What is Casino House Edge?
For the player of a single hand of a casino card game, or single spin of a slot, the outcomes are clear. You either win money or lose it – with some games having a ‘push’ result too.
The amount of money you’ll win or lose over a session in a casino table game is determined by two things:
- The mathematical advantage built into the game, and;
- How close to the perfect strategy you play
Setting aside strategy mistakes, all games have a built-in advantage. This comes into play over millions of hands. Say a game has a 5% house edge (this is on the higher side). You might win or lose money over 10 hands, or even 1000. If you were to play 1 million hands over several years, you’ll almost always find you lose close to exactly 5c for every $1 you staked.
In the short-term, variance gives you a shot at coming out ahead. The more hands you play the closer to the average you’ll get (a mathematical concept known as ‘regression to the mean’). Shorter-term, your results can vary, sometimes you’ll put together a string of wins – getting an above average return.
In many games, the perfect strategy is unclear or difficult to memorize unless you are an expert player. If you hit when you should stand in blackjack – even in a marginal situation – you are giving some extra money to the casino. You might win the current hand, though mistakes will always contribute to the house edge in the long run.
For a player seeking a casino with the best payout, there are four things to consider:
- Find the games with the lowest built-in house edge
- Play them perfectly, so you don’t give away extra money
- Manage your ‘risk of ruin’ from natural variance with solid bankroll management
- Maximize your comps and bonuses to improve your profitability
5 of the Best Casino Games with a Low House Edge
You’ll find all the games with low house-edge are traditional casino table games. Here are the games we’ve covered:
- Pai Gow Poker
1. Blackjack Games with the Best Payouts
House edge in blackjack has the potential to be as low as 0.78% playing live and 2-3% playing online.
Some variations of blackjack have a very low house edge. It is possible for this to be as low as 0.78%. To get payouts this good, you’ll need to be a high-roller, playing in a brick and mortar casinos with very favorable rules. Online, the best you’ll find are games with 2% edges, while the ‘average’ low stakes live casino player will find games with 3% or more when played perfectly.
The reason there is so much variation in blackjack payouts is that the rules are flexible.
We all know the process of beating the dealer by getting closer to 21 or having a live hand when the dealer busts. Within this there are many possible decisions.
Blackjack games with the best house edge have the following:
- Blackjack pays 3/2 (games which pay 6/5 have a terrible odds)
- Liberal Splitting / Doubling Rules (double after split, resplit aces and so on)
- Small Number of Decks (single and double deck blackjack are best, 6+ decks normal)
- Soft 17 (whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17 makes a big difference, stand being the better option for players).
- Surrender Option (some games allow you to surrender, losing half a bet, others do not)
In live casinos you’ll need to bet $100+ per hand to get the best rules and conditions. Note that card counting can reduce the edge further in blackjack. This is not possible online at live dealer casinos, as the decks are shuffled too often. In live casinos increasing your bet when the count goes positive is almost certain to get you banned fast!
There are blackjack variations with the potential for good payouts, especially for USA players. These include Spanish 21 (10’s removed from the deck) and ‘Super Fun 21’. Other variants, and in particular the side-bets like perfect pairs are terrible. These often have a house edge of 8% or more.
The single most important factor with any blackjack game is to learn perfect strategy. Tables are available showing you when to hit, split and double vs different dealer up-cards. If you deviate from perfect strategy, you are paying the casino a lot more than the built-in house edge for every incorrect decision you make.
2. Baccarat Games with the Best Payouts
Baccarat has a low house edge spanning 1.24% for the player bet and 1.08% for the banker bet.
Baccarat is a simple game to play, and a complex game to deal. There are many rules and permutations of how two hands are dealt – one for a ‘player’ and the other for a ‘banker’. From the perspective of someone gambling, the only thing that matters is which of these is the winner.
You can bet on either the player or the banker, or on a tie. Note that the ‘player’ is a hand of cards, this does not refer to the people playing the game. Those players are free to back whichever of the three outcomes they like.
While a tie is rare, the odds of this bet are bigger. Don’t be fooled, even for a ‘saver bet’, as the tie bet in baccarat has a horrible long-term return.
If you stick to the player and banker, the returns are as follows:
- Player House Edge 1.24%
- Banker House Edge 1.08%
There is no strategy, as the outcomes are random. Many people use staking plans (double after losses and so on) with this game, which is a favorite among high-rollers. Over time, the house edge will catch up with everyone. Over the short run, the small casino edge gives you the opportunities to go on some winning streaks.
3. Which Craps Bets Reduce the House Edge?
Pass Line bet and the Don’t Pass bet offer the lowest house edge. 1.41% for the Pass Line and 1.36% for the Don’t Pass.
This popular casino dice game has a long history – and is often the scene of lively gambling in brick and mortar casinos. There are some excellent bets (in terms of house edge) and some terrible ones among the complex options on the craps tables.
There are two phases, with bets starting on the pass line or don’t pass. The house edge here (and on points when set) have an excellent return. Here are the odds:
- Pass Line House Edge: 1.41%
- Don’t Pass House Edge: 1.36%
While ‘Don’t’ has a tiny advantage, most players stick with the pass line. This means that when a point is set, the table is all winning together (rather than some players winning and others losing). This does mean that someone betting the Don’t is given the ‘evil eye’ in some live games! Of course, if you are enjoying craps online, you can bet the ‘Don’t’ without recourse.
There are some terrible side bets in craps. These include hard-ways and special bets like small and tall. Avoiding those will make sure you get the best payouts.
4. Roulette Games with the Best Payouts
If you’re going to play roulette, make sure you choose the “double zero”, otherwise known as American Roulette. The house edge is almost two points lower than single and triple zero games.
There are now 4 types of roulette games. The latest addition to live casinos has a ‘triple zero’ as well as the double and single.
The number of zeros on your wheel makes a big difference to your returns. The house edge for different games are as follows:
- Triple Zero: 7.7%
- Double Zero: 5.26%
- Single Zero: 7%
This is a no-brainer for anyone looking for the best casino payouts. If you can’t find a roulette game with a single zero, then you should pass on and enjoy a different game instead. The single zero games are known as ‘European Roulette’, with the double zero the US version.
One other roulette variation has even better odds. This is known as ‘French Roulette’. Here, the outside bets (black / red, odd / even, high numbers / low numbers) are returned at 50% if the ball lands in the zero.
If you only play outside bets, the house edge is 1.35% (half of the single zero number). Of course, the inside bets (numbers and so on) are not affected, meaning your real edge will depend on the proportion of inside vs outside bets.
5. Pai Gow Games with the Best Casino Payouts
Perfect strategy at Pai Gow can reduce the house edge to as low as 2.84%.
Pai Gow is a poker variation with complex rules. Players get 7 cards – and need to create a high hand and low hand. There are some rules about how these hands are created, and mistakes can cost you a bet. Online the software can sort the cards for you (known as ‘house way’).
Both hands are compared to the dealer’s hands. Often, one hand will win and the other will lose (creating a push). This keeps the volatility low – as well as the house edge. If you play perfectly, the edge for Pai Gow is around 2.84%.
There are side bets, sometimes with jackpots for royal flushes. As with most casino side-bets, these have terrible house edges, and should be avoided if you are trying to maximize returns.
Casino Games with the Worst Payouts:
Some terrible bets have already been covered above. These include double / triple zero roulette wheels, side bets on table games and the ‘tie’ bet in baccarat.
These are not the only games with a big house edge in the casino. Here are some examples of games to avoid:
- Carnival Games: This is a category of table games which includes things like Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Full Flush Poker and 3-Card Poker. They have a built-in edge of 5% or more, and side bets which go even higher than this.
- Slot Machines: This depends on whether you play penny slots or higher limits, and whether your slot has a progressive jackpot. House edge of live casino slots can be as high as 10%, online this tops out at around 7% in most cases. Note that some slots have only 3% house edges built in.
- Keno / Bingo Games: House edge will vary depending on the exact game you choose, though are universally very high.
How the Volatility of the Game Affects Your Payouts
If you were to put your entire bankroll on a single hand of Baccarat, your risk of ruin is almost the same as your shot at doubling up! If you instead play 1,000,000 hands, you are almost certain to be within a whisker of the true house edge.
This is an extreme, though it does highlight the concept of volatility in relation to the best online casino payouts.
If you bet too big for the stakes you are playing, then a low house edge probably will not help you – as natural swings will wipe out your bankroll. Games which have largely binary win / lose outcomes have less natural variance than games with less frequent yet bigger wins.
To balance this, you need to manage your bankroll in such a way as to ride out the swings. For table games, 20x the bet is a bare minimum for starting a session, with 50x recommended. For slots and volatile bets like single numbers in roulette, you’ll need a lot more.
Comps and Bonuses Can Improve Your Casino Payouts
As a final point, bonuses and comps from the best paying casinos are an important weapon in your fight against the house edge. Even if you learned perfect strategy, picked the lowest edge game and managed your bankroll to avoid the risk of ruin – the casino will profit in the long term.
You can get money back in many ways, sometimes enough to make a big difference to your payouts over time.
Rewards at online casinos include welcome bonuses, free slot spins, loyalty points (which can be exchanged for cash or bonuses), tournament entries and free chips.
At live casinos you might be offered a free room and food, loyalty points that can be exchanged in the resort – and even free play for your next visit.
If these (or other rewards) are on offer, make sure you take advantages – they are one of the best ways to ensure that you are maximizing your casino payouts – whatever the outcome of your play!