If you’ve been playing casino games for any length of time, you’ve probably already figured out that the house wins the majority of the time.
We all understand this basic fundamental going into a casino. After all, there are very few poor casino owners, and the old saying “The house always wins” certainly seems to be true.
Yet while the house edge gives the house a mathematically guaranteed advantage over the long term, it doesn’t mean that Lady Luck can’t help you slip through the net for a life-changing win.
It’s also important to note that not every casino game has the same house edge. In this piece, we’ll explore what house edge is, how it works, and what the house edge of different games is.
What Exactly Is the House Edge?
The best way to understand house edge is as the casino’s margin. No matter how many players win a game in the short term, in the long term the casino will make money due to the built-in mathematics of each game.
The house edge in a game of American Roulette is 5.26% on average. This means that no matter what you do, the casino always has a better chance of winning than you do. You can use strategies, systems, and cheats all you want, but the house will win 5.26% more of the time than it will lose.
Does this mean the casino is cheating? No – it’s widely available information for anyone who cares to take the time to research. Online casinos often publish their game payouts directly on their websites, letting all players know what edge each game has.
If you’re still struggling to grasp it, let’s put it like this – if you bet $100 on a game of American Roulette, it’s likely that the casino will make a profit $5.26. Even if you win on that specific night, the casino will beat the majority of other players, taking 5.26% from most of them.
With enough players sitting down at the tables, you can begin to understand how casinos are so rich. It’s like the flat fee that casinos charge for access to their games.
How did you think the casino pays all those live dealers, runs its websites on advanced, encrypted connections, and has the cash flow to pay out jackpots worth tens of thousands, plus buy the owner a new Ferrari every year? Now you know…it’s the house edge at work!
Is the House Edge the Same at All Casinos?
There are generally accepted averages which can be expected at most online casinos and land-based casinos, too. Going back to the American Roulette example, you can expect the house edge to be roughly 5.26%, whether you’re playing in Macau or Las Vegas.
However, there are a few factors which influence this. These factors include:
- Software – It’s well known that some casino software firms differ in the exact percentages when it comes to the house edge built into their games. These differences will be negligible, but a 0.05% difference can add up to massive amounts of money over a long enough timeline.
- Variant – There are different variants of many casino games. For example, there’s American Roulette, and there’s European roulette. The difference between the two is huge. While the house edge of most American Roulette games is 5.26%, European Roulette games typically have a house edge of 2.7% – that’s significant over the course of thousands of spins.
- Bet – The house edge of a game is not necessarily fixed. It can vary depending on what type of bet you make within the game. A good example of this is baccarat. If you bet on the player, the house edge is 1.24%; If you bet on the banker, it’s 1.06%; and if you bet on a tie, then it’s 14.36%.
Which Games Have the Lowest House Edge?
The type of bet you make greatly influences the house edge in baccarat. Player bets give the house an edge of 1.24%, banker bets give the house a 1.06% edge, and tie bets give the house an edge of 14.36%.
There’s a reason so many players play blackjack professionally or on a regular basis with the objective of making money. It has an extremely low house edge.
Assuming you’re playing a game of standard blackjack with standard Vegas rules, the house edge will be 0.28%. That still gives the casino the advantage over the long run, but if you use perfect blackjack strategy, it’s possible to win on any given night.
There’s no doubt that craps is one of the most exciting games in the casino. Going on a roll is quite a rush, and your money can multiply rapidly. However, the type of bet you make can greatly influence your chances of success.
There are many types of craps bet. Check out our dedicated craps section to learn about all of them and their various house edges. Here, let’s just say that the range goes from 0% (odds bets) to 16.67% (sevens).
Needless to say, don’t place sevens bets. If you’re interested in learning more, our in-depth craps page can help.
Keno is well known among experienced casino players as having the worst odds in the house. It has a massive house edge, as do most lotto games. Why do people still play, then? Well, because keno is a lot of fun, and big life-changing wins do happen.
You can expect the house edge in most games of keno to be between 25% and 30%. Just play keno for fun and don’t expect to win most of the time. It’s all about getting lucky and winning big that one time.
While it might come as a surprise to new casino players that there are different variants of blackjack and roulette, almost everyone already knows there are different variants of poker.
Once again, it pays to know which type of game you’re playing.
- Caribbean Stud gives the house an edge of 5.22%
- Heads Up Hold’em gives the casino an edge of 2.36%
- Let It Ride gives the house a 3.51% edge
- Pai Gow has a house edge of 1.46%
- Red Dog has an average house edge of 2.8%
- Three Card Poker has an edge of 7.28% on PairPlus bets, while it gives the house an edge of 3.37% if you make ante and play bets
Remember, there are two common types of roulette – American and European.
You can play all the different roulette strategies and systems you want, but it won’t alter the math behind roulette games. American variants will take 5.26% over the long run, and European variants will take 2.7%.
There’s no such thing as a “standard” slot machine. They come in all shapes and types, with features, jackpots, and pay tables unique to each game.
It really does pay to do your research when it comes to slots. The house edge ranges from 2% to 15%, depending on the game. Talk about a difference!
Now we come to the favorite game of players who understand house edge and the math behind casino games.
Some variants of video poker give you the edge when played with perfect strategy.
If you play full-pay Deuces Wild with optimal strategy, then you can expect a house edge of -0.76%. This gives you the upper hand, and the casino is banking on you messing up your strategy.
However, there are other types of video poker which don’t give you an edge, no matter how refined your strategy. Jacks or Better is an example of such a game. The best you can hope for here is a house edge of 0.54%.
No matter which way you look at it, video poker is the best game if you want to make money playing casino games. It does take time and effort to master video poker strategy, though.
House Edge Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does the house edge mean I can’t ever win casino games?
A. No, it doesn’t. There are lots of true stories of slots players winning tens of millions even when the games they were playing clearly had a house edge. It just means the casino will make money over a long enough timeline, no matter what. Remember that for every win, there are more losers.
It’s perfectly possible to slip through the net and score a win. That’s what makes casino game exciting, and if you consistently lost every time you played, casinos wouldn’t still be in business after existing for hundreds of years.
Q. How do I know I can trust the payout and house edge figures published by casino software firms?
A. That’s a great question. You should never trust any online entity at face value. Luckily for casino players, there are third parties set up with the sole purpose of verifying the published payout figures through testing.
eCOGRA is an example of one such third party. This organization tests many casino games and published reports on whether or not the claims of the software providers match up with the facts.
All Microgaming games are verified by eCOGRA, so you can be sure that its games are honest and that the house edge is as published.
Q. What does the term RTP mean in relation to house edge and game payouts?
A. RTP is an acronym for Return to Player. It’s the amount returned to the player given the total bet. For example, if a slot has an RTP of 97% and you bet $100, the theoretical return will be $97 over the long term. Thus, no matter what, the house takes a percentage of all gameplay.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re guaranteed to get $97 back out of every $100, though. You could easily lose $100 in one sitting. It just means that $97 of that is paid back at some point to someone. There could be a lucky player on the other side of the world who collects $970 while dozens of players lose $1,000 collectively.
Q. Are there any casino cheats or ways to manipulate the house edge which actually work?
A. The short and simple answer is no. There are some casino game strategies which can improve your odds (see video poker above), but in the end, the house always wins.
Casino cheats don’t work. It’s actually you who get cheated when you pay for them!