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House Edge

Understanding Casinos: House Edge

A casino (or any gambling facility) is a business that needs to make a profit to survive. While they could charge admission, the market-friendly way is to use the house edge.

A house edge is the advantage a casino has over other players in terms of gambling games. Essentially, an easy way to see the house edge is this: If you played a game with a spinning wheel that had one hundred numbers, but you could only win on forty-eight or under, then the house has a small edge (you win on 1-48, the house wins on 49-100.) It’s essentially a small, yet guaranteed mathematical advantage that pays out over time… for the house. Yet it’s small enough not to scare anyone away.

Of course the example above is a bit simplistic, and different games will have different house edge advantages. Some games like slot machines are based on percentages – they are programmed to pay out 90-something percent (depending on the casino, etc.) Roulette pays 35-1 on 37 numbers – that’s their house edge (also having a few greens and 0/00 not counting towards odd/even on the 2-1 bets.)

Other house edge advantages are based on optimal playing strategy. For example, the 0.5% house edge normally given to Blackjack is based on plays using “basic strategy”.

The house edge is also un-emotional. No hunches or wild plays are factored into the odds. However, since players do rely on hunches and gut feelings, the house edge is usually greater than what’s posted. For this reason, you’ll sometimes see two different sets for the house edge. One is given for optimal (non-emotional) play and another for historical average returns.

So we know that there’s a house edge that we have to live with… so what can we do about it? Well, to begin, you can become a better player. A very, very good blackjack or craps player can actually slightly tilt the odds to their favor.

But there’s even a better way – take advantage of what the casinos give you: Take that comp drink that’s offered to you. You want to give me tickets to Wayne Newton because I play here? Yes, I will take those tickets! Absolutely, I will take your $50.00 sign up bonus for new players! Free hotel room with a free dinner too? I don’t mind if I do!

So let’s not be too hard on the casinos. They provide a nice atmosphere for us to play our favorite games. It costs money for a building, tables, dealers, showgirls, air conditioning, and comps, so it’s only fair for them to make some profit. If it’s a virtual casino then they need to pay for webhosting, advertisements, and computers so we can have some fun. The edge is pretty small anyway since they only need a tiny percentage over time to be profitable. Any one player can get lucky and win big – they’ll make it up on other people (wait… maybe that’s what they want ALL of us to think… ahhh, so what? Gambling is fun!)

Just make sure you know your games. If you don’t know how to play a game, you’re giving the house a bigger edge. So brush up on that game to reduce their house edge. Walk away the big winner and let someone else lose big to balance out the percentage.

Good luck out there, and may you be the one to beat the house!