Casino games are not created equal
January 02, 2018 4:32 PM
by Elliot Frome
Happy 2018! It’s a new year and it’s time for resolutions. I have a simple one that you can actually keep.
We all know virtually every casino game has a house advantage and this means, in the end, the house will win. But too many people take this to mean they’re going to lose virtually all the time and ignore that the house advantage doesn’t mean you have to lose every dime you show up to the casino with. So for 2018, resolve to lose less and increase your chances to win more often!
This really is not a hard resolution to keep. It involves adopting three key rules of what we call Expert Strategy. The first rule is to know which games to play. Casino games are NOT created equal. Blackjack can have as little as a 0.5% house advantage. Video poker can range from 0.5% to 2.5% commonly. A few even have a player advantage! Slot machines average a 7% house advantage. Some sidebets for table games have a 15%-plus house advantage.
Let’s convert these numbers into some real money. Say you like to play $25 blackjack. You can play about 40 hands an hour. Taking into account splits and doubles, you’ll wager about $1,140 in an hour. A 0.5% house advantage means you’ll lose, on average, $5.70 per hour. Play for three hours a day and you should drop less than $20/day. Over a week, your average should be about $120 lost.
On the other hand, let’s say you’re a slot player, playing about $1 per spin and you can probably get in about 400-500 spins per hour. You’ll wager $500, but lose, on average $35 per hour or $100 per three-hour day or $700 in a week. That’s a $580 difference!
So, it is your choice as to which game to play. There is no reason you have to lose $700 on a weeklong vacation. That could practically pay your hotel bill here in Las Vegas.
That brings us to rule number two. Know how to play the game. The good news, if you choose slots, is there is nothing to be done here. You can be a “good” slot player or a “bad” one and you’re still going to average a $35/hour loss. The same is not true of blackjack. That $5.70 loss per hour assumes you are playing the right strategy. This is true of almost every other base casino game besides slots. Strategy exists for video poker, Three Card Poker, blackjack (and ALL of its variations), Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud Poker, etc.
If you’re going to play any of these games, then you need to learn the right strategy. It is that simple. Otherwise, it is very possible you will turn a game with a theoretical house advantage of 1% into 2%, 3%, 5% or even higher. You might play so poorly you’d be better off with slots!
Now, to be clear, “poorly” does NOT mean some bad luck. It means making bad decisions in the long term. You may decide to hit a 16 looking into a 5 and draw a 4, but that still doesn’t mean it was the right move.
Casino game strategies have varying degrees of difficulty. Video poker and blackjack have among the most complicated. Most other table games are a good deal easier. Three Card Poker has one simple rule – Q-6-4 or better. Four Card Poker is only mildly more complex. Mississippi Stud Poker a bit more so. Ultimate Texas Hold’em a good deal more complex. Anything that deviates from the right strategy can only increase the house advantage. It doesn’t matter if you fold when you should play or not split when you are supposed to. You need to learn the right strategy.
The third rule of Expert Strategy is to know what to expect. If you’re the type of person who can follow the rules blindly, this one may not be so important to you. Technically, knowing what to expect doesn’t change the outcome of the hands if you play the right strategy. This rule exists to keep you following the right strategy. If you drew that 4 on your 16 and won the hand and decide that is a good play, you need this rule. Knowing how often you’ll lose this hand if you hit will make you realize how bad of a play it was and will keep you playing the right strategy.
For 2018, keep more money in your pocket and learn a new strategy for a new year.