By Jasmine Jones
There is a truism that very little in life is free. You do not get free food; you must pay for your automobile, and no one except your parents allows you to live rent-free.
The same can be said of casino gaming. Should casinos be expected to let you play if they cannot make a profit? While you might think that is the fair solution, when you dwell on it a while longer, you will conclude that casinos would not exist if they did not make a profit.
And with no casinos, where would we go for our gaming entertainment?
With all this in mind, you can now come to accept two things. Firstly, the casino needs to make money, and, secondly, introducing a house edge to all games is the way to go about it.
What is the House Edge?
The house edge is the percentage amount that you are expected to lose on any particular casino game. When we say expected, it’s based purely on the odds of you winning and the statistical probability of you actually doing so.
It’s based on a long-term assumption that the house edge is the number that would be realistic if you played an infinite number of blackjack hands – even if you read all the blackjack books – or infinite spins on the roulette wheel. Of course, in the short term, the variance will come into play. You might, for example, have one spectacular roulette session and walk away a winner, or you could get lucky and pick up a big jackpot win on the slots.
But, statistically speaking, you will not win in the long run. The exception to this rule is if you won a multi-million dollar jackpot on a slot machine, you would not put this all back in the machine again unless you were a terrible gambler.
The house edge is displayed as a percentage. It will differ from one table game or slot to another, which is why, if you care about these things, you should choose to play games with the lowest house edge.
Baccarat, for example, has a house edge of only around 0.5%. This means that for every $100 you bet on baccarat, you are expected to lose 50 cents. That does not sound a lot, and it isn’t. If you are playing in a live Las Vegas casino like The Mirage, you might be getting free cocktails on the house while you play – suddenly losing a small amount over time doesn’t seem too bad.
House Edge in Blackjack
Blackjack is an interesting example because, unlike other casino games, you can influence the house edge. In European versions of the game of roulette, it is 2.70%, but in American roulette, where you have an additional double zero segment, it goes up to 5.26%. No matter how skilled a roulette player you think you are, you cannot alter those numbers. The game is purely down to luck, and the balance of probabilities will not shift.
But with blackjack, you can improve your odds by playing the basic blackjack strategy. Doing so introduces enough skill into the game to reduce the odds by quite a lot. Sadly, not enough to give even a good player the edge, and this applies live or online at platforms like STS Casino.
The books say the casino has a house edge in blackjack of around 2%, but by applying some strategy to your game, you can bring it down to as low as 0.5%. That’s not as hard as you think. The easiest way to improve is to download one of the many blackjack hand charts free from Google.1)Or, of course, you can review the basic strategy charts right here on BlackjackReview.com. Also, the rules of the game affect the house edge so you should always be looking for games with the best rules. When you do, you will see the optimum play to make in any given situation, whatever your two cards are in relation to the dealer’s up-card.
You will see when it is optimal to stand, to take another card, to double down, and to split. When you play in this manner, and the house edge comes down to a wafer-thin 0.5%, the balance of probabilities dictate you have a far better chance of walking away with a profit after any single or couple of sessions. The trick, like it is with all forms of gambling, is to walk away from the table when you are ahead; it’s the only sure-fire way of banking a profit.
Apart from baccarat, which we mentioned earlier, the only other casino game with a slender house edge is video poker. It’s also close to 0.5%, and you can play long sessions without necessarily losing sizeable amounts. And that is why shrewd casino bosses embed video poker machines in the bar tops – punters will happily sit for hours, gradually losing money while buying drinks from the bartender!