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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A low house edge isn't necessarily the end-all, but it sure helps

28 June 2013

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? Wayne L.

All casino games, Wayne, fall into one of two categories. They are either games of luck or games of skill. In games of luck, the house edge is predetermined, so the opportunity 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 do not want to do, Wayne, is think the house edge is the end-all. The speed of the game, or number of decisions per hour, can be just as important. Some games are incredibly fast, such as video poker. Some games are painstakingly slow, for instance, keno. On a fast-paced game with a low house edge, you can lose considerably more per hour than on a slow game with a much higher house edge.

Also, Wayne, the house edge on some games will 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 affected by your hand-to-hand decisions. By making the right choices, you can maximize your winning potential on any given hand. Play poorly, and the low house edge of the game can't help you.

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

Essential to every player's success is understanding two fundamentals that will increase one's chances of winning: They are, as you state, sticking to bets that have a low house edge — like 2 percent or less, and developing competence in those games. By doing so, Wayne, you'll stand a decent chance of turning the tables in your favor, staying in action longer, and stopping the flight of your hard-earned cash into the 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. Jane B.

Since the delusory day of Friday the 13th lands on a Friday, coinciding with it being a payday in America, I'm saying the answer is no.

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

Over time, the decisions you make, combined with the odds of the games you play, automatically determine your financial bottom line.

Don't be a gambler, Jane, who believes in luck. Think as the casino does; believe in 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
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.