House edge & Expected Value
The difference between the true odds and the payout the casino gives the successful player on any given bet, is the house edge. In order to maximise the expected value of your bet (or have the lowest negative expected value possible), you will want the lowest house edge.
The house edge varies not only from game to game, but within the games themselves as different allowed bets have different edges.
If all allowed bets have a negative expected value within a game, there is no strategy a player can use to win money in the long run in that game.
However if you wish to play a particular game, we recommend placing bets with the lowest house edge. Even better, consider whether even better games exist, which have one or more bets with a lower house edge.
Roulette: Reducing the house edge from 5.26% to 1.35%
The payout of any single number bet (known as a ‘straight up’ bet) is 35-1. However the true odds are 36-1 in European/French roulette, as there are 37 single numbers each with an equal probability of the ball landing (18 reds, 18 blacks, and 1 zero). In American roulette the true odds are 37-1, as there are 38 single numbers each with an equal probability of the ball landing (18 reds, 18 blacks, a zero, and a double zero). Since the payout is the same in both versions, but the true odds are worse in American roulette, you should avoid this game in favour of the European/French version where you have the option . Your expected value is −2.7 pence on every £1 bet on a single number, compared to -5.26 pence on every £1 bet on a single number in American roulette.
This is true of red/black bets, odd/even bets, low/high bets too. At this point we should mention that in the UK only half the bet lost if it lands on the single zero present on the wheel. This means your expect ed value is −1.35 pence on every £1 bet on red/black bets, odd/even bets, low/high bets in UK roulette, and are the best way to maximise your expected value in roulette.
Punto banco: Placing bets with only 1.06% house edge (and avoiding a 14.4% house edge)!
Punto banco (meaning player banker) with 8 decks (a form of Baccarat) has an expected value of −1.06 pence on every £1 bet on the banco bet (this is after taking account of the ‘commission’ charged on winning banco bets), and an expected value of −1.24 pence on every £1 bet on the punto bet. The banco bet is better, despite the casino imposing a 5% ‘commission’ on banco wins, as opposed to no commission on punto wins. The tied bet should be avoided, which produces an expected value of −4.85 pence on every £1 bet if ties are paid out at 9-1 (and are a disaster for the player if the casino pays out ties at 8-1, which produces an expected expected value of −14.4 pence on every £1 bet).
Craps: The myth of the 0% house edge
You may have heard that in craps there are bets with an expected value of −0.00 pence on every £1 bet, but these bets cannot be placed independently of another bet which has a negative expected value, and as such the overall expectation is negative.
Blackjack: A house edge of only 0.5%?
Blackjack, can have an extremely low house edge. However, unlike roulette or punto banco, you need to make decisions during your hand – making the wrong decisions will increase the casino’s edge. You can memorise perfect blackjack strategy (that is making the best decisions without card counting information). The exact edge you have will vary according to the rules of the game (there are many possible variations of the rules). If playing online, you don’t need to learn the perfect strategy, as you could just have it on a piece of paper, or on your screen. Even in brick and mortar casinos, many will probably not mind if you have consult your notes on perfect strategy (some many even have a leaflet with it on). If this is too much work, you might be better off playing a game with higher house edge, but no decisions for you to make apart from selecting your bet (e.g. the banker bet in punto banco).
Blackjack: Is a PLAYER edge of upto 2% possible through card counting?
Card Counting is method used in blackjack by players aiming to give themselves an advantage over the casino. Card counting can give the player an edge over the casino upto 2%. Card counting requires effort, and casinos may take steps to stop you.