Key online casino tips: What is house edge and why is it important?

This is the first in what will be a series of articles looking at some of the best hints, tips, strategies and key concepts that you should at least have a basic understanding of, if you are to enjoy online (or indeed, offline) casino gaming to the full.

Sure, games like Mega Moolah are very simple to play, you pick the size of your bet and then hit spin and you don't actually need any other skills or knowledge to play the game. That is very different to a game such as poker, for example, which sees the most successful players being those who study the game, develop their skills and strategies to the highest levels in order for them to be able to compete against the best in the world.

However, it is wrong to think that all casino games are the same when it comes to offering players the same chance to win. That is indubitably not the case and the term we use to describe the chance a player has of winning, or more accurately how much the game is set up in favour of the casino itself, is the house edge.

What is the House Edge?

The house edge is simply a measurement of how much the odds are in favour of the casino in any type of casino game or slot when the game is played out over time. Every casino game has a built in house edge, although finding out what the house edge on some games, notably slots, can be far trickier than others.

The easiest way to see the house edge in action in an example, is using the game of roulette as an example and looking at the popular bet of backing a single number to win on a spin.

On a standard European roulette wheel, there are 36 red and black sectors, numbered from 1 to 36 and there is one green space, numbered zero. This means that there are 37 possible landing spots for the ball in a game, which means mathematically, given a fair wheel and an equal chance to land in any of the 37 slots on the wheel, this means you have a 1 in 37 chance of predicting the number correctly.

However, if you look at the pay out for this bet, you will notice that it is always around 35/1 for a successful bet. Still a healthy profit on your return, but this simple change means that on every spin, the casino has a house edge of 2.7%.

This house edge is the same for every bet on a single number, on every spin of the reel, so over time with that 2.7% advantage, the casino is always going to come out on top financially.

In the American roulette version of the game, there are two green sectors, a double zero slot along with a single zero slot. This gives the player a 38/1 chance of correctly guessing the number, but the casinos still tend to pay out at 35/1, which means that the house edge in American Roulette is closer to 5.26%, which means that over time, you are more likely to lose money playing this version of the game than you are the European version.

In this simple example, you can see why knowing what the House Edge is on any game is a very useful piece of information for players. The greater the house edge is on a game, then the more likely it is you will lose money playing it.

What are typical House Edge values for popular casino games?

Although the house edge on games can vary depending on the particular rules in place for certain games and in operation at certain casinos, there are some general rules of thumb available for you when it comes to the house edge on certain games.

  • Blackjack - 0.28%
  • Caribbean Stud Poker - 5.22%
  • Heads Up Hold'em - 2.36%
  • Keno - 25% to 29%
  • Roulette - 2.7 to 5.26% (depending on whether it is a single zero or double zero wheel)
  • Sic Bo - 2.78% - 33.33%
  • Slot Machines - 2% to 15%
  • Video Poker - 0.46% (Jacks or Better)

As you can see, for some games, the house edge is very small. Games like Blackjack and Video Poker offer the lowest house edge. Some options, such as slots and Sic Bo, offer a wide range of house edge depending on the slot players or the bet you make in Sic Bo. Some games, such as Keno offer a very large house edge so are not the best value for players to play, especially over the long term.

How to beat the House Edge?

There are essentially two things you need to do in order to beat the house edge on any casino games and unfortunately, you can only control one of these.

The first thing is the item that you cannot control. You have to be lucky. Casino games operate using a random number generator to decide the outcome of the game. That is true whether you are playing slot games, roulette or video poker. You cannot influence the numbers that the random number generator will pick.

Therefore, your only hope, as with almost every type of game of chance, is to hope that you get lucky when you play and land a win. If you do land a win and have earned a profit, then treasure it because you have beaten the odds.

The next thing you need to do, which you CAN control, is to stop playing! This is the only way you can beat the house edge. It is also incredibly difficult to do, as if you have landed a decent win playing a game, you can get the feeling your luck is 'in' and that if you play on, you could win even more money. This is known as the Gamblers Fallacy and it is entirely based on false assumptions.

We already know that the house edge in a game guarantees that over time, the casino will make a profit and you will make a loss. Therefore, if you play through 50 spins on a slot for example and end up making a profit of £100, and you then decide to play through more spins to try and gamble that £100 up to a larger number, we know the house edge will make this unlikely to happen.

The odds are, if you do this, then you are simply going to gamble back your winnings to the casino over time.

So, the only way to beat the house edge is if you win a decent sized prize, withdraw that money. Then you actually have tangible proof that you have beat the casino on this occasion, money in your account which you can then spend on something else.

Many gamblers opt not to withdraw winnings, saying they will simply use this money at a later date and while it means you may not have to deposit cash into your account as often, it does mean that you never really win anything either, as all your winnings will eventually go back to the casino.

I think being able to withdraw your cash and enjoy your winnings away from the casino is a very underrated skill for punters and I recommend that you should get into the habit of doing so as it is the only way you can beat the house edge on those lucky winning bets.

Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.

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