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House Edge (Gambling Lessons)
May 9, 2016 – 09:59 pm
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It should be no surprise that the casino has a built-in advantage on its games. The casinos don't beat the players because they get lucky, they beat the players because the odds are stacked in their favor. This built-in advantage is called the house edge. In numbers, it's the the casino's average profit from a player's bet. For example, in roulette house edge is about 5%. That means for every dollar bet, the casino keeps 5 as profit, and returns the other 95 to the players as winnings, on average.

Of course if you bet a single dollar just once then you're not going to get exactly 95 back - you're either going to lose the whole dollar or win more whole dollars. But that's beside the point. The point of the house edge is to see what the average loss is. If all the roulette players in a casino collectively gamble $1 million on a Friday, night, the casino expects to pay back around $950, 000 as winnings and keep around $50, 000 as profit.

The longer you play, the closer your losses will approach the house edge. That's another way of saying that the casino always wins in the long run. The twist is that the house edge tells us how much the casino will win on average. Here's a program that plays roulette to show what happens the longer you play. Note that the actual house edge in American roulette is 5.26%.

What you probably saw from the test above is that between 1 and 100 times, anything could happen. You might be ahead after 100 rounds. But the more rounds you play, the more likely you are to lose. And after 100, 000 rounds your loss will be pretty close to the 5.26% house edge.

The casino doesn't have to beat every player every time. They just know that they'll win around 5.26% of the total of all roulette bets placed over the year.

So that's how the house edge works. The casino doesn't have to destroy you with terrible odds - they give you an almost even game and make just a few percent on each bet on average. And that's why they don't have to cheat: they have a built-in mathematical advantage on every game, so cheating is pointless. All the have to do is get you to play, and they'll win in the long run.

The grind

So if the casino takes only a 5.26% profit on...
Interesting facts

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