Casino gambling, whether online or off-, is all about mathematics. Forget your lucky pants, betting only on odd-numbered days, or chanting before you wager, you need to know your facts and your numbers.
The first mathematical fact you need to know and acknowledge is that casino games are set up to deliver a profit to the people who own and operate them. And profit for the owners is lost bets for players. That’s baked into the set-up of the games. It doesn’t mean games aren’t truly random or fair, and it doesn’t mean that you, as an individual, won’t win and even win big.
This mathematical advantage is expressed as the “house edge”. The complementary figure to the house edge is the theoretical return to player. You may see either of these figures published in games reviews as the measure of a game. The figure will always add up to 100.
House edge is how much a game is supposed to deliver in profit over its lifetime. The theoretical return to player simply reads out the other half the equation. For example, a slot game might have a theoretical return to player of 96% which means that there’s a house edge of 4%.
You cannot beat the mathematics of casino games, but you can make sense of them and use this knowledge in your favour.
The most obvious way to do this to play games with the lowest house edge and the highest theoretical return to player.
And these are those games!
1 – Backgammon
Often played for fun as a family board game you can find backgammon in UK online casinos too, and it has a long, storied history as a gambling game, with a single-player rolling to the dice for a game played against the house.
The house has an edge, as it always does, but it’s from 6.39% to 4.82% putting it at the edge of our top 10.
2 – Caribbean Stud Poker
Poker online can be played in a number of ways: against other people in poker rooms, or against the house in live dealer and simulated games at online casino sites.
Caribbean poker has a house edge of 5% and thereabouts.
Like most online casino pokers it’s played against a single dealer as a one-on-one game, paying out to the best hand, with an extra bet on jackpots that pays out for royal flush.
3 – Pai Gow Poker
China’s rise as a world power has had numerous, chaotic effects. Among the least predicted of these is the massive global attraction of Chinese and East Asian gambling games.
Pai Gow is a tile game from China with a long history. This game mixes it with poker, giving it extra accessibility to western players. It’s a seven-tile game, with players trying to make winning poker hands.
The house has an edge of around 2.5%.
4 – European Roulette (single zero)
Roulette is the queen of casino games. It’s massive in real-life casinos and now it’s the backbone of live casinos online.
And it’s good value, with a house edge that starts at just 2.5%.
You must play single-zero games to get this figure though, and roulette comes in a bewildering variety of variants. The most common divide is between the European (and French) game (with one zero) and the American version, which has the two zeroes that immediately tip the odds a little towards the house.
5 – Video slots
This is a big category, and you can do a lot of work to improve your chances further by researching individual slots, each of which should provide you with an RTP.
Slots have a house edge of between 2% and 10%, so between 90% and 98% of the money wagered on them to players.
No gambling game comes in such variety as online versions, with most slots sites offering at least 1,000 games to pick from. Learn how to read the RTP of these games to help you get the best chance of a return.
6 – Video Poker
Video poker is often hidden away in online casino sites, and we’re always amazed that it isn’t more popular than it is.
All video slots are descendants of poker, but this game is more obviously a simple simulation of a single (or double) poker deal.
One way to spot which games have good stats for players is to look at the games which are weighted for paying off wagering restrictions. Those games which have a low weighting are often great value for players, and some variants of video poker can have a house edge of 0.5% (and up to 5%).
There are a load of versions of this game: Deuces Wild, and Jacks and Above are common versions, so make sure you know what game you’re playing.
7 – Three Card Poker
With a house edge that starts at 1.5%, the three-card poker tables are among the first you should be looking for a seat at when you peruse the casino floor, virtual or real.
There are a lot of variants of this game, branded ones, and games with different rules.
Gambling experts tell us that queen high probably has the best long-term prospects, while king-high games might give the biggest prizes.
8 – Baccarat
Baccarat is stylish, sophisticated, and involving. Of any casino game, it has the best claim to having a mystique attached to it.
And it’s good value for players, with a house edge that starts from 1.5%.
Massively popular, particularly in East Asia, Baccarat comes in a number of varieties, including game-play variants (like the squeeze), and rule changes (and some variants straight out of Macao).
Don’t let the French terms and the association with salons prive and high-rollers put you off baccarat, it’s fantastically easy to learn and very rewarding.
9 – Craps
House edge on craps starts from 1.4% and only goes as high as 4%. That’s a great deal for players willing to put in a bit of effort to learn the rules of this historically fascinating gambling game.
In a casino setting, craps is noisy and exciting, showing its roots as a street game, often played with a “table” fashioned from a blanket.
Online you may lose a bit of the atmosphere, but you don’t lose out on the mathematics that should make this game the first stop for value-seeking players.
10 – Single-deck blackjack
Remember what we said about the weighting of games in welcome offers? Well, blackjack is almost universally zero weighted, so you simply cannot use the game to pay off your wagering requirements.
The house edge of 1.5% makes it obvious why!
Single deck games are the best value for players. They also offer one of the only genuine opportunities to use skill to influence the outcome of a game, because it might just be possible to count the cards.
Blackjack is inherently friendly to players and it is the game that has the most to offer strategists, and we think if you’re going to play one game it should be blackjack.
Use this list as a starting point to your good value gaming, but only a starting point. Not all bets in all of these games offer these figures, the rules of probability still apply, and nothing is ever guaranteed! And always play safely above all else.