circles, this bet entails elevated house odds of 7.89%. Hence, taking this bet is strongly discouraged.

European Roulette

European roulette adheres to analogous principles as its American counterpart, with one pivotal distinction: the absence of the 00 pocket. Although this single pocket may appear trivial, it profoundly alters the house’s advantage over players.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at the house edge prevalent in various European roulette bets:

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Your betThe payoutHouse edge
Red or black1:12.7%
Odd or even1:12.7%
1-181:12.7%
19-361:12.7%
1-122:12.7%
13-242:12.7%
25-362:12.7%
6 line5:12.7%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3)N/AN/A
4 numbers8:12.7%
3 numbers11:12.7%
2 numbers17:12.7%
Single number35:12.7%

Comparing the two, European roulette bets showcase a mere 2.7% house edge. This signifies that adopting the European approach could potentially yield more significant returns over time when compared to American roulette.

Visualizing the house edge as a percentage siphoned from every dollar gambled in a casino, European roulette results in a loss of 0.027 cents per dollar spent, contrasting with American roulette where the loss amounts to 0.0526 cents per dollar.

This substantial reduction of nearly half in the house edge can be attributed solely to the absence of the American 00 pocket in the European wheel. Eliminating this pocket reduces the possible true odds for single number bets to 37:1, while European roulette maintains a 35:1 payout. Consequently, the gap between actual odds and casino odds narrows to a solitary unit. Applying the house edge formula, this translates to an edge of 1 x (1/37) = 0.027 or 2.7%.

French Roulette

Contrasting with its European counterpart, French roulette bears a strong resemblance. The wheel upholds the pattern with 1-36 red and black pockets, housing only one 0 pocket. However, two distinct rules within the game further curtail the house edge.

Your betThe payoutHouse edge
Red or black1:11.35%
Odd or even1:11.35%
1-181:11.35%
19-361:11.35%
1-122:12.7%
13-242:12.7%
25-362:12.7%
6 line5:12.7%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3)N/AN/A
4 numbers8:12.7%
3 numbers11:12.7%
2 numbers17:12.7%
Single number35:12.7%

French roulette boasts a significantly diminished house edge of merely 1.35% for all even-money payout bets. This positioning establishes French roulette as the prime choice for players seeking rewarding experiences, both online and in physical casinos.

The underlying factors contributing to this remarkably low edge on even-money bets in French roulette are twofold:

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

En prison

The “En Prison” rule comes into play when the ball lands on zero in even-money bets. You have the option to preserve your bet on the table for the subsequent round. Should your bet emerge victorious, you reclaim your initial stake in its entirety.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

La partage

In “La Partage,” akin to the “En Prison” rule, when the ball lands on zero, wagers placed on even payouts will be evenly divided—50% to the bettor and 50% to the house. Consequently, you automatically regain half of your initial stake.

The incorporation of these two distinctive rules, coupled with the omission of a 00 pocket on the roulette wheel, renders it the most appealing roulette variant for gamblers aiming to outwit the house on its own turf.

Video Poker

Video poker thrives both in land-based casino consoles and the virtual realm online. Unlike traditional table play against fellow competitors, video poker pits you against the machine. Today’s selection encompasses a multitude of video poker iterations, spanning progressive and multi-hand formats, each presenting distinct paytables and varying house edges.

Executing Flawless Strategy

Similar to conventional poker, familiarity with poker dynamics empowers you to make more astute decisions in video poker games, augmenting your advantage over the house. When executed impeccably, the anticipated returns across key video poker variations are as follows:

Clearly, adeptly played video poker proffers the potential for substantial returns, and in select cases, a perfect strategy can even swing the advantage in your favor over the house.

Jacks Or Better

This variation awards payouts solely for a pair of Jacks or higher. Utilizing fundamental strategy, players can anticipate an approximate 99.46% RTP.

Deuces Wild

Notably, the most substantial wins stem from forming a royal or natural flush with the aid of two wild cards. A perfect play yields an expected RTP of 100.71%.

Bonus Poker

Recognized among the most lucrative video poker iterations, Bonus Poker offers payouts for 4-card combinations. The RTP hovers around 99.17%.

Joker Poker

Payouts occur with a pair of Kings or higher, the Joker acting as a wild card. With flawless execution, the projected RTP stands at 100.64%.

Double Bonus Poker

Earnings are dispensed for Jacks or higher, alongside 4-card combinations. Adherence to ideal strategy promises a return of approximately 100.17%.

As evident from the discussion, skillful play in video poker provides players with the opportunity to secure substantial returns, and in specific instances, employing a flawless strategy can even allow you to gain an advantage over the house.

💡 Our Recommendations

Mastering a perfect strategy is crucial for success in Video Poker, and adhering to these straightforward guidelines can further enhance your winnings:

Evaluate Paytables

Analogous to slots, video poker machines feature paytables outlining potential winnings for each successful hand. Notably, paytables for the same game can diverge in payout amounts. Hence, opt for machines with the most generous payouts to optimize your gains.

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Bet the Maximum

Opting for the highest wager not only amplifies your returns upon victory but also, in certain poker variants, choosing the maximum bet can yield superior odds compared to smaller wagers.

Preliminary Practice

Numerous online video poker games facilitate leisurely play. While you might not accrue earnings, this environment furnishes the ideal platform to refine a strategy that can eventually lead to triumph in real-money gameplay.

Video poker can emerge as a notably lucrative casino game when equipped with the right skills, especially if you actively seek out machines boasting superior RTP.

Baccarat

Though not as widely favored as some other casino games, Baccarat’s higher stakes may deter certain low-limit players. Nevertheless, the game is fundamentally straightforward, and adept play can diminish the house edge to a mere 1.01%. Consequently, players stand a solid chance of attaining an RTP of almost 100% on their wagers.

The ensuing comparison illustrates the house edge in distinct deck games, contingent on the bet you opt for.

Number of decksPlayer winsBanker winsTie
11.29%1.01%15.75%
61.24%1.06%14.44%
81.24%1.06%14.36%

As the data illustrates, the tie bet consistently favors the house with a substantial advantage over the player, regardless of the number of decks in use. Conversely, the wager with the most modest house edge is backing the banker to win.

Side Bets

To infuse added intrigue into baccarat, casinos have introduced the concept of side bets on hands, either as a substitute for or in conjunction with standard baccarat bets. These encompass:

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Tie bets

Certain online casinos extend improved odds on tie bets, effectively reducing the house edge to a noteworthy extent. This adjustment enhances the appeal of this wager among players, as the advantage disparity narrows and the potential RTP escalates.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Pair bets

Present exclusively in 8-deck games, this side bet bestows payouts when the initial two cards dealt to either the banker or player constitute a natural pair. The most lucrative outcome occurs with a perfect pair (matching suit and rank), resulting in a payout of 25:1.

Casino House Edge 101: Why Does the House Always Win?

Big or small bets

Connected to the aggregate card count, which can extend up to 6 in baccarat, this wager’s outcome hinges on the number of cards in play. When only two cards each are distributed, small bets prevail; however, if 5 or 6 cards populate the table, big bets emerge victorious.

Enhancing Your Advantage

In baccarat, you essentially wager blindly on which hand you believe will total closest to nine. Success or failure hinges on the luck of the draw. Yet, there are measures you can take to amplify your odds and minimize detrimental impacts on your bankroll.

Back the Banker for Victory

This bet boasts the most favorable house edge among the available choices. Therefore, placing your bets on the banker substantially boosts your chances of reaping higher returns on your wagers.

Avoid the Tie Bet

Even if you chance upon a casino offering improved odds on the tie bet, the inherent edge in this wager still means surrendering a greater portion of your winnings to the house overall.

Opt for Fewer Decks

The house edge on banker bets diminishes with a single deck compared to 8 or 6. Moreover, a greater number of cards in play elevates the likelihood of a tie outcome, bestowing the house with a broader advantage.

It’s noteworthy that players typically pay a commission on successful banker bets in baccarat. However, this is due to the player-friendly odds. Consequently, even accounting for this commission, backing the banker remains the wisest choice for any baccarat enthusiast.

Craps

The craps table often brims with excitement at casinos, as participants and observers anticipate the dice roll. Nonetheless, the diverse betting options contribute to a broader house edge in this classic game compared to others.

Bets and Their House Edge

The house edge in craps varies significantly, spanning from nil to a substantial 13.9%. The extent of your losses to the house over time hinges on the bets you place.

Here’s a glance at the leading Craps bets and their respective house edge.

BetPayoutHouse edge
Pass1:11.41%
Don’t pass1:11.36%
Pass oddsVaries0%
Don’t pass oddsVaries0%
Come1:11.41%
Don’t come1:11.36%
Come oddsVaries0%
Don’t come oddsVaries0%
Buy betsVaries4.76%
Hardways7:1 or 9:111.1% or 9.09%
Big 6 or 81:19.09%
Any 74:116.9%
Craps7:111.1%

While the 0% HE odds bets seem enticing, they are solely possible after a Pass/Don’t Pass or Come/Don’t Come bet. As such, the actual edge is influenced by the odds provided on these combined bets.

Multi-Roll Bets

In craps, betting unfolds over a process commencing with a come-out roll and evolving from there. Certain craps games transpire over multiple rolls, while others conclude swiftly after just one.

Multi-roll bets encompass wagers that extend beyond a single roll. These include:

It’s worth noting that while the enticement of larger payouts might render multi-roll bets appealing, the reality is that the house edge indicates these bets tend to yield less profit over time than those providing even money with a lower house edge.

Responsible Gambling

Exercising responsible gambling in the United States, whether online or offline, entails more than adhering to local regulations, though compliance with your state’s laws remains paramount.

Responsible gambling encompasses prudent management of your bankroll, avoiding wagers exceeding your financial means, maintaining a clear mindset while gambling, and treating fellow players and casino staff with respect.

Intimidation has no place in the workplace or in a leisure activity. So, please, exercise sensibility, respect, and responsibility while engaging in real-money casino gaming. Refer to our guide on problem gambling for further insight.

Gambler’s Fallacy

Even the most rational of gamblers can fall prey to the gambler’s fallacy. Despite your best efforts to uphold logic and rationality, prolonged winning streaks can cloud judgment. You may start believing that fortune consistently favors you and that losing is nearly inconceivable.

Such thinking epitomizes the gambler’s fallacy—the notion that external forces are at play, determining victory or defeat, rather than skill or randomness. The reality is that casino odds remain constant, irrespective of such beliefs. No amount of superstition can sway them in your favor.

Beware of presuming invincibility. In gambling, winners and losers coexist. Nobody is immune, regardless of their perceived “luck.” Always remember that luck can shift at any moment.