Your favorite pit games or slot machines have a built-in edge for the casino. Every game is like that. Mega-casinos in Las Vegas would not be operating unless they had some sort of advantage. This advantage, or edge, might seem like small percentage points, but those tiny edges built gaming empires in Las Vegas and Macau. Over the long run, the decimal points matter and dollars add up, especially when players “gamble it up” and stray away from well-established basic strategy.On the flip side, these edges that seem miniscule can also be used toward a gambler’s advantage. The casino mostly profits because gamblers are not playing optimal strategy. If you can play as close to optimal strategy as possible, you can reduce the house’s edge and tip the percentage points in your favor.Some games have a more favorable edge to the house, like roulette. Whereas other games, like blackjack, have the most favorable edge for the player. Compared to all casino games, blackjack is the most advantageous to play as both a casual gambler and professional player.
WHY DOES THE HOUSE EDGE MATTER?
The house edge typically does not come into casual conversation for tourists and holiday gamblers. Then again, even if you are an amateur gambler, you may want to seek out the games that offer you the best possible value. So you should pay attention to the house edge. The entire point of gambling is to have fun, but you might as well shop for the best possible value too! That way you can maximize your entertainment value by playing games that give you better edges than the average punter.If you are a more serious gambler, or even a professional gambler, then you can expect your losses over the long term to fall in line with the same percentage for the house edge. The math should work out so long as you play optimally.
First of all… what is the house edge? To simplify the math terminology, the edge is the ratio of the average loss to the initial bet. For example, the house edge in blackjack is roughly 0.5%. That means for every $10 wager, you will lose 5 cents on average.The house edge is often miscalculated as the ratio of the average loss to the initial bet. That is not the house edge!Why is the house edge important? Because the smaller the house edge is, the greater the chance that you will turn a profit. You also want to minimize your exposure to the house edge, so make fewer bets when you’re playing a game with a greater house edge.
You have to play optimal blackjack strategy in order to win over the long term. Sure, over a short term you can generate a quick profit and get away with playing loose or hitting/splitting on cards you shouldn’t. However, non-optimal strategy will catch up with you eventually.Stanford Wong, legendary professional sports bettor and gambler, wrote in one of his many books that he thinks the average blackjack player in Las Vegas is playing at a 2% disadvantage. The average house edge for multi-deck blackjack is 0.5%, so that means the average player is gambling with an added 1.5% disadvantage. According to Wong, the average player will expect to lose 15 cents per every $10 bet versus the standard 5 cents with optimal play.The house edge is determined by number of decks in the shoe. If you play single-deck blackjack, the edge is actually in favor of the player. As the number of decks increase, so too does the casino’s edge. Here are the edge numbers based on data from Theory of Blackjack by Peter Griffin:
- Single Deck: + 0.02%
- Double Deck: – 0.31%
- Four Decks: – 0.48%
- Six Decks: – 0.54%
- Eight Decks: – 0.57%
Compared to the other popular casino games, blackjack has the best odds in the favor of the player… even without playing optimal strategy. So you can imagine how much more value you can obtain by playing sharp and disciplined blackjack. Study those strategic charts (Soft and Hard Hands) and know when to double down, when to split, and what to do with soft Aces.If you are an avid blackjack player, then you know that you should never take insurance. The house edge is nearly 6% for insurance (based on a single deck).
Roulette’s edges are determined by the wheel: American or European. The European wheels use a single zero and the house edge is 2.7%. American wheels with a double zero have a house edge of 5.26%Roulette (with a double zero) has a fixed edge percentage of 5.26% because one spin will never alter the outcome’s odds. Whereas in games like craps or blackjack, the odds on certain wagers are constantly changing as the game progresses depending on the outcome of the dice or cards.
Craps is probably the most exciting game in a casino with so many people making different bets at the same time. The house edge varies based on different wagers that occur during one shooter’s roll.The best possible edge for a player is to make wagers on the Pass Line/Don’t Pass Line. The house edge for the Pass Line is 1.41%, whereas the house edge for the Don’t Pass Line is 1.36%.Overall, the house can expect to get an average additional edge of 0.8% for a poor craps player who makes “sucker” bets and does not follow optimal craps strategy.
In baccarat you can be the banker or the player. The banker has a 1.06% house edge, while the player has 1.24% edge. From a player’s standpoint, baccarat is more advantageous than roulette and craps, but blackjack has smaller house edge.
PLAY PROPER STRATEGY
In order to reduce the house edge, you have to play optimal strategy. It does not matter what game – roulette, blackjack, or craps – so long as you are playing correct strategy. If you deviate from the path, then you are only reducing your edge against the house and increasing it in their favor!Every percentage point counts. Blackjack has the best edge, followed by Baccarat, then Craps and lastly Roulette. And don’t forget to avoid tilt and play optimal strategy in order to reduce the house’s edge over the long run.