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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The Price You Pay for Playing Casino Games

18 December 2000

Last time I examined the impact that "house edge" has on playing casino games. You may not feel it, but it's always there, like a concealed hand extracting a percentage of your wagering dollar with each and every play you make at the slot machines or the table games.

House edge means exactly what it says: It guarantees the house will have the long-term edge over players as a collective group. It makes the casinos the winners no matter what we do. The percentage is not based on winning or losing. It is based on how much you play.

It is easy to dismiss the impact of the house edge. After all, if you go on a gambling venture and lose $100, does it make any difference what the edge against you was? In one-dimensional terms, no, it doesn't. But if you look beyond the bottom line and study the economics of gambling, you'll learn that the house edge is vitally important.

When you become aware of the advantages that casinos have on the different games, you become a much more intelligent player and hopefully a better one! You'll learn how to avoid the bets that suck up inordinate percentages of your wagering dollars. You will also develop the skills necessary for you to manipulate the system rather than the other way around.

Let's examine how house advantage really dictates what it costs you to play the games. As I pointed out last time, the house edge on all but one of the bets on an American roulette wheel is 5.26 percent. This means 5.26 cents is extracted from every dollar that you wager on the wheel. At a rate of 20 decisions per hour at a busy wheel, betting five dollars per spin means that the cost for playing the game comes to $5.26.

When we talk about "cost", winning and losing do not come into play. No matter how much you win or how much you lose, the house edge is constant. The cost is always there. When you win it means you won less than you should have won had you played the house on even terms.

You can see that the more decisions in which you are involved, the higher degree you subject yourself to house edge. Say, for example, that instead of playing $5.00 per spin at roulette, you were playing a $5.00 slot machine that was set to pay back 94.74 percent to players while retaining 5.26 percent for the house.

How many spins (providing your money held out!) could you play in an hour? Chances are a lot more than the 20 decisions at the roulette wheel. It only takes a few seconds to activate a slot play. What if you made a $5.00 slot spin every minute? Sixty spins would mean a cost to you of $15.78 per hour. A spin every thirty seconds? A hefty $31.56 cost to you. That's significant!

Even though we were talking about the same house edge (5.26 percent), the theoretical cost for playing skyrocketed at the $5.00 slot machine simply because there are many more decisions settled in an hour's worth of playing time.

That 5.26 percent house edge is pretty fat as casino games go. There are other games that are much more advantageous to play. Some examples include the Pass line wager at craps (1.41 percent) or using basic strategy at blackjack (less than one percent).

Speed of play is the key no matter what percentage you're dealing with. The longer and the faster you play, the more you subject yourself to the slings and arrows of the casino's advantage. If you play slots, play at a more leisurely pace. If you play table games, play smart and learn to distinguish the good bets from the bad bets. It's all up to you!

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp