Guide to Casino Game Strategies
Casino games are fun, but let’s be honest. You’re here to make some money when you play. There’s nothing like the euphoria of getting that one big win.
Even on casino games where it all seems down to luck, there are strategies to help diminish the casino’s house edge. Perfect casino strategy can make it more likely that you’ll win big.
Understanding the Casino House Edge in Casino Strategy
First of all, you need to understand the influence of the casino’s house edge. Some games are more worth playing than others from the standpoint of profitability.
For example, many players love baccarat because it requires little casino strategy and the house edge is only 1.06%. It’s one of the lowest house edges you’re going to come up with.
On the other hand, a game like keno has one of the worst house edges around. Keno's house edge of anywhere from 20% to 40%, depending on the rules of the variation you're playing.
If you’re more concerned with making a profit, it’s always wise to look up the various house edges before you play. That is a strategy's first and most important step.
Baccarat couldn’t be simpler to play. Both the dealer and the player receive two cards. The goal is to bet on the hand that will have the highest score. In baccarat’s case, the highest score is nine.
Aces count for one and face cards count for nothing. Sometimes a third card is dealt, but in terms of strategy, you don’t need to remember this. Just bet on the hand that will get the closest to nine.
If your hand has a higher score than nine the first digit is removed, so if you get a six and a five that makes 11. But in baccarat, the left digit is now removed so you only have a score of one.
This is a game entirely based on the luck of the draw. For the best odds, you should always bet on the banker’s hand, as betting on the player’s hand comes with a 1.24% house edge, compared to 1.06% on the dealer’s hand. Our baccarat strategy guide can show you the more advanced techniques to tackle the house!
Blackjack is one of the most popular games in casinos because of its simplicity. There’s an element of both luck and skill involved. Following the correct mathematical decisions, otherwise known as basic strategy, can reduce the house edge to under 1%. Someone who doesn’t know about basic strategy faces a house edge of 4% or more.
In blackjack, two cards are dealt to each player and the dealer. Only one of the dealer’s cards are visible. This card is what you base your decision on.
There are plenty of basic strategy blackjack tables online you should memorize when playing. If you’re playing with an online casino, you can have a basic strategy table sitting next to you. Our blackjack guide also shares more winning tips, including when to double-down!
What about Odds, Insurance, and Side Bets?
Blackjack has a few wrinkles involved because of the opportunity to take insurance and side bets. But, first, you need to know about the odds on a ‘natural’. This is where you hit 21 with your first two cards. You have approximately a 7.2% chance of this happening.
Different casinos will pay different odds for a ‘natural’. Always look for 3:2 odds on this. Avoid any online casinos charging 6:5 odds as this changes the house edge in the long-term, ultimately meaning that you win less.
Insurance against a dealer blackjack should always be avoided. This is basic math and you don’t need to know anything else. Never take insurance!
Regarding side bets, such as the double down and the split, whether you take this depends on what the dealer is showing on their face-up card. Refer to basic blackjack casino strategy for more information on this.
Poker is unique among casino games in that you’re playing against other players, rather than the house. The only presence of the house is the 5% rake the average cardroom will take. Other than beating that 5% rake, you’re on your own against all the other players.
In an average game against other players, a player who knows what they’re doing will have anywhere from a 1% to a 10% edge on their opponents
Tighten Up Your Starting Hands
Don’t be that person who bets on anything and everything. Tightening up your starting hand range will do you the world of good.
Sure, it means fewer hands played and less excitement, but if you watch most professional poker players you’ll see they only wade into a few key hands.
This is where so many novices fall down on poker strategy. Generally, it's a good rule of thumb to bet aggressively, otherwise, you’re leaving a lot of value on the table.
Failing to extract the maximum value of a great hand means you’ll ultimately lose in the long-term. Extracting value now also covers for bad luck later on.
It’s amazing how many new poker players want to bluff like the pros. Bluffing is a valid strategy at a more advanced level. The problem is most novices have no idea what they’re doing. They’ll call anything, thus making your bluff worthless.
Play more conservatively and when you have a weak hand don’t be afraid to throw it away, even if you’re tempted to bluff.
Craps looks complex, but it’s a lot easier than it looks. Most bets in craps should be ignored.
To start with, you’ll bet on a ‘pass’ or ‘don’t pass’. Let’s say you make a pass bet. You win if the dice hits 7 or 11 and you lose if they land on 2, 3, or 12. If none of these numbers are hit this is what’s called setting a point.
For example, let’s say the dice land on a five. This is the point and now the shooter must hit a five again or shoot until they hit a seven. Five means you win the pass bet. Seven means you lose.
This type of bet has a house edge of just 1.41%. A don’t pass bet has a house edge of 1.38%.
If you're starting out with craps: don’t bet on anything else! You can read further expert advice in our guide.
Improving the Odds Further with an Odds Bet
An odds bet is a bet you can make after the point has been set. So let’s say the dice land on five. Now you can place an odds bet, which is some kind of multiple of your original bet. The multiple depends on where you’re playing.
The right strategy is to place an odds bet at the maximum amount, together with your pass or don’t pass bet. In this scenario, the house edge is just 0.02%.
You’ll often hear casino strategy guides talk about roulette. They’re right. Roulette has an excellent (i.e., low) house edge and is one of the simplest casino games you can play.
The best way to handle roulette is to place a simple red/black bet or an odd/even bet. These are the most boring bets and come with the lowest payouts, but in the long term, you’re more likely to win.
Advantage in American vs European and French Roulette
Smart players will never play what’s known as American roulette. They’ll opt to play European/French roulette instead. The difference between the two games is American roulette also has a ‘00’ number, alongside the traditional single zero.
This makes a huge difference. The house edge in European/French roulette is 2.7%. In American roulette, the house edge doubles to 5.26%. Avoid the 00 roulette when you can! And you can always find European or French roulette in online casinos.
You can find further betting strategies in our guide to roulette.
Keno has one of the worst house edges in all of gambling. Depending on the rules and variations in your game of Keno, there can be a house edge ranging anywhere from 20% to 35%. This is the equivalent of trying to playing the lottery.
The aim of the game is you pick a bunch of numbers and then the casino draws a bunch of numbers. The more numbers you match with the casino’s the bigger your payout.
This is a game of luck. As such, there’s no available casino strategy for you to utilize that will effectively reduce the house edge.
The only reason why you would play keno is that you’re only placing bets every so often. This means your average loss per hour rate is much less than the majority of casino games.
For example, when you play slots you would lose an average of five times more per hour than you would be when playing keno.
Let it Ride
Let It Ride is an interesting version of poker. The way it works is you get five cards and you have the opportunity to remove one or more of your three bets as the community cards are dealt. Or you can let the bets ride, hence the name of the game.
Only the player gets a hand in this variation of poker, not the dealer. The better your hand after both community cards are dealt the better the payout.
A pair of tens or better will pay even money, whereas a Royal Flush will pay odds of 1000:1.
There is a strategy to winning on Let it Ride. It’s all about deciding when to let your bet carry over.
When you have three cards, you should maintain your bet if you have three cards to a royal flush or straight flush, along with when you have three suited cards that are consecutive cards.
With four cards, let the bet ride if you have four cards of the same suit, four cards on both an outside and inside straight, or four cards that are above a ten.
In all scenarios, continue to let the bet ride if you have a winning hand.
Play with the correct strategy in Let it Ride and you can expect a house edge of 3.5%.
Caribbean Stud Poker
Caribbean Stud Poker is another variation of poker. You place an ante bet and you have the choice to place a side bet on the progressive jackpot. You’ll receive a five-card hand and so will the dealer. One of the dealer’s cards will be dealt face-up.
There are two options now. You can either fold your hand and you lose the ante and your side bet. If you raise, you need to place a wager equal to twice the ante bet.
The dealer will then turn over their cards. They need to have an ace + king or something better to move to the next round. If they don’t you win even money. The raise is returned with no additional win.
Then both the player and the dealer compare hands. If the player has a better hand, the ante is paid at even money. The raise is paid based on what hand they received. So a Royal Flush pays odds of 100:1 and two pairs pay 2:1.
Your progressive bet is paid off if you have the right hand.
It sounds complex, but when you start playing it’s easier than it seems with a 2.55% house edge. So what’s the casino's strategy?
Always raise with a pair or higher. Always fold if you have a hand that the dealer wouldn’t qualify with.
With an ace or a king, raise if the dealer has anything from a 2 to a queen that matches your cards. If you have a queen or jack and the dealer has an ace/king, always raise. And always raise if you have at least a queen and the dealer’s card facing you is weaker than your 4th best card.
Finally, ignore the progressive side bet. This bet has a house edge of 26% so it just isn’t worth it.
Pai Gow Poker
If you’re looking for a slow-paced game, Pai Gow poker is the answer. It’s a game with a lot of ties, so it’s one of the best card games to play if you want to limit your losses per hour.
You play with a standard 52-card deck and a joker. Both the player and the dealer receive seven cards. Then the player must separate them into a five and two-card hand, with the five-card hand being the strongest.
Win both hands against the dealer and you get paid even money minus a 5% commission. Win one hand and it’s a tie, thus your bet is returned. Lose both and the dealer wins.
The optimal casino strategy for this game is to avoid all side bets for a start. Secondly, put your highest pair in your five-card hand, with the two highest kickers in your two-card hand. If no pair, play the 2nd and 3rd best kickers in your low hand.
If you make any strong poker hands, always keep them for your high hand and put the rest in your two-card hand.
It’s a lot more complex than this, but even with a basic strategy, you should get a 2.7% house edge.