Poker has no true house advantage in casinos

June 25, 2013 3:00 AM

Casino games Poker Every week I look at smart and fun gaming in the casino. For me that’s always playing games against the casino. I look at the house advantage for a casino as my cost of doing business there or my expense for the night.

There are ups and downs all year around, but the 1% advantage the casino has when I play craps is my cost of drinks and good times. I’m okay with that.

If I wasn’t playing craps I’d be hanging out with my friends (probably at the bar) and giving that money to the casino anyway. At the end of the day there should be little difference in my entertainment budget, and I’m maximizing my time by playing games I enjoy.

Plenty of my gambling friends don’t feel the same. They’d rather play poker, which is heads up against other players and not the casino.

Since you’re not playing poker against the casino there is no house advantage. Of course the casino still gets paid and this should be accounted for by all poker players.

The winning hand in poker has to pay what’s called a “rake,” which is the commission a poker room operator takes from the winner of each game. Las Vegas casinos generally take about 4% or 5% from each winning poker hand but that number can be as high as 15% on cruises.

Poker doesn’t have a true house advantage like blackjack or craps but winners always have to pay the casino. Winners at poker are treated similarly to those winning a hand of baccarat. The commission in baccarat is 5% in most casinos and the game only has a house advantage of about 1% on the player. The difference in the two games for players is that 1%.

It’s much more different for the casino in that there is only one winner per hand in poker so they only win once per game played. The casino can win every hand against players in a game of baccarat – and that can be a lot of winning. Depending on the casino and the game, there are between 7 and 15 seats available in baccarat, giving the house that many opportunities to win.

Many players look at poker as the smartest game to play in the casino because every player isn’t laying a house advantage on every hand. Truthfully though, someone is paying the casino on every hand of poker because someone always wins.

Yes, traditional poker is one of the best, if not the best, games to play in the casino but it’s not free. Nothing in a casino is. There isn’t a built in house advantage for the casino in poker but there is something called the rake and any smart gambler should know to prepare for it.

After years of playing home poker games I didn’t know this when I walked into my first poker room. It was slightly embarrassing. Consider yourself smarter than me.

Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at

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