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Comparing More House Edges

29 September 2006

Okay, one more column on house edge, then I'll give you a short break. But today's is a no-brainer; we'll be comparing house edges of various casino games and bets, so all you have to do is scan the list, find your favorite game and see how it stacks up against other games or bets.

The following list doesn't include video poker, which I talked about several months ago; craps, which we discussed last week; or blackjack, which we'll discuss later. These are just common, everyday casino games that keep the light bills paid and employees fed.

Spanish 21: 0.8 percent with proper strategy;
Baccarat, bet on banker: 1.2 percent;
Baccarat, bet on player: 1.4 percent;
Three Card Poker, pair plus side bet: 2.3 percent;
Pai Gow Poker: 2.5 to 2.8 percent;
Caribbean Stud Poker: 2.6 to 5.3 percent, depending on how the edge is calculated;
Roulette, single-zero wheel (rare here in the States): 2.6 percent;
Casino War: 2.9 percent;
Three Card Poker, basic game: 3.4 percent;
Let It Ride: 3.5 percent;
Red Dog: 3.5 percent;
Roulette, double-zero wheel: 5.3 percent;
Slots in general: 2 to 15 percent and higher;
Slots at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas: 5.3 percent;
Roulette, evil five-number bet: 7.89 percent;
Baccarat, tie bet: 14 percent;
Blackjack, mimic-the-dealer style of play: 14 percent;
Big 6 Wheel (54 stops): 11.1 percent on $1 bet up to 22.2 percent on either $5 or $20 bet and 24.1 percent on special symbols (such as a joker and a casino logo);
Keno: 25 percent and higher;
Let It Ride, bonus bet: 13 to 35 percent, depending on payoff;
Sic Bo: 47 percent;
Caribbean Stud Poker, $1 jackpot bet: sucker bet unless jackpot is $360,000;
Craps, Any Seven: 16.67 percent;
Blackjack: 0.5 to 8 percent, depending on table rules and skill of player.

Okay, so I did throw in some craps and blackjack numbers after all. That was just to wake you up.

Note that there is some disagreement even among experts as to how to figure Caribbean Stud's house edge. The 5.3 percent number is based on the player's ante wager. But if you consider the "element of risk" proposed by Wizard of Odds Michael Shackleford, the edge based on the average amount bet includes both the ante and call bets. Then it slips down to 2.6 percent, and that's the number I always refer to.

By the way, one side note to house edge is the "for" versus "to" terminology. Let's start with video poker.

It was a stroke of genius when whoever invented video poker rigged the game to make you feel like a push is a win. If you hit a pair of jacks, queens, kings or aces while playing Jacks or Better, you're paid five coins. But that's the amount of your original wager; you're only breaking even, but because credits, which have already been subtracted, are added back to credits, you get the impression that you've won money. Actually you don't make any gains until you hit two pair or higher.

Look at this way. If, as in video poker, you are paid back one coin for every coin wagered, then you are being paid one for one, not one to one. If you sit down at a blackjack table and put one chip in the betting circle, the dealer does not take it unless you lose. During the decision-making process, your chip stays in the betting circle. If you win, he pulls out a chip from his rack of chips and places it next to yours. You are being paid one to one.

Video poker is not the only instance where you have to look out for the "for versus to" phenomenon. For example, take a look at a craps table. The any-seven bet pays off at a rate of 4-to-1. If you wager $5 that a 7 will roll on the next toss of the dice, and it does, then the dealer will place four red chips next to your single chip.

But some tables have printed on them "5 for 1." Don't be fooled. Trust me; you won't receive a bonus, and the casino is not paying you more than the casino next door. A dealer at a table like this will not place five chips next to your one; he will still give you only four chips. The difference is in the wording only.

The same goes for all the center proposition bets. If you make a bet on the hard 6 or 8 to roll and if you happen to see a payoff of 10-for-1, you're still getting paid the same as the standard 9-to-1.

Not too many casinos in Mississippi have this printed on their felt layouts, but it's something to watch out for in other venues, especially Las Vegas.

Okay, that's probably more percentages than you care to absorb, so until next week, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com