Understanding “House Edge”

Poker Hands

Few casinos have to close down for lack of money, and the main reason can be summed up in two words - house edge. This dictates that, over the long term, there is a statistical imbalance in favour of the casino. Whatever the game - blackjack, craps, video poker, roulette or baccarat - the "house" has the upper hand in percentage terms.

Understanding the edge, and working with it, is good strategy. Statistically, the game with the greatest chance of nullifying the house's advantage is blackjack. It's possible, when a player uses basic strategy, to reduce the house edge to less than one per cent.

Basic strategy does not mean card counting; it is playing the percentages, knowing when to hit and when to stand, depending on what cards have been dealt to that point. It's not necessary to know the exact statistics on how likely an ace is to appear at a given time, just follow the well-established rules on when to take a card, when to split, when to double down and so on.

The house edge in blackjack also depends on the number of decks used in a shoe. The more decks used, the greater the probability of the casino winning in the long run. A single deck (good luck finding this) yields only a 0.17 per cent advantage to the house, whereas a casino using eight decks has a 0.66 per cent edge.

In craps, bets on the don't pass/don't come bar give the house just a 1.36 per cent edge, while pass/come is slightly higher at 1.41 per cent. And while you might fancy "snake eyes" - a bet on the dice to roll a total of two - you should be aware that the house has an advantage of nearly 14 per cent. This is because though the true odds of two ones appearing are 35/1, the odds paid are only 30/1.

Before deciding whether to play the American or European version of roulette, bear in mind there is one extra number (double zero) on the American table. As a result, the house edge goes up from 2.7 per cent on a European table to 5.26 on the American version.

Written by Alex Corcoran, online gaming writer with a passion for Blackjack, poker and uk bingo sites