Intro to Casino Games

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Most Popular Casino Games

Blackjack Craps Roulette Slot Machines Poker Sports Betting
Bet Against House House House House Other People House*
House Edge 0.5%-2% 1.4%-16.67% Europe: 2.7% America: 5.3% 2%-15% n/a variable
Learning Curve Medium Medium Easy Easy Hard Medium-Hard
Major Pro Get to make decisions Really cheap and fun when done right Thrilling Can keep wife/girlfriend happy for hours Beatable long-term, most control Theoretically beatable, very fun
Major Con Boring and repetitive Standing up House edge very high Big house edge, repetitive Patience needed to win (boring) Sexiest bet (parlay) has big house edge


This is probably the most popular casino offering (perhaps next to slot machines). The idea of blackjack is to draw a better hand than the dealer. The best hand is a 21 (an ace with any ten-card: ten, jack, queen, or king) which is known as a “blackjack”. The house-edge in blackjack can vary depending on the rules. A game where the dealer must stand on a soft 17 is better than a game where they hit on soft 17. Also, blackjack should always pay 3:2. Games where blackjack pays 6:5 have a significantly higher house edge.

Blackjack can have a very low house edge when a.) there are player-friendly rules and b.) optimal decisions are made. Since players choose whether to hit or stand, they effect the ultimate house edge. A novice making sloppy decisions could potentially give up 5-10% to the house which renders blackjack an expensive proposition. It is recommended that one studies a blackjack decision-making table before wagering any significant sum.


Craps, like blackjack, can have a very low house-edge when played sensibly or a very high house-edge when played recklessly. The “pass line” in craps has a 1.41% house-edge, which is very low. Since craps tables offer many different bets, the game can seem confusing at a glance. However, beginners can take solace in that there is really only one offering they need to bother with, that being the pass line.

A pass line bet is a winner on 7 and 11 and a loser on 2, 3 and 12. If any other number is rolled, the pass line is a winner when that number is rolled again unless a 7 is rolled. For example, if the “come out” roll is a 6, the shooter must roll another 6 before rolling a 7 in order for the pass line bet to be a winner. What makes craps great is that once a point is set (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), players can place an “odds” bet immediately behind their pass line bet. Most casinos cap this “odds” bet at 3-5x the size of the pass line bet. However, some casinos allow for 10x, 20x, or even 100x odds (which can only be found at Casino Royale). The best part of the odds bet is that there is zero house edge. It is essentially the only “free gamble” offered in the casino.


This is a very simple, self-explanatory game. However, it’s upside of simplicity is more than outweighed by its hefty house-edge. The house gains an edge because of the two green-zeros. When the ball lands on the green zero, neither black nor red is a winner; they both lose. In Europe, roulette wheels only have one green zero which makes the game a much more sensible proposition.

Slot Machines

Like roulette, slot machines are simple but cursed with a large house-edge. “Penny-slots” are a fun way to play slot machines without giving up much to the house. After all, how much can you possibly lose if you’re only betting a little change on each spin of the wheel?


There is a saying about poker, “it takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.” A novice at a casino poker table is very likely to get their clock cleaned if they don’t have some type of a basic understanding of poker strategy. It is recommended to spend a few hours gaining a basic understanding of the inter workings of poker before attempting to play in a casino.

Sports Betting

One thing that makes Vegas a gambler’s paradise is sports betting, which is illegal in most other parts of the world. Sports betting is kind of like craps in that it seems really complicated at first, but really is a lot simpler than it appears. (*) Although sports wagers are made against the “house”, in a way, you’re also betting against other patrons. For example, if a team is a 3 point favorite in a sporting event, and everyone starts betting on that team, the casino is going to increase the line to make them a 4 or 5 point favorite as an attempt to encourage patrons to bet on the other team. The casino’s goal is always to accept an even amount of action on each team in a sporting event. So in a way, you’re betting against other patrons when they artificially inflate the “spread” in a sporting event due to over-exuberant betting.

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