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What is the House Edge?

“The house always wins” is a saying that should be familiar to all casino players, but how much truth is there to it? All casino games provide a home advantage, no matter how small, towards the casino, which means that the odds are always against you for winning on any given round. While most online casino games use random number generators (RNG) to calculate a different outcome for every wager you make, they are still fixed within a limited number of results. These number of results will be skewed towards losing combinations, rather than winning ones.

On the other side of the coin, the element of chance that is inherent in any legitimate casino game will always allow you to fall outside the boundaries of the house edge and score some wins. Understanding the concepts surrounding this is a great step towards improving your gameplay and results over a period of time. So, let’s get started on this fascinating topic…

Return To Player

Commonly shortened to RTP, the return to player is something you can find within the game rules of any slot game. The average RTP for online casino slots is around 97%, for example. This essentially means that you can expect to yield a return of €97 for every €100 wagered over an extended period. An example of this is playing 100 rounds for €1 a spin. Keep in mind that this is an average calculation spread across all activity within the game including all players. There will be some who make less, while others make more, but the average will remain static. 

Some slots may only offer a lower RTP of below 95%, which may be a compromise for offering more grandiose bonus rounds. An example of this would be progressive jackpots that lower the RTP in return for win potentials in the millions. You should always check the RTP of any slot you wish to play and then weigh up if any additional features make a lower RTP still worthwhile. Generally, an RTP of around 97% is a good standard for slots.

Live casino edge

Live games will follow the same standards as your typical land-based casinos. There’s no algorithm calculating randomness behind the scenes, but instead, a dealer or croupier, the card shoe, or the roulette wheel, will all follow the same rules as in the classic convention. We’ll cover three of the most commonly available live table games here so that you can see some examples of how the house edge shows its influences in each of the different environments.

Blackjack

Definitely the most widely available live casino activity, blackjack can come in a number of different shapes and sizes, which will have minor impacts on the overall likelihood of certain outcomes. Regardless, this variation will largely remain in between 0.5 and 1 percent in the casino’s favor. Playing on a blackjack table with a house edge of 1% will mean that you should expect a return of €99 for every €100 wagered. This is based on overall averages across players and rounds and takes into account perfect strategies, such as knowing when to double down, when to split, and so on. 

Additionally, when the correct strategy is applied, you can expect to win around 48% of the hands you play. The keyword here is ‘expect’. There will always be variance in play when considering a house edge. You might be constantly winning your hands, while another player loses all of theirs. This all plays into the overall averages.

Roulette

The house edge in roulette can again be heavily impacted by the variation you are playing. As American roulette features both a zero and a double zero pocket, the house edge increases over other types. This leads to a house edge of 5.26%, as opposed to European roulette (without the dreaded double zero pocket) favoring the casino by 2.70%. This vastly changes up the dynamic when betting on red or black, as even bets on European roulette have a 48.7% chance of winning – less than 50% due to the single zero pocket. This also factors into your payout, which is set at 1/36 and doesn’t account for the extra pockets taken up by the zeroes.

Baccarat

Knowing the house edge can also help you determine which bets you should be avoiding. In baccarat, for example, it is generally not advised that you ever bet on a Tie due to the low odds of winning. The house edge of 14.4% makes the 8 to 1 payout for a Tie rather unpalatable and is therefore largely avoided. Betting on the Player gives a payout of double your wager, but also comes with a much less risky 1.24% favor towards the casino. The Banker, on the other hand, will win a little over 50% of the hands played on average. To compensate for the likelihood of wins leaning more towards the Banker, a 5% commission is taken out of your winnings.

Playing online vs offline

There are pros and cons for playing either online or at a land-based casino. An online site can carry tons of variants for both slots and table games, without being limited by physical space. This means that it might be hard to figure out the percentages of each specific niche or variant for any given genre. Therefore, land-based casinos tend to have a much more homogenized selection of classics from which to choose. The drawback of this, apart from not offering the same amount of choice, is that resources, for slot games, for example, are not as readily available as they are in their online counterparts. Online slots have menus and in-game rules that explicitly tell you the mechanics and RTP you can expect from any given title. You also have helpful websites, such as ours, breaking all of these components down to size for you.

Being familiar with a house edge is important, regardless of the game or platform you choose to play on. To understand certain mechanics and strategies of games, you will always need to take into account the average probabilities at stake. Understanding this concept will allow you to more effectively strategize and improve your gameplay over an extended period of time. So, carry this information with you whenever you play and maybe, with a little luck, you can play the edge to your advantage.

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