There are few expressions in the modern lexicon as well understood as ‘the House always wins’. The idea that the little guy stands no chance against an established figure or when taking on a corporation is a tale as old as time, but it is based on the notion that casinos will always take more money than the customers that use their services. It has carried over into online casinos, as you might well imagine. Just as with bookmakers, the system is set up to ensure that the House gets a profit in the long run no matter what happens.
That doesn’t mean that it is impossible for an individual person to win at a casino, of course. One person could go into a casino and have a night where they win no matter what they do, but their winnings will be being paid for by another person or persons who can’t seem to buy a win. The casino always ends up on top, largely thanks to the way that the House Edge and Return to Player percentages work. In short, they’re designed to give some money back to players, but not enough to mean that the House gets anything other than long-term profit.
Looking at RTP
Let’s start by looking at the Return to Player percentage that is in-place at casinos, most specifically on slot games. In simply terms, the RTP is the percentage of money that slots and other machine games will return to the people playing them over a given period of time. An RTP of 95%, for example, would see 95 pence returned for every £1 gambled, giving the casino a profit of five pence per pound. What sometimes confuses people is the idea that this should happen every time that they play, which simply isn’t the case.
Profit Earned Over Time
Instead, it is the percentage of profit earned over a significant period of time. This isn’t really ever specified, but we’re talking tens to hundreds of hours, if not longer. Let’s imagine that it is based over 100 hours, with a casino taking £10,000 worth of bets per hour in that time on average. That would mean that they take £1 million per 100 hours, of which 95% will be returned to the players. That gives the casino a profit of £50,000 per 100 hours that it operates, which obviously works out as a lot of money over a course of weeks, months and years.
The key thing to remember about the RTP% is that it isn’t uniform. It isn’t as though one player gets 80% of their money back, another gets 110% of their money returned to them and so the average of those two people is 95%. That is a helpful way of thinking about it, but in actuality it is more like one player gets 97% of their money back at some points, 92% at other times and so on. It is also spread over all people that use the casino, which is why you can win sometimes and lose at others, constantly convincing you to come back.
RTP Must Be Made Available
Each slot machine or game on offer in a physical or online casino will have information about its Return to Player percentage available for you to read somewhere. It might be in the instructions of the game or on the side of the machine, but you’ll definitely be able to know what RTP% it is that you’re playing with before you pay a penny. Those that are forearmed with this knowledge can look for a game that has as high an RTP% as possible, avoiding those that are so low that it will feel like you’re never winning any money on them.
High & Low Volatility
One other thing to think about when selecting a slot game to play is whether the game has high or low volatility. If a machine has low volatility then it will pay out little and often, whereas one with high volatility will pay out big prizes but do so rarely. This is linked to the RTP% because a machine with a good one that is highly volatile will likely pay out much better prizes for those wanting to win big than a game that promises low volatility and an equally low RTP%. It is just one more thing to think about when choosing your machine.
Though the Return to Player percentage and House Edge are essentially the same thing, the key difference is the way that they are calculated. That is to say, the RTP% is about how much money is returned to the player, whilst the House Edge is the profit made by the House. A machine with a 95% RTP could also be said to have a House Edge of 5%, if that’s a helpful way of thinking about it. Whichever way you cut it, it is about the profit that a casino makes of a prolonged period of time and shows why the House always wins.
An interesting quirk about the world of RTP% compared to the House Edge is that the latter is usually used when referring to table games. It is rarely the case that anyone will ever talk about a slot machine’s House Edge, but will readily use the expression when talking about the likes of blackjack, baccarat or craps. The important thing to know about both things, though, is that they are easy to calculate depending on the game that you’re playing and the way that you’re playing it. Some games allow you to make the House Edge smaller, for example.
Blackjack is a good example of a game that you can play in a casino and can reduce the House’s Edge if you play it in a specific manner. Basic Strategy is a way of playing the game that reduces the House Edge slightly. This is helpful, given the fact that blackjack already boasts a House Edge that is lower than most other games. Playing blackjack without using any sort of strategy puts the Edge at about 2%. You can reduce this to 0.5% if you play Basic Strategy, meaning the House will still win, just not as much or as often.
Looking at Roulette
There is arguably no better game available in the casino, either physical or online, that demonstrates the House Edge quite like roulette. That is on account of the fact that it is relatively easy to understand the Edge in the game of roulette. A roulette wheel has 37 numbers on it, presuming that it only has one Zero, yet the payout for a single number is 35/1. That means that if you placed £1 on every number on the board, it would cost you £37 but you’d only receive £36 back in winnings, given that you’ll also get your stake back.
In its most simplistic sense, that is the House Edge in action. Regardless of how much you’re willing to spend in betting on the numbers on a roulette wheel, you can never guarantee yourself a profit. The casino, on the other hand, will be guaranteed a profit no matter what you bet on. That becomes even more evident when you play on an American roulette table, which usually boasts two Zero slots. There is 0 and 00, meaning that you now have 38 numbers to bet on but still only receive a payout of 35/1, increasing the House Edge.
The House Edge in Popular Games
Now that we understand the concept of the House Edge, let’s take a look at the Edge earned by the House on many of the most popular casino games. As long as you’re playing the traditional version of the game, the House Edge remains the same irrespective of the casino that you decide to gamble in.
It goes without saying that that does not remain the case if you decide to go down the route of playing variations on the traditional games, most of which have been invented with the specific aim of increasing the House Edge where possible. Here are some of the House Edges in the most popular games you can play when you find yourself in a casino:
As we’ve already mentioned, the House Edge in blackjack is dictated by whether or not you employ Basic Strategy when you’re playing. Typically speaking, the Edge is 2% without Basic Strategy and 0.5% with it. Blackjack is also the sort of game where the House Edge can move depending on the decisions that you make as you’re playing. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going to employ Basic Strategy then employ Basic Strategy. Do not follow your hunch or allow your feelings to dictate the choices you make.
There isn’t really a strategy that you can employ when playing roulette that shifts the odds in the same way that Basic Strategy does in blackjack. That being said, the actual roulette table that you sit at will see the House Edge change. An American roulette table has a House Edge of 5.26%, compared to the 2.70% Edge on a European roulette table. If you play French roulette, where the likes of En Prison and La Partage rules apply, the Edge drops down to as low as 1.35%, which is why it is such a popular version of the game.
The House Edge of craps depends largely on the type of bet that you place. Such is the nature of the game, it might take several rolls of the dice for the House Edge to resolve itself in craps, but it can range from 0.00% to 11.11%. Some of the bets with 0.00% Edge either don’t exist in most casinos or else are rarely played because the payout isn’t good enough to warrant it. Whichever way you cut it, though, the House Edge in craps is such that there’s a reason why people often believe in bad luck and ‘jinxes’ when playing.
If you play baccarat correctly, it has the lowest House Edge of any game that you can play at the casino. That is a bit ‘if’, however, and many people will often not do that and put themselves in a position where the House Edge is awful. Those betting on Banker give the casino a House Edge of 1.06%, compared to 1.24% for those betting on the Player. The Edge on Ties, meanwhile, is 9.5%, which clearly indicates that you should steer away from that every time you play the game as it is painfully bad.
Limit Your Playing Time
Obviously all punters want to find ways to limit their exposure to the House Edge. As with Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, the House Edge is inevitable. The only way to avoid falling foul of it is to not place a bet at all, but that’s not something that everyone is willing to do. As a result, one of the things that you can do to stop the House Edge from getting you is to limit the amount of time that you spend in a casino. There is a reason why physical casinos don’t have windows or clocks, aiding people to lose track of time.
If you’re being sensible then what you can do is set a timer for yourself and stick as rigidly to it as you can. Even better than that, quit whilst you’re ahead. This removes the casino’s ability to take money off you during the session that you’re taking part in. The very nature of the House Edge is such that the casino will win its money back at some point, unless you decide to never gamble again, but you can at least stop that from happening in an immediate sense. There’s no such thing as running hot, so just get out whilst you can.