When it comes to casino games, there is no concept more alluring and, in many respects, confusing as the “house edge”. In both physical and online casinos, the house edge has gained an almost mythical quality to it – often invoked, but rarely understood. This need not be the case, however, as the house edge is a relatively simple concept, and once you understand it, you can use your knowledge of it to seriously up your game. With that said, please read the short article below, which will give you a brief overview of what exactly the house edge is, why it matters, and – most importantly – how you can use it to your advantage.
What is the house edge?
Although it has achieved a certain mythical quality to it, the actual meaning of the house edge is relatively simple. The “house edge” is a term used to refer to and describe the mathematical advantage that exists in a particular game. This has relevance to the “house” or the casino in which the game is played as they will typically play the role of dealer. The house edge is the slight advantage that the house – or the casino – will accrue over time by virtue of them being the dealer in a given game type. This results in an assured advantage expressed as a percentage for the house over time, which thus also results in a slight loss in terms of the favourability of the odds for the player over that same amount of time.
To think of a concrete example to illustrate this concept, think of a standard roulette wheel. On a single zero roulette wheel, you typically have 36 numbers plus the zero. If you spin the wheel and drop the ball, it can potentially fall on 37 possible stops in total. The odds of you choosing one of those possible stops is 1 in 37. However, the house edge is usually set at 35 to 1, meaning that over time the house will win as they have a 2.5% house edge.
Why do casinos have a house edge?
Although it seems unfair at first, the house edge has a very practical reason to exist. In fact, without the existence of the house edge, casinos simply wouldn’t be profitable to run. Casinos, whether online or land-based, are not cheap operations to run. The existence of the house edge means that they are guaranteed a certain amount of revenue over time, which they can use to actually run the gaming facility. In this sense, the house edge allows casinos to exist in the first place!
The house edge in online casino games
In physical games, the house edge is built into the physical attributes of the game itself, be it how the cards are dealt or where the ball lands in a game of roulette. In online casino games, however, this is essentially mimicked through a line of code in the random number generator on which the game is built. In video poker machines, for example, the random number generator is programmed to select combinations of wheels at random. The software generating these “random numbers” is programmed to be statistically in favour of the house over time. As such, in the online casino context, the house edge is built into the game. Although this might seem somewhat unfair at first, this is actually a much more transparent way of doing it than physical casino games, where you essentially have no control over the numbers. With software casino games, you can figure out what the house edge is quite easily, which means that it is transparent and open rather than shrouded in mystery!
Using the house edge to your advantage
Although it might seem that the house edge is an insurmountable statistical edge that puts the player at a perpetual disadvantage no matter what game you play, this is in actual fact a rather narrow view to take of the concept. Rather than viewing it as something that you can never work around, the best way of considering the house edge is to use it as a warning sign. This means that you would make your choice of game based on whichever game offered has the lowest house edge.
Games with the lowest house edge
When it comes to the statistical advantage of the house edge, not all casino games are created equally. In fact, there is often a surprisingly large deviation in the house edge between games. Here is a list of the casino games with the lowest house edge:
- Roulette: This game typically has a house edge starting from 2.5%.
- Slots: Slot machines are games of pure random selection and the house edge ranges from 2% to 10% depending on the game type and format.
- Video poker: Depending on the format of the game, video poker will typically have a house edge of between 5% and as low as 0.5%.
- Three card poker: Usually has a house edge of 1.5%.
- Baccarat: This casino favourite has a house edge starting at 1.5%.
- Blackjack: This iconic game has a decent house edge from 1.5%, which helps cement its place as one of the most popular casino games out there.
As you can see, there is a fairly significant difference between games when it comes to the house edge. As such, it is important to find this information out for the casino you choose to play at, and to carefully decide based on that information. While the house edge is not the only thing you should base your strategy on, it can certainly be a good starting point.
If you have read the above article and are feeling confident in your knowledge of the house edge, then there is only one way to test it out: on the casino floor! With that said, if you are confident in your understanding of the house edge and know how it applies specifically to your game of choice, then the best way to try it out is in a real-life game. If you want to try out your new skills in a low-risk environment that mimics the conditions of a real-life game, then try out Bitcasino’s “play for fun” facility, which lets users sign up for a free account and get playing without putting any cash on the line.
Words: Sean McNulty