Casino House Edge Explained

Ever wondered how casinos make a profit? It's all down to players losing bets right? Actually no. Casino games all have a built-in advantage that works to the casino's favor. It's called the House Edge and in this guide we're going to tell you all about it - and how you can beat it.

What Is House Edge?

The house edge is also known as the casino advantage. And it's something that exists on every table game, lotto, or slot in a casino online or on land.

House edge tells you:

Tells You Mouse
How much each game pays out on average over its lifespan
Tells You Money
Which games offer players the best returns on their bets

This casino advantage is the product of the games themselves and not set by individual casinos. So no matter where you choose to invest your dollar, if you're betting on casino games, the fact is you can't escape the house edge.

Using Your House Edge Knowledge

The great thing about the house edge (from a player's point of view) is that it can be used as a guide to tell you which games are the most profitable.

Games with a high house edge will obviously pay out less on average over time compared to those that have a house edge that's lower. So using this information - which is readily available - you can avoid getting stung by games that give the casino a massive advantage over the player.

Game Comparison & Recommendations

This casino advantage is the product of the games themselves and not set by individual casinos. So no matter where you choose to invest your dollar, if you're betting on casino games, the fact is you can't escape the house edge.

Type Of Casino Game House Edge
American Roulette 5.26%
Baccarat 1.01% - 15.75%
Blackjack 0.5%
Craps 0 - 16.67%
Keno 20 - 40%
Slots 2 - 15%
Video Poker 0.46%
Caribbean Stud 5.22%
Hold'em 2.36%
Sic Bo 2.78 - 33.33%

You'll notice that in some cases the house edge is variable. This isn't down to the casino, but certain conditions within the game itself.

The edge is for classic blackjack played with a single 52-card deck, where face cards count as 10s and aces as 11 (or 1 if the ace would cause the player to naturally bust).

The edge differs depending on whether you're betting on the banker, player or a tie result to win.

A player's own strategy and the number of checks, raises and folds, across a series of hands, is incremental to Hold'em's house edge.

How much the house stands to gain is dependent on the individual action of each player taking part in a hand.

Edge is affected by the number of reels and paylines a slot machine has, and how many of those paylines a player chooses to play.

The house edge is affected by the inclusion of a double 00 pocket on the wheel that doesn't exist in European and French roulette.

The edge varies depending on the house rules and how many numbers a player marks on their Keno card out of the total available.

The edge is dictated by the individual betting possibilities in Craps, such as pass/don't pass, come/don't come, odds, place, and field bets.

Paytables and side bets affect the edge the house has over players on each individual video poker machine.

The edge you'll play against in Sic Bo is determined by the odds and table layout you�re playing with as well as the bets you make.

Slots

Unlike some casino games, where skill and expertise can improve your chances of winning, with online slots every player is equal and there's no way to better your odds. All you can do is select the number of paylines you want to play, hit go, and hope for the best result.

RTP explained…
RTP stands for Return To Player. In slots it represents how much an individual machine has paid out over its lifespan, in relation to how much money players have paid in. If you're looking at RTP as a percentage, the amount needed to get up to 100% is the house edge. So, if a slot pays out an RTP of 90% then 10% is the machine's house edge.
Slot RTP Explained

Paylines & House Edge

Ever wondered why online and offline casinos have so many slots games? It's because slots offer players a relatively low RTP, so this is where the casino stands to make more profit - or in other words its biggest house edge.

In slots players win coins by matching reels across a winning payline. And while today's modern video slots, that offer anything between 20-100 paylines, seem great because they offer more chances for players to win. The fact is the more paylines a game has, the bigger the impact on house edge.

Let's take the example of a machine with 20 paylines. Play all 20 each time and your chances of landing a win are maximized. But, play just 10 paylines, and you've effectively just cut your odds by half. And by increasing your chances of losing you're incrementally increasing the casino's chances of winning.

Slots Paytable
Online slots paytables will provide you with all the information you need on paylines and payouts.

Our Recommendations

If you're dead set on playing casino slots, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

Slots Magnifying Glass
Seek out the slots with the highest RTP.
Goblin's Cave, Ocean Princess, and Ugga Bugga from Playtech all have RTPs of over 99%. Meaning the house edge of these games is lower than 1%.
Slots Paylines
Play the max number of paylines.
Playing the total number of paylines each time will ensure that you maximize your chances of landing a winning line.
Slots Bonus Games
Play slots with bonus games.
Bonus games are where the most money can be made on slots. Seek out games with bonus levels that reward you with free spins such as Thunderstruck II or Immortal Romance by Microgaming.

Progressive Jackpot Slots

Progressive jackpot slots play out just like a regular slot game for the most part. The key difference is that, as well as the regular small wins you can make by matching symbols across the reels, you're also competing against a network of other players to land a huge jackpot payout.

At the top progressive games online this can be upwards of millions of dollars, so we're talking truly life-changing sums. Just be careful as, to qualify, some progressives require players to play the max bet across the max number of paylines each spin.

Our Recommendations

Again, with progressive jackpot slots it pays to seek out the titles with the best RTP, which in 2018 include: Mega Fortune by NetEnt (96.6%), Gold Rally by Playtech (97.01%), and Hall of Gods by NetEnt (95.5%).

Whether the jackpot is local to the casino, or across a network, can also affect a progressive slot game's RTP. In the case of Arabian Nights by NetEnt, the RTP is 95.60% if local, versus 95.2% if shared. It's also worth avoiding progressive slots if you don't intend to play for the jackpot, as this can bring the RTP down dramatically - 90.6% in Arabian Night's case.

Blackjack

You can now find several variations of traditional Blackjack, both online and at offline casinos in the U.S. How many decks you play with, as well as any rule differences, all have a knock-on effect to blackjack's house edge.

Standard House Edge

Blackjack is a game that relies (in part) on a player's knowledge of what it takes to win, as much as the luck of the cards drawn. For that reason, the 0.5% house edge is considered a general indication - based on playing blackjack perfectly using the standard rules and basic strategy.

If you have no clue about blackjack whatsoever, then it would be fair to say that the house edge would increase a little. As your inexperience is more likely to lead you to poor decisions that see you go bust or lose.

Using Strategy

Like poker, blackjack is a game where knowledge and judgment yield power. To that end, several strategies have surfaced which promise players a way to protect their bankroll and minimize the house's edge.

Blackjack Charts
One of the most popular blackjack strategies for success is to download or memorize a blackjack chart. You'll find these for free in plenty of places online via a quick Google search for blackjack strategy. These charts show you every possible outcome for the cards you and the dealer hold. Guiding you on which decision to take depending on the cards on the table.
Composition Strategies
Composition strategies are a little more advanced than basic blackjack charts, but you'll need to first know the charts before you can put this strategy into practice. The technique relies on using the card values that have come out of the deck as a guide to what cards might be remaining. Done well, it can bring the house edge down to as little as 0.18%. Which is as good on paper as 0.

Card Counting

Card counting in blackjack involves assigning a numerical value to each card in the deck and keeping a running count of the cards as they're dealt. The most common card counting strategy is the hi-lo system, whereby 2-6 cards are given a value of +1, 7-9 cards count as 0 and 10, Ace and faces are -1. If the running count goes up than players know they're at an advantage, but when it's down the advantage is in the casino's favor.

Roulette

With roulette the house edge goes up or down depending on the style of game you're playing. American roulette typically offers players the worst returns over time, while a lower house edge can be found if you play roulette the French or European way.

American Roulette

In American roulette the wheel has 38 pockets, including a 0 and 00 pocket. The below table shows the house edge, and the payout, on all possible bets players can place on an American roulette table.

Your Bet The Payout House Edge
Red or Black 1:1 5.26%
Odd or Even 1:1 5.26%
1-18 1:1 5.26%
19-36 1:1 5.26%
1-12 2:1 5.26%
13-24 2:1 5.26%
25-36 2:1 5.26%
6 line 5:1 5.26%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3) 6:1 7.89%
4 numbers 8:1 5.26%
3 numbers 11:1 5.26%
2 numbers 17:1 5.26%
Single number 35:1 5.26%

Calculating the House Edge

If you want to work out how the house gets its edge you only need look at true odds of an outcome occurring versus what the house will pay out for it.

Let's take the example of correcting predicting a single number bet:

  • An American roulette has 38 pockets in total: pockets 1-36 + 0 + 00 =38.
  • So the true odds of guessing one single number correctly are 38:1 but the house only pays out odds of 35:1.
  • So on a $1 bet the player wins back $36. $2 less than the true odds would pay back.
  • That $2 represents the house edge. Which in this case would be calculated as: 2 x (1/38) = 0.0526 - or 5.26%.

You can use this basic principle to work out the house edge on all bets in American roulette.

The difference comes with the first five number bet (only possible on the American wheel). This bet incidentally is known in gambling circles as the "sucker" bet because the house odds jump up to 7.89%. So it's never recommended to take this bet.

European Roulette

European roulette follows the same principles of American roulette but with one key exception - the wheel has no 00 pocket. The absence of this one pocket might not seem significant, but it has a huge affect on the edge that the house has over players.

To illustrate, let's take a look at the house edge offered on different bets in European Roulette:

Your Bet The Payout House Edge
Red or Black 1:1 2.7%
Odd or Even 1:1 2.7%
1-18 1:1 2.7%
19-36 1:1 2.7%
1-12 2:1 2.7%
13-24 2:1 2.7%
25-36 2:1 2.7%
6 line 5:1 2.7%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3) N/A N/A
4 numbers 8:1 2.7%
3 numbers 11:1 2.7%
2 numbers 17:1 2.7%
Single number 35:1 2.7%

As you can see, the same bets in European roulette only have a 2.7% house edge. Meaning, if you play the European way, you'll actually make more money back over time, compared to playing American roulette.

If we look at the house edge as a percentage shaved off of every dollar invested into a casino then in European roulette for every dollar you spend you're losing 0.027 cents versus American roulette where you're down 0.0526 cents on every dollar.

This decrease of almost half in the house edge rests entirely on the absence of the American 00 pocket from the European wheel. By taking away this pocket the true odd possibilities reduce to 37:1 for single number bets, which in European roulette still pay out 35:1. This reduces the difference between the true odds and casino odds to just 1 unit. So, using our house edge math we can calculate the edge as 1 x (1/37) = 0.027 or 2.7%.

French Roulette

French Roulette by comparison is very similar to its European cousin. The wheel follows suit with 1-36 red and black pockets, and just one 0 pocket, but there are two rules within the game that reduce the house edge even further.

Your Bet The Payout House Edge
Red or Black 1:1 1.35%
Odd or Even 1:1 1.35%
1-18 1:1 1.35%
19-36 1:1 1.35%
1-12 2:1 2.7%
13-24 2:1 2.7%
25-36 2:1 2.7%
6 line 5:1 2.7%
1st 5 (0-00-1-2-3) N/A N/A
4 numbers 8:1 2.7%
3 numbers 11:1 2.7%
2 numbers 17:1 2.7%
Single number 35:1 2.7%

In French roulette, the house edge is reduced to just 1.35% for all bets that payout even money. Making French roulette the best one for players to seek out online and at land based casinos.

The reason the edge is so low on even money bets in French roulette boils down to two things:

En Prison
En prison comes into force when the ball lands on zero in even money bets. You can freeze your bet on the table to stand for the next round. If it wins you get back 100% of your original stake.
La Partage
In La Partage, similar to en prison, when the ball lands on zero, any bets made on even payouts will be split 50/50 between the bettor and the house. So you automatically receive half of your original stake back.

It's the inclusion of these two unique rules, and the absence of a 00 pocket on the roulette wheel, that makes it the most attractive roulette style for those gamblers looking to beat the house at their own game.

Video Poker

Video poker is played on consoles at land casinos, or virtually online. Instead of going up against other players around a table, it's just you versus the machine. Today there are hundreds of different video poker variations to choose from, including progressive and multi-hand games - all offering unique paytables and different house edges.

Playing Perfect Strategy

Just like with regular poker, knowledge of poker play can help you make better calls and judgments in video poker games - improving your player edge over the house. Played perfectly, here are the expected returns you stand to yield on the main video poker variations:

As you can see, played well Video Poker offers players the chance to net some high returns, and in some cases the perfect strategy will even see you snatch the advantage over the house.

Video Poker Jacks Or Better
Jacks Or Better
Only pays out on pair Jack or higher. Using basic strategy players can expect around a 99.46% RTP.
Video Poker Deuces Wild
Deuces Wild
The biggest wins come from forming a royal or natural flush using one of two wild cards. Expect a 100.71% RTP if played perfectly.
Video Poker Bonus Poker
Bonus Poker
One of the most profitable video poker variants. Payouts are offered on 4-card combinations. RTP is around 99.17%.
Video Poker Joker Poker
Joker Poker
Pays out on a pair King or higher with the Joker being a wild card. The predicted RTP is 100.64% performed perfectly.
Video Poker Double Bonus Poker
Double Bonus Poker
Wins are paid out on Jacks or higher, and 4-card combos. Perfect strategy will see you net a 100.17% return.

As you can see, played well, Video Poker offers players the chance to net some high returns, and in some cases the perfect strategy will even see you snatch the advantage over the house.

Our Recommendations

Perfect strategy will help you win at Video Poker, but you can also maximize the amount you take home by sticking to these simple rules:

Video Poker Compare Paytables
Compare Paytables
Just like in slots video poker machines come with paytables that show you what you stand to win for each winning hand. Not every paytable - even for the same game - pays out the same amount. So shop around for the highest payouts possible.
Video Poker Max Bet
Bet The Max Bet
Not only will staking the maximum wager give you back higher returns when you win, but in some poker variants playing the max bet will actually pay out higher odds than if you wagered a lower amount.
Video Poker Free First
Practice For Free First
There are plenty of online video poker games that allow you to play for fun. Ok so you won't make any money back, but this gives you the perfect chance to perfect a strategy that will help you win in real money games.

Video poker can be one of the most profitable games at a casino, if you know how to play and you seek out the machines offering the best RTP.

Baccarat

Baccarat may not be as popular as some casino games, and its higher stakes may put some low-limit players off. But, the game is actually very simple, and played well the house edge can be as low as just 1.01%. So it offers players a good chance of seeing almost 100% RTP on their wagers.

Here you can compare the house edge in different deck games, based on the bet you make.

No of Decks Player Wins Banker Wins Tie
1 1.29% 1.01% 15.75%
6 1.24% 1.06% 14.44%
8 1.24% 1.06% 14.36%

As the statistics demonstrate, the tie bet is consistently the one where the house has a huge advantage over the player regardless of the number of decks in play. Whereas the bet with the lowest house edge is banker to win.

Side Bets

One of the ways casinos have sought to make baccarat more interesting is by offering the option of side bets on hands. Which can be made instead of, or on top of, standard baccarat bets. These include:

Tie Bets
Some online casinos offer higher odds on tie bets that lower the house edge significantly - making this bet more attractive to players, because the advantage gap is closed and the potential RTP is higher.
Pair Bets
This side bet is offered in 8-deck games and pays out when either the banker or player get dealt a natural pair as their first two cards. A perfect pair (same suit and rank) pays out the highest at 25:1.
Big or Small Bets
This bet relates to the total number of cards in play, which in baccarat can be up to 6. If just two cards apiece are dealt small bets win, but if 5 or 6 cards make it onto the table then big bets win.

Reducing House Edge

In baccarat you're essentially betting blind on whose hand you think will add up to a total closest to nine. So whether you win or lose depends on the luck of the draw. But, there are a couple of things you can do to help your chances and minimize too many hits to your bankroll.

Baccarat Banker To Win
Back The Banker To Win
This bet has the lowest house edge out of the three betting choices, so it makes sense to bet on the banker because that's where you'll see the highest returns on your wager.
Video Poker Max Bet
Never Take The Tie Bet
Even if you manage to track down a casino where the odds offered on the tie bet are better, the edge on this bet still means that you'll be giving away a bigger proportion of your win to the house overall.
Video Poker Free First
Play With Fewer Decks
The edge on banker bets is lower with 1 deck than with 8 or 6 and having more cards in play increases the chances of a tie result occurring, which gives the house a bigger edge.

One other thing to note about baccarat is that players typically pay a commission on banker bets that come good, but this is because the odds are stacked in the player's favor. So even factoring this in, backing the banker to win is still the most advisable course of action for any baccarat bettor.

Craps

The craps table is usually the hive of excitement at a casino. As players and spectators eagerly anticipate the roll of the dice. But multiple betting options mean this classic game has a wider house edge than any other.

Bets & Their House Edge

The house edge in craps varies considerably, from nothing at all, to a whopping 13.9% and how much you'll forfeit to the house over time all boils down to the bets you place.

Here's a look at the most popular Craps bets and their respective HE.

Bet Payout House Edge
Pass 1:1 1.41%
Don't Pass 1:1 1.36%
Pass Odds Varies 0%
Don't Pass Odds Varies 0%
Come 1:1 1.41%
Don't Come 1:1 1.36%
Come Odds Varies 0%
Don't Come Odds Varies 0%
Buy Bets Varies 4.76%
Hardways 7:1 or 9:1 11.1 or 9.09%
Big 6 or 8 1:1 9.09%
Any 7 4:1 16.9%
Craps 7:1 11.1%

While the odds bets at 0% HE obviously seem the most attractive, they can only be made following a Pass/Don't Pass or Come/Don't Come bet. So the actual edge is influenced by the odds offered on these combined bets.

Multi Roll Bets

In craps betting takes place across a process that begins with a come out roll and evolves from there. Some craps games might take place over several rolls, while others can be quickly stitched up after just one.

Multi-roll bets are craps bets that can't be settled on just one roll only. These bets include:

Craps Hardway
Hardway
When both dice show the same number (for example, a hard 6 is achieved on rolls which end in both dice showing a 3).
Craps Easyway
Easyway
The opposite of hardway - an easyway bet is a bet on both dice showing different faces. An easyway 6 could be formed by a 1 and a 5.
Craps Big 6 and 8
Big 6 and 8
Experienced craps players consider this bet the sucker bet of craps. The payout is 1:1 however, betting on a 6 or an 8 in a place/buy bet pays more money. Some casinos avoid offering big 6 or 8 bets altogether.
Craps Place Buy Bets
Place/Buy Bets
You're betting on an individual number to be rolled ahead of a 7 (in the come area of the game). Payouts don't reflect true odds and a commission is usually paid to the casino on wins.
Craps Lay Bets
Lay Bets
Opposite of a buy/place bet. You're betting on a 7 to roll before the laid number. Lay bets pay true odds but still incur a house commission.

With multi-roll bets it's worth bearing in mind that while the lure of higher payouts might make the bet seem more attractive on the surface. In reality the house edge is an indication you'll make less money on these bets over time. Than you would do those that payout even money with a lower house edge.

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Craps Cheat Sheet

Responsible Gambling

Gambling responsibly in America (whether online or offline) isn't just a case of abiding by local laws - although making sure you stay within the remit of the law in your state is a top priority.

Responsible gambling is also about making sure that you manage your bankroll carefully, never betting beyond your financial means. In addition to keeping a clear head when you gamble, and showing respect for your fellow players and casino personnel.

No one should have to feel intimidated while doing their job, or while indulging in a pastime they enjoy. So please, be sensible, respectful and responsible while taking part in casino gaming for real money. Read our guide to problem gambling for more information.

Gamblers Fallacy

Even the most levelheaded of gamblers isn't immune from gamblers fallacy. Try as you may to keep logic and reason front of mind, when you're on a hot streak, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Thinking that luck is on your side and losing is somehow out of the question.

That way of thinking is the definition of gamblers fallacy. It's the belief that higher forces are at work, and that winning, or losing, is down to something other than skill or randomness. The fact is casino odds are what they are. No amount of lucky rabbit's feet will swing them in your favor.

So be wary of thinking you can't lose. In gambling, there always has to be winners and losers. No one is immune. No matter how 'lucky' they might seem. Never forget, that so-called luck can change at any given second.

Discover More

Like this guide? We've got plenty more expertise and advice where this came from. Take a look at some of our other online gambling resources below.