Smart and fun gambling often go hand in hand

Mar 5, 2013 3:00 AM

Smart and fun gaming often goes hand in hand because we all want to win money.

Playing the casino games with the smallest house edge gives us the best chance to win money or, at least, play for a longer time. Unfortunately those games are less and less available as casinos have become big business run by corporations that have to report earnings every quarter. These quarterly earnings leave little patience for games and wagers that earn smaller profits.

We know craps and blackjack offer bets with the lowest house advantage on the casino floor but it’s important to know the other side of the fence. I want to look at the games and specific wagers commonly available in casinos across the country that the smart gambler usually stays away from and why.

Keno: According to the Wizard of Odds, Keno holds an approximate house advantage of between 25% and 29%. That makes it far and away the game with the largest house advantage for the casino. The worst bets in War, Baccarat, Craps and slot machines aren’t even close. The worst slot machines “only” have a house advantage of about 15%. The slot machine house advantage depends on where you live as there are legal limits to how much a casino can keep.

Big Six Wheel: This is the other casino game with the largest house advantage. You’ll often see the wheel when you walk into the casino. You may notice many casinos are putting their most attractive dealers at the Big Six wheel. This isn’t by accident. They want to draw you into playing a fast game with a huge house edge. Getting the Joker or casino logo (usually paying 45-1) on the Big Six wheel comes with a house advantage for the casino over 24%. The Big Six wheel is considered a “look but don’t touch” game by some.

Baccarat: Generally seen as the casino game where the house has the smallest advantage, and for most players that’s true. When playing the Banker, the casino has only a 1.04% advantage. When playing the Player the casino only has a 1.24% edge. Both are great plays but when you bet on a tie in baccarat the casino has a whopping 14.36% advantage. Much like playing craps, keep it simple.

I’m not above playing casino games with a large house advantage, but it’s important to know what I’m getting into when playing any game in the casino – especially the games that come with such a large house advantage. Managing expectations in a casino goes a long way to having a good time.

I expect different things when playing the pass line in craps with maximum odds than when I drop a bill in those penny slots that I love way too much. Sometimes winning money is the goal and sometimes it’s seeing bright lights and being entertained while having a few drinks.

Thankfully, the casino offers both kinds of good times.

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 [email protected].

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