Knowing The Odds


Before you begin playing in an online casino, it’s important to know what the odds are. That is, what are the chances of you actually winning? There are a couple of ways to understand your odds. You can look at statistical data; mathematical formulas that arrive at conclusions like, “your odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 176 million” which is a little incomprehensible. You could then look to more informal fact sheets that state things such as, "compared with winning the lottery, you are 33 times as likely to be killed by bees” (according to this article in the LA times:,0,3356135,full.story). Many people look at return to player percentages, which are informative when it comes to choosing a game wisely, but which do not tell you what the chances of you personally taking home cash are. They merely state the percentage that is taken home by people in general over a period of time.

The way that I evaluate my odds is by looking at the house edge. This is because calculating actual odds for any given game requires knowledge about the game rules, how many rounds or hands are being played, what combinations constitute wins, and other mathematical information that is difficult to understand. The house edge basically tells me how much more likely the casino is to win than I am. In a perfect zero-sum game, the casino would have a 50% chance of beating me and I would have a 50% chance of beating the house. However, if the house has an edge – say, of 5% - over me, then the new results are that I am likely to win only 46% of the time and the house is likely to win 55%. With each and every hand that gets played, I have a 55% chance of losing that hand (or spin or roll, etc.).

Another way to think of it is that for every $1 I wager, the house edge tells me how much I can expect to lose. A House Edge of 5% would amount to me losing about 5 cents per every dollar. Of course, this is how it averages out over the long term time for a typical gambler. In the short term there may be some very big wins or some very big losses, and in games like poker where skill is a determining factor, the odds change depending on the skill level. When looking at the house edge, the smaller it is the better. Think of it this way: would you rather lose 20 cents for every dollar or 5 cents (assuming the scenario that this is a game where you do not get especially lucky and take home a jackpot)?

So, how do the odds of many popular casino games add up? Well, our personal favorite, slots, have an extremely variable house edge. It depends on where you play it (online or off, and in which casino). On average the house edge for Slots is between 2-15%. That’s quite a large spread! You could be losing between 2 and 15 cents out of every dollar you wager. The thing about slot games is that the risk can be much greater but the potential rewards are usually much greater as well. In general, the slots with the best return to player percentages are going to be the ones with the lower house edge. How do other games compare?

Blackjack: .28%

Carribean Stud Poker: 5.22%

Craps: 1.36% - 16.67% (depending on bet type)

Keno: 25-29%

Pai Gow: 1.5%

Roulette: 2.7% (single 0) or 5.26% (double 0)

Video Poker (Jacks or Better): .46%


As you can see, blackjack is the game with the best house edge. Of course, blackjack doesn’t have a jackpot. So, unless you manage to win on a very large bet, you aren’t likely to take home a large sum of money. In the end, it’s up to the player to decide what game, and what odds, suit them best.