Not all gambling carries the same risk. The National Lottery can offer multi-million pound jackpots every week because it is incredibly unlikely that you will be the top prize winner, 45,057,474 to 1 for the Lotto and 139,838,160 to 1 for Euromillions. Whereas at the bookies you might get odds of two to one on a football match or the Wimbledon final, where the outcomes are limited and the bookies have a favourite. In a casino, everyone knows that “the house always wins”, but the house edge varies from game to game, with players far more likely to win in some than in others.
The “house edge”, also known as the “house advantage”, refers to the average percentage of profit that the casino or online gambling site makes from a player’s wager on a game, whether that is on roulette, slots, or anything else. In physical casinos the edge comes from the format of the game, such as on the roulette wheel having either one or two zeros, so that it is just slightly less than a 50/50 chance that the ball lands on black or red. To mimic these odds digitally, online casinos will use random number generators (RNGs), with the best UK online casino operators using verifiable and uniformly distributed number generators as described the the Gambling Commission.
So which casino games offer the lowest house edge and give you the best chance of winning?
Blackjack, also known as “21” or “Vingt-et-un” is one of the most popular classic casino games and also offers the lowest house edge of any game at just 0.72 per cent when playing the optimal card strategy. Getting a blackjack, where a player’s cards add up to 21, pays out 3:2, whilst the insurance pays 2:1, and the other 1:1.
Each variation of blackjack, such as classic, Atlantic City, or Spanish 21, varies slightly in its house edge, but it should be noted that Pontoon actually offers an even lower house edge of between 0.34 and 0.62 per cent depending on the player’s strategy.
Baccarat is another classic casino game and perhaps best known as James Bond’s favourite, with 007 playing the game in a number of the hit movies over the last fifty years. It is a game where the banker generally has an advantage and pay 0.95:1, with the house charging a five per cent commission on banker winning hands, whilst the payout for the player’s hand is 1:1, or on the rare occasion it is a tie the payout is 8:1.
Baccarat is also a game with a razor thin edge for the house at just 1.06 per cent for the banker’s hand or 1.24 per cent for the player’s in a traditional game. However, it is worth noting that the house edge varies significantly from game to game, with some online casinos taking an advantage of up to 12 or 14 per cent, so it is important to know the rules before placing a wager.
Roulette is one of the oldest casino table games and continues to be one of the most popular at casinos around the world due to its simplicity and odds of winning. There are a number of roulette variations offered by casinos, but the two most popular today American roulette and European roulette, which each offer differing house edges.
American roulette is the most widely played style in Las Vegas but it actually offers the worst odds for players, with a house edge of 5.26 per cent. The variation is down to the extra “00” pocket added next to the zero pocket on the roulette wheel, which reduces the odds of winning as this pocket is neither red or black, nor even or odd. Learning how to play roulette and win will reduce the house edge, but European roulette will always offers better odds.
European roulette, which is more commonly played in Asia and Europe, only has a single zero pocket, improving the odds of a player winning their bet and bringing the house edge down to 2.7 per cent. In most other respects the game is the same as the American style where players can bet on red or black, odd or even, or a specific number, with higher odds for the more unlikely outcomes.
Some casinos, most commonly in France, will offer even better roulette odds and reduce the house edge further by introducing the “La Partage” (“Sharing”) rule. This gives the player the opportunity to recover half their stake after a spin of zero if their bet was even odds, such as red or black, odd or even. Instead of La Partage, some casinos may offer “En Prison” rules, where instead of getting back half their stake, a player previous bet remains on the table for the next spin – the bet in effect kept “in prison”.