Gambling – Understanding the house edge


Anyone playing casino games of any kind, whether online or off, will hear a lot about the house edge. This applies to table games like baccarat, roulette and craps, as well as slot machines. It’s how casinos make a profit, and they’re upfront about the fact that it exists. Yet this concept is still not always understood by even the most dedicated of players.

House odds

Put simply, the house edge is defined as the difference between the true odds of any given game and the actual odds that a casino pays out. These are usually fixed for different games and are expressed in terms of a percentage. This percentage can be seen as the amount of your original bet that you will lose if you keep playing long enough.

The easiest example of the house edge can be found in the game of roulette. Including zero, there are 37 numbers on the wheel in the European and British version of the game. If you bet on one of those numbers, the true odds are 36-1. Therefore if you bet £1 and win you might reasonably expect to get £37 back. However, in fact if your number comes up, the casino only pays out 35 times your original bet, so you will only win £35. This is expressed as a house edge of 2.7%- the standard house edge for roulette.

Finite outcomes

Dice games also have a fixed house edge because as with a roulette wheel there is a finite number of outcomes and these are decided purely by chance rather than by skill. Games of skill, such as blackjack or poker, can be considered to have a house edge as well but this is more complex and can vary according to the cards played and the skill and strategy of the player.

Games of skill

According to 888 Poker, the latest video poker craze is BLAST sit and go; between 6.67% and 10% of each player’s buy-in goes to the house, depending which level of game one is playing. BLAST sit and go has quickly become one of the most popular poker games because it is played with four hands, and at least one of these is guaranteed to win. The prize pool is determined by a draw once the game has begun and can be anything from double to 10,000 times the initial buy-in.

Beating the house

You will hear a lot about strategies by which the house edge can be beaten, but the simple fact is that a game of chance is just that. Each spin of the wheel or roll of the dice occurs in isolation, and therefore no strategy can affect the probability of certain numbers coming up. Of course, being a game of luck, you could quickly win a large amount that puts you ahead of your initial stake. But if you carry on playing, the amount you take away will eventually reflect the house edge.

The house edge isn’t a way of cheating you out of your money; it’s simply how casinos make a profit and stay in business. Ultimately you’re paying for fun, and you shouldn’t begrudge paying for that pleasure. Walking away in profit should always be seen as a lucky bonus.

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