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A Low House Edge Isn’t Necessarily the End All, But it Sure Helps

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: When it really comes down to it, isn’t in the end all, all about the house edge when it comes to winning and losing? W. L.

All casino games, Wayne, fall into two categories. They are either games of fortuity or games of expertise. In games of luck, the house edge is prearranged, so the chance to determine success is taken out of your hands. With games of skill, players make decisions that will affect that so called “house edge.”

What you should not do, Wayne, is think the house edge is the end all. The rapidly played games, or number of decisions per hour, can be just as crucial. Some games are markedly fast, such as video poker. Some games are laboriously slow, for instance, keno. In a fast-paced game with a low house edge, you can lose substantially more per hour than in a slow game with a much greater house edge.

Also, Wayne, the house edge on some games is going to be directly influenced by the playing decisions you make, while on other games it is not. The house edge on games such as blackjack and video poker is going to be altered by your hand-to-hand decisions. By making the correct choices, you can amplify your winning potential on any given hand. Play poorly, and the low house edge of the game won't help you.

On games such as craps, baccarat, roulette and slots, you just have to make appropriate bets that have the lowest house-edge.

Crucial to every player’s success is understanding the two fundamental things that will increase one’s chances of winning: They are, as you state, relying on bets that have a low house edge ( two percent or less) and, developing expertise in those games. By doing so, Wayne, you’ll stand a fairly good chance of turning the tables in your favor, playing longer, and stopping your hard-earned cash from flowing into casino coffers.

Dear Mark: Did you ever notice when you worked in the casino that players avoided them on Friday the 13th? I figure there are many players who shun the casino because they are superstitious. J. B.

Since Friday the 13th lands on a Friday, it obviously coincides with it being a payday in most of America, I’m saying the answer is no.

Yes, Jane, certain players do confuse irrationality with the mathematics of gambling. That said, you won't lose because you saw a black cat in the casino parking lot; you'll lose because you are splitting 10’s at blackjack. A jackpot win at slots has nothing to do with the rabbit’s foot on your key chain.

In time, the decisions you make, in combination with the odds of the games you play, will be the determining factor of your financial bottom line.

Don’t be the gambler, Jane, who believes in luck or superstition. Think of it as the casino does; believe in the math.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
The likelihood of lining up four Megabucks symbols is somewhere in the cosmos between Jupiter and Mars, and even a spokesman at IGT would not admit to the mathematical probability of hitting one of the blasted things. – Barney Vinson