Everyone loves casino games, and there's a chance to win some serious bucks every time you play. But with so much choice at online casinos, it's important to pick the right games - and the right wagers. Every game is different, and the odds of winning changes from game to game.
By taking advantage of the free-play options at most online casinos, it's possible to get a real handle for the odds before you risk any cash. So, play a range of table games and slots, plus the interesting online variants you will find, and get the best odds every time. Here are some great tips to get you started.
Getting Started: What Are Casino Odds?
There are two factors you need to pay attention to in casino games: the odds and the payouts. Naturally, the casino is in it to make money from players. That's why the payouts never quite match the true odds.
Let's take roulette as an example. In a European Roulette game, there are 37 numbered slots on the wheel (1-36 plus the zero). The odds of hitting one number correctly is 37/1 (a one-in-37 chance). However, the actual payout is only 35/1. The discrepancy means the casino is always ahead.
Let's say you bet $10 on number 36 and it comes in. You win $360 (35 x $10 plus your original stake), but if you lose the casino gets the whole $10. That's where the house wins.
Understanding The House Edge
The statistical advantage the casino has over its players is called the 'house edge'. The casino can have an advantage in different ways: skewing payouts related to the original bet, or making the player act before or after a dealer (which affects the way the player can win a game).
Every game has its own house edge, and some can be lowered if you stick to the right bets. While the house edge appears small, you have to factor in the long-term effect on players' bankrolls. While a game of European Roulette will lose the player just $2.70 for every $100 they bet, these losses can mount up over the long term. Again, free-play is the best way to determine the house edge before you put your hand in your pocket.
Here's a list of house edge figures at popular casino games. These refer to games played optimally (i.e. you're sticking to the most player-friendly bets like even-money shots, and avoiding the riskier wagers).
House Edge In Casino Games (assuming optimal strategy)
Video Poker: 0.5-5%
RTP: Return To Player Percentages
If you're a slots player, you'll be able to see the average payouts made to players. This is called the RTP (Return to Player percentage). Effectively, it's the long-term payouts made back to the gambler for every $1 wagered. So, a slot with a 95% RTP would pay back $0.95 for every $1 bet. The casino is always getting a cut, even if one or two players hit it big.
That's why it's always important to look at casino RTP tables before you start. Good licensed casinos are audited externally to make sure their games are fair. They will also be tested for their theoretical RTPs. Even blackjack and roulette software is put through its paces. You'll be able to read the RTP list on the site's audit certificate - every casino should have one.
Great Casino Games & Payouts
Casino games vary in their payouts and house edges. The important thing is to work out which games suit you, and what are the most profitable long-term.
Slots: Video slots are at all online casinos. But with so many hundreds available, the RTP can vary massively. A typical 5-reel online slot has an RTP of around 93-94% - that is, $0.93-$0.94 is returned for each dollar wagered. But winnings are often re-wagered on the slot, making it harder for players to grind out a profit.
The payouts can be huge, however. Five Wilds in a row on a 5-reel slot, for example, pays around 5000-10000/1. A progressive jackpot, meanwhile, can pay out over 1,000,000/1 if you're betting the high stakes.
The problem is, with so many reels, and so many symbols on each reel, the actual odds of hitting even a small winning combination is massive - in the tens of thousands.
Let's say Reels 1, 2, and 3 of a 5-reel slot have 20 symbols each. There are three jackpot symbols on each reel. To hit a winning combo of three jackpot symbols on a line, the odds are then 3/20 x 3/20 x 3/20, or just under 300/1. The payout might only be a tenth of that.
Roulette: European Roulette, as we've mentioned, is a fun table game which offers a good edge for players - if they stick to the outside even-money bets. If a player bets on Red or Black (both paying 1/1) and the green zero lands, the player loses. This is what gives the house its edge. In addition, the payout for hitting a number correctly is 35/1 where the actual odds are 1/37.
In American Roulette, an extra green slot is included - the double zero (00). This increases the house edge to 5.26% (compared to 2.7% in European Roulette) as players have a higher chance of losing their even-money bets.
Blackjack: When played properly, blackjack has perhaps the lowest edge of all casino games - about 0.5%. The advantage the player has is in seeing the dealer's first card (the 'up card'). They can then formulate their play accordingly, hitting and standing depending on what they see in front of them.
The dealer also has certain rules: hitting on a soft 16, for example, or standing on hard 17. An Insurance bet pays 2/1 to the player if the dealer has a "natural" blackjack (dealt at the start of the hand). However, the true odds are far higher, so the Insurance shouldn't be taken.
If the player over-hits, and doesn’t stand when they should, the house edge increases to around 2%. A good plan is to print out a 'cheat sheet': this will show you when to hit and stand depending on both your cards and the dealer's.
Baccarat: Baccarat is a fun and easy table game played between the 'Banker' and 'Player' (although all participants can bet on either). Two hands are dealt, and the closest to a 9 total wins. (Picture cards are worth zero, and number cards their value. If the total is over 10, the first digit is counted.)
In some cases, a third is dealt to each hand but the Banker has the advantage. The payout reflects that: if the Banker win pays 19/20 (even-money minus 5%). The Player win pays 1/1 (even-money). A tied hand pays 8/1 but should be avoided.
With proper play (avoiding the Tie, for example), Baccarat enjoys a house edge of 1.06%, around double that of blackjack. Like blackjack, print out a handy cheat sheet to see what happens when the 'third-card rule' comes into play.
Tips On Battling The Odds
The fact with casino games is that the odds are always against you. The more you play, the theory is, the more you will lose. And any winnings are simply ploughed back into the game.
Slots have a terrible house edge because the games are so quick (spins can take a second or two). The longer you play them, the worse the long-term odds. So, if slots are your thing, stick to high-RTP games and regularly cash out your winnings.
Whatever your game, quitting when you're ahead is an ideal strategy. It's hard, of course, to stop playing when you're on a hot streak. But remember: there are no 'hot' and 'cold' games, and each spin or roulette game is independent from the last.
Casino Game Odds FAQs
What Are Casino Odds?
Casino odds are the probability of an outcome happening, whether it's a roulette number appearing, a blackjack hand coming up, or a slots payline aligning.
What Is The House Edge?
The house edge is the statistical advantage the casino has over players long-term. Some games have higher house edges than others.
How Can I Beat The Casino?
Over the long term, casinos will statistically win more money from players. The key is to cash out when you're ahead and move on to another game. Most online casinos let you withdraw for free, so set yourself a win limit and move your money into your account. Then, start all over again with an original stake.
What Games Have The Best Odds?
Blackjack probably offers players the best chance to come out a winner. You are around a 44-48 percent chance to win the hand - every hand you play. But it's important to play a solid strategy and avoid Insurance and side bets.
What Games Have The Worst Odds?
Online slots can have high RTPs (Return to Player percentages) but can be volatile: you may spin for a long time before hitting a large winner. In terms of house edge, online slots have some of the highest casino advantages when compared to baccarat or blackjack.
Am I Better Off Playing Online?
Online slots tend to have better RTPs than offline machines but the odds are still pretty much stacked against the players. Online slots are also extremely quick to play. This allows players to bet a lot more frequently, so increasing the edge against them.