Pretty much everyone is familiar with the expression “the house always wins.” It’s certainly true that you’re more likely to come away from a casino session with less money than when you first rolled up.
More likely, but certainly not definite.
That’s because, by picking your games carefully and having even a rudimentary knowledge of the odds and probabilities that are involved, you can give yourself a distinct edge.
We’re not all math geniuses so many of us won’t reach the level of understanding what forces are at work that can tip the chances of winning slightly in our favor. But we can understand the topline sort of thinking that can present chances of winning as a percentage.
The first thing to understand is that this figure is always going to be under 50%. That’s because any casino, online or otherwise, that gives players a greater chance than the casino itself isn’t going to stay in business for very long.
So the figures that we’re going to give will be relevant to the games available at most online casinos like this one, which is typical of the many that you’ll find operating today. With that in mind, you’re ready for your first lesson in gambling probability.
Let’s kick off with one of both the simplest and most popular casino games. Successful players know that, for all the strategies that are discussed, the consistently most successful one is to keep it simple.
By sticking to the 50/50 bets like red or black, odd or even there is a marginally lower than 50% chance of winning. The figure would actually be 50% if the wheel didn’t also have 0 and 00 spaces. If the ball lands on either of these, and depending on the specific casino’s rules, your bet will either be forfeited in full or part or held over until the next spin of the wheel.
Surprisingly, although the calculations to work out the odds of winning in blackjack are far more complex than roulette, this also gives you around a 49% of winning. This is because you are playing directly against the dealer who has approximately the same chance of getting a winning hand as you do.
The other advantage of playing blackjack is that you can study and learn something called “the basic strategy”. This is a set of rules that can dictate whether it would be better to stick or take a card in any given situation. It’s been estimated that this can give you an additional advantage of around 1%. Marginal maybe, but not to be ignored.
In terms of casino games, baccarat is something of an anomaly because it allows you, as a bystander, to bet on either the player or the banker coming out on top. The objective of the game is for one or the other to reach as near as they can to 9 from the cards that they’re dealt and, in percentage terms, the probability of doing this is 44.6% for the player and 45.8% for the player. If you’re wondering why the total doesn’t come to 100%, that’s because ties are also fairly common.
The stats also mean that you are marginally better off backing the banker or dealer as, when you take ties out of the equation, they are going to be winning 51% of the time.
Turning our attention to the dice game craps, this is where things get truly complicated – if we let them. There are so many different kinds of bets and variables that it’s almost impossible to give probabilities as percentages. However, if you intend to keep things simple just bet on whether the roller will score a 7 or an 11 and you’ll have around a 48.6% chance of winning as the house edge is between 1.36% and 1.4%. There’s also the option to bet on the number not being a 7 or 11 in which case the odds are pretty much the same.
But there are situations in craps that do defy the odds. One of these came in 2009 when a player called Patricia Demauro rolled 154 times without hitting a 7. The marathon session lasted over 4 hours and the odds of it happening were calculated to be 1:1.56 trillion.
No analysis of winning probabilities would be complete without a look at the most popular of casino games. All kinds of players are drawn to these games because they’re fun as well as being quick and easy to play. There’s also the chance of winning a life-changing amount of money for a stake of a few dollars, or even less.
The good news is that most slots games will give you an idea of how likely you are to win through their Return To Player (RTP) figure. This generally ranges from between around 86% to 98%. Compared with the percentages of the other games we’ve mentioned, this looks very attractive.
But it’s important to realise that this is a payback taken over a period of time, not for one particular session. So you may be lucky and get a big win, or you could end up not winning at all.
So what we can conclude is that you’re better off playing table games than slots, even though there’s no chance of a huge jackpot win. Better to go slowly and steady and gradually build up your winnings a few percentage points at a time – always keeping a close eye on the probabilities as you go.