Placing a bet in Vegas will always be a gamble, but it’s definitely not the most dangerous risk you can take on the Strip (a far bigger gamble could be a shotgun wedding, married by Elvis, with no telling how your life will pan out!!)
While many people migrate to Vegas for the incredible live entertainment, delicious buffets, and adult entertainment, others are dreaming of striking it rich. And the fancy hotels and lights of the Vegas Strip have a magical way of drawing us in!
If you’re hoping to leave Vegas with more money than you arrived with, you’ll need to know what games offer up the best odds. While you may be counting on your lucky charms to give you an edge at winning big, Vegas casinos don’t need to hope for luck – the odds have, and always will, be stacked in their favor!
Casinos aren’t a charity; they’re in business to make a profit. If you aren’t looking to add to their profits, you need to take a moment to learn about “house edge” and why it’s important when it comes to your odds of winning.
See What's in This Post
- 1 House Edge Explained
- 2 How to Overcome the House Edge
- 3 Vegas Games with the Best & Worst House Edge
- 4 Blackjack: House Edge 1%-2%
- 5 Craps: House Edge 1.4%-5%
- 6 Baccarat: House Edge 1.5%
- 7 Roulette: House Edge 2.8%-5.2%
- 8 Slot Machines: House Edge Up to 20%
- 9 Keno: House Edge Up to 40%
- 10 Recap: The Best Casino Games to Play
The Best Casino Games to Play in Vegas
House Edge Explained
Casinos always have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to taking your money, and this built-in mathematical advantage is known as the house edge. Many casino games actually don’t have that bad of odds when it comes to winning.
Instead of relying on terrible odds or cheating to take your money, casinos know that in the long run they are guaranteed to take a certain percentage of your bets through this thing called house edge.
The house edge is the percentage of a gambler’s bet that the casino keeps as profit over the long term, and the house edge varies from game to game. For example, if a game has a house edge of 5%, you can expect to lose $5 for every $100 you bet over the long term.
So why do many of us walk into a casino with $100 and leave with nothing, instead of with $95? The answer lies in the fact that the house edge applies to the amount you bet, not the amount you take into the casino.
To break this down in simpler terms, just because you walk into a casino with $100 doesn’t mean you will place $100 in bets. Some of those bets you will win; as we said, the odds of winning at many games are quite good.
As you continue to play, you may end up actually placing $2,000 worth of bets over the course of your night of gambling. Factor in a house edge of 5% and that means the casino will have most likely took $100 worth of your total bets at the end of the night, leaving you with $0 left of your original $100 you brought in.
That’s house edge.
How to Overcome the House Edge
Every gambler is pre-destined to lose if they play long enough; it’s literally written in the cards so to speak. The house edge guarantees that in the long run the casinos will take a set percentage of your bets.
People do win big however, and casinos don’t really mind this, because they know they will take home the house edge of the total number of all bets placed across the year. The key is to be one of the few who walk away a winner.
So how do you beat the system? To start, it’s crucial to stick with casino games that offer the lowest house edge. This means you have a much better chance of losing less money long term.
Knowing how to play games and practicing proper strategy is also critical, otherwise the house edge becomes even higher. The second piece of advice is to gamble for shorter periods of time since the longer you play, the closer your losses will creep to the set house edge.
Know how to quit when you’re ahead and think about playing casino games that offer lower expected losses per hour. Two games with similar house edge’s aren’t always created equal. Some will see you losing money much more quickly since bets are placed more frequently.
Again, it’s about placing fewer bets that will lessen your chance of losing money. If you win a few big bets, your best bet then is to walk away.
Another option is to ditch the physical casinos all together. Gamblers seeking out a casino online will find that online casino games often offer a lower house edge than physical casinos located on the Vegas Strip. Additionally, most online casinos will provide you with information about the house edge of the various games they offer.
Many gamblers choose to place bets online as well because it’s convenient, there are a great variety of games available, they offer enticing bonuses for new players, and have more flexible payment options as opposed to physical casinos.
Vegas Games with the Best & Worst House Edge
Now that you know what house edge is, let’s look at what games you should stick to, and which you should avoid.
Generally, you will find that table games offer the best chances of winning and the lowest house edge.
Blackjack: House Edge 1%-2%
Blackjack has one of the lowest house edges in Vegas and that edge can be lowered even further if you know how to play strategically.
In addition to offering one of the best house edges, Blackjack is extremely easy to play and unlike poker you only need to beat a single dealer and not a bunch of poker champions.
The rules are simple; you want the sum of your cards to beat the dealer’s cards without going over 21. Of course you need to be aware of when to hit and stand as well as knowing what cards have already been dealt – this is known as card counting.
While not illegal, casinos object to card counting and are always trying to prevent it, sometimes banning players they suspect.
Craps: House Edge 1.4%-5%
While craps may seem a bit intimidating at first, it offers a pretty good house edge. Craps is definitely not a game if you’re a shy person, as you will be surrounded by many other people and up to 16 people playing at a time at a 12-foot table.
Craps is a game where you make wagers on the outcome of rolled dice. There are many moving parts and the game can be a bit complicated for beginners, so make sure to read up all the rules and learn all the crazy names for the bets that are available.
To sum things up, you are basically hoping that certain dice totals are rolled and other are avoided. There’s only one shooter at a time (the person throwing a pair of dice), and the goal is to roll a total of 7 or 11 and avoid throwing a 2, 3, or 12.
Things get a bit more complicated when you roll other numbers as that establishes what is known as a point.
The simplest bet to make at craps is the pass/don’t pass bet and it offers a great house edge of 1%. Enjoy a 0% house edge, very rare in a casino, by placing an additional bet behind your original pass or don’t pass bet when a point is set. This bet is a multiple of your original bet and pays out at the actual odds of it being won.
Craps doesn’t offer a great “expected losses per hour” rate and you can end up losing a lot of money in a short amount of time. On the flipside, you can also win quite a bit very quickly.
Baccarat: House Edge 1.5%
One of the oldest games in casinos is baccarat and it’s popular with Asian gamblers and high-rollers. The game offers a relatively low house edge and is great for players looking to pace themselves a bit.
There are three popular variants of baccarat, the most common being punto banco. Baccarat consists of a shoe that contains 6 or 8 decks of cards shuffled together, the dealer dealing out hands to himself and the player.
Each card has a point value and the hand that comes closest to a total of 9 wins the round. There are three betting options, a player win, a banker win and a tie.
The goal is to place a bet that matches the outcome of a hand. The tie betting option pays out the best at 8 to 1.
Both the player and the banker are each dealt two cards and depending on the value of their two cards they may receive a third card. Receiving a third card is decided by the rules of the game and not by player or banker choice. A third card is received when a player’s or banker’s original two-card total is five or less.
Roulette: House Edge 2.8%-5.2%
The house edge of roulette differs quite a bit depending on what type of roulette wheel you bet on. The game was born in 18th century France and its name actually translates as “little wheel”.
The French or European style roulette offers a much better house edge for you than the American style roulette since the American roulette has added an extra zero slot to the wheel. This added zero doubles the casino’s advantage and takes the house edge from around 2.8% found on a European wheel to over 5%.
The gist of the game is that a ball is spun in a wheel and it end ups landing in a slot with an associated number that ranges from 0 to 36, or possibly an additional “00” in the American version. Half the numbers 1-36 are red and half are black. Zeros are green.
You can bet on individual numbers coming up, a red or black number coming up, and even or odd numbers coming up, or a green 0 or 00 coming up. You can also split your bet on multiple numbers or bet that the ball will land on a number that falls into a certain category of numbers such as 1-12 or 1-18.
Simply place your chips on a specific number or bet and hope the ball lands in your favor. Of course some bets will have better odds than others, with the more difficult odds paying out bigger winnings.
One of the best things about roulette is that the house edge is mitigated by the pace, and you will experience a much lower hourly loss than other games.
Slot Machines: House Edge Up to 20%
There’s a reason why slot machines grab our attention right away when we walk into a casino, and why there are so many of them. Casinos make a killing off gamblers feeding slot machines and one of the reasons is that slots can have a house edge up to 20%.
Slots entice us with flashing lights, cheerful sounds, comfortable chairs, free drinks, and the possibility of hitting large jackpots. This is all designed to lure you into their money-eating trap.
You don’t need any skill whatsoever to play slots which is great, but this also means you cannot improve your chances of winning through practice or knowledge.
Everyone who sits down to a slot machine is treated equal and that means even if you’re highly intelligent, you are still destined to lose just as much as someone stepping into a casino for the first time. There is also an enormous variety of slots available and no way of knowing what the exact house edge is of each individual one.
Progressive jackpot slots are similar to normal slots but also allow you to compete against a network of other players to win large life-changing jackpots. While this sounds great, many progressive slots require you to place the max bet across the max number of paylines for every spin.
The result can be you losing a lot of money quite quickly. While penny slots may make your money last longer, you’ll find much better odds playing higher denomination slots.
Keno: House Edge Up to 40%
Another casino game to avoid when it comes to a poor house edge is keno. While the game may seem simple, a house edge that can be as much as 40% could see you losing a lot of money over the long term.
Keno is somewhat similar to bingo, and involves a player choosing up to 10 numbers (sometimes up to 20 numbers) from a table of 80 numbers and then hoping those numbers are drawn from a ball machine.
Twenty numbers are drawn from the machine and you may receive a payout depending on how many drawn numbers match the ones you selected.
Casinos offer a wide variety of keno paytables, with bigger payouts for those players matching more numbers. However, you should consider the fact the mathematical probabilities of you winning big are very poor.
Recap: The Best Casino Games to Play
While you’ll no doubt lose in the long term no matter what casino game you play, anything can happen in the short term.
Knowing what games offer the best house edge and knowing how to quit when you’re ahead will go a long way to helping you come out on top. And then there’s always the possibility of winning a large bet or hitting a jackpot which can forever change your life.
Even if you don’t win big or win at all, playing most Vegas casino games ends up proving to be quite cheap entertainment, so long as you don’t become addicted. This is why it is so important to gamble responsibility and seek out help if you feel you may have a gambling problem.
As we said, in the long term, the general rule is that casinos will continue to take more and more of your money.