Choosing Which Casino Games to Play – The Pros and Cons of Each

By in Casino & Gaming on
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I can imagine someone typing the phrase, “best casino games” into a search engine and feeling overwhelmed about which games to play. That’s because there is no single “best” casino game. Different games have different bells and whistles.

It’s your job as the player to decide which aspects of a casino game are important to you. Are you looking for something that’s easy to play? Or do you prefer something more complicated?

Other questions to think about include whether the game has a skill element or a social element. Do you like to play games that have a variety of bets to choose from?

How much do you care about the potential of winning a big payout? How much do you care about the house edge?

In this post, I look at each of these aspects of a game and give the pros and cons of each casino game as they pertain to those criteria.

Which Casino Games Are Easy to Learn and Play?

If you’re looking for a game that’s easy to learn and play, I suggest any of the following games:

  • Baccarat
  • Roulette
  • Slots

Baccarat seems like a complicated game because of the scoring system. But you don’t have to make any decisions or even play a hand; that’s all taken care of for you. It’s really about as complicated as flipping a coin.

If you just stick with the banker bet, you’ll do fine at baccarat. You can have plenty of fun, a reasonable chance of going home a winner, and not get too confused about what’s happening. Just stay away from the tie bet.

Everyone seems to “get” roulette immediately. After all, you’re just betting on where the ball’s going to land on the wheel. The croupier (and the other players) will be happy to explain which bets pay out at which ratios.

If you stick with even money bets like red or black, you won’t have to deal with a lot of volatility, either. Like baccarat, the even money bets in roulette are comparable to flipping a coin, complexity-wise.

Slots are such a no-brainer that I don’t even want to get into an explanation of them. You put your money in, spin the reels, and hope for the best. There’s nothing to it.

Which Casino Games Are More Complicated to Learn and Play?

On the other hand, if you want a game you can sink your teeth into that’s complicated, I recommend these games:

  • Craps
  • Poker
  • Sports betting

Craps is my favorite casino game. It’s exciting and has the potential to result in big winnings during a session. The hot streaks at the craps table seem hotter, and the cold streaks seem colder.

Understanding how the rules work takes a few minutes of learning, but once you’ve got it, then you’ve got it. There’s no skill to it, though. Just stick with the basic bets like pass and don’t pass, and you’ll be fine at the craps table.

Poker isn’t really a casino game, unless you’re playing one of the house-banked variations like Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

The poker I’m talking about, though, is poker played with other people. Even though it’s not really a casino game—you play against the other players and not against the house—most casinos offer poker. It’s usually found in its own room.

You can learn how to play online, and Texas Hold’em isn’t that hard to play. You should memorize the ranking of poker hands, though. And it helps to start with some free poker games in the beginning until you have a feel for it.

Betting on sports is the most complicated gambling game I can think of. You can spend an entire lifetime mastering betting on a single sport like football. The number of bets and the way they pay out can seem bewildering.

Sports betting, though, is your best road to riches if you want to gamble professionally. It’s not easy to become a professional sports bettor, but it’s possible.

Games like blackjack, keno, and video poker fall in the middle in terms of complexity. They’re a lot of fun, too.

How Much Skill Do You Need to Play Various Gambling Games?

All casino games and gambling games come with a built-in mathematical edge for the house. Skill might matter, but it will almost never turn a negative expectation bet into a positive expectation bet.

The only skill games in gambling I can think of that offer you an opportunity to beat the house mathematically are blackjack, poker, sports betting, and video poker.

And you really must go above and beyond to get an edge at any of these games. But some games do require you to make decisions, and if you make skillful decisions, you’ll lower the house edge.

Examples of these games include:

  • Blackjack
  • Poker
  • Sports betting
  • Video poker

Notice that those are the same games I suggested that you could get an edge at, but the circumstances of those small mathematical edges are unusual.

For Example:

If you’re good (skilled) at blackjack, you can play against the house and face a house edge of less than 0.5%.

But to get an edge over the house, you have to be more than good. You have to employ some kind of advantage strategy, like counting cards. That can get you thrown out of a lot of casinos.

Also, not all gamblers want to play a game with a skill aspect. Some gamblers prefer that the game be entirely left up to random chance.

Examples of games with no skill element at all include:

  • Baccarat
  • Craps
  • Keno
  • Roulette
  • Slot machines

A lot of the house-banked versions of poker have a medium amount of skill involved. This includes games like Pai Gow Poker and Let It Ride.

Which Gambling Activities Include a Social Element?

Some games give you the opportunity to mix and mingle with other gamblers. If you enjoy socializing, you might try to gravitate towards those games.

Other games are largely solitary affairs. Such games might offer you the chance to socialize, but you’ll have to put some effort into.

The most social casino games include:

  • Baccarat
  • Craps
  • Poker
  • Sports betting

The casino games which are better for introverts because of the lack of social interaction include the following:

  • Keno
  • Slot machines
  • Video poker

Slot machines and video poker belong to the “gambling machine” category, and keno might, too – depending on the casino.

Which Games Offer Lots of Different Bets?

If you’re looking for games with lots of different bets to choose from, consider these games:

  • Craps
  • Keno
  • Roulette
  • Slot machines
  • Sports betting
  • Video poker

Craps has enough bets that I could easily write multiple pages and still not finish covering all the different bets. I still think you should stick with the basic bets, but it has variety if you want it.

Slot machines seem straightforward enough, but the variety of denominations and paylines means that you have plenty of different bets to choose from.

Sports betting has a staggering number of bets on a staggering number of sports. Most people would do well to focus on a single sport at first. Even then, you’ll have plenty of options.

Real money video poker is just like slot machine gambling. You have many varieties to choose from and multiple denominations in each.

Some games don’t offer many bets to choose from:

  • Baccarat
  • Blackjack

Blackjack only has the one bet; you can trick it up by doubling down and splitting, but the basic bet is just a bet on your hand.

Baccarat has only three options to bet on—player, banker, or tie. And the house edge on the tie bet is outrageous.

What If You Want a Big Payday?

Some games offer the opportunity to get a big payday, but the house edge on those games is usually higher than on other games.

These games include:

  • Keno
  • Roulette
  • Slot machines
  • Video poker

Some games offer reasonably good potential for big paydays, too. Craps has some bets with big payouts, but the real magic in craps is getting on a winning streak.

Games like baccarat and blackjack, though, don’t really offer much opportunity to score big wins. They do have some of the lowest house edge statistics in the casino, though.

How Does the House Edge Compare on the Various Gambling Games?

Not every game has a single house edge figure. Most games have bets with varying house edge figures. I’ve included the most common gambling games below along with the highest and lowest house edge bets below:

  • Baccarat – The house edge is about 1% unless you take the tie bet, which has a house edge of 14.4%.
  • Blackjack – The house edge for most games if you play with perfect basic strategy is 1%. If you ignore basic strategy, it’s probably close to 4%.
  • Craps – The house edge for craps is about 1% on the most basic bets, but the odds bet can reduce that to 0.01%. You just need to find a casino with a big maximum bet. The worst bets at the craps table have a house edge of 16.7%.
  • Keno – The house edge varies from casino to casino and from bet to bet, but it’s generally between 25% and 45%.
  • Poker – You don’t really face a house edge in poker, although you could consider the rake a disadvantage. In poker, you’re competing with other players, so if you’re better than they are, you might have the edge. It’s impossible to quantify, though, because you sit down at a table full of different players every time you play.
  • Roulette – If you can find a single zero roulette game, you can play against a house edge of about 2.6%. If you take the five-number bet on an American wheel, though, the house edge is about 7.3%.
  • Slot machines – If you find a great game, the house edge might be as low as 1%, but a lousy slot machine might have a house edge of 25%. The worst part is you don’t know what the house edge is on the game because you don’t have any information about the probability of getting a winning combination.
  • Sports betting – Gambling on sports is like playing poker. Your level of skill is the biggest determiner of the house edge. But the book’s advantage varies from bet to bet based on where they’ve set the odds.
  • Video poker – Good video poker games will have a house edge of less than 1%, but games with lousy pay tables might have a house edge as high as 15%.

It’s tempting to say that you should just play the game with the lowest house edge, but as you can see, even that varies from bet to bet and game to game.

Conclusion

Choosing a gambling game is more complicated than just finding the game with the lowest house edge and putting your money down. You have lots of factors to consider, but the first step is deciding which aspects of the game are most important to you.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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