Ask a group of gamblers about the best way to wager when in you’re visiting Las Vegas, and chances are good that you’ll hear a wide variety of answers.
Many people prefer blackjack because of its low house edge rate coupled with the ability to apply skill and strategy on every hand. But because of blackjack’s even money payouts on most winners, and a cap of 3:2 (or 6:5 in most casinos these days), the classic card game isn’t preferred by folks who fancy high-paying jackpot scenarios.
Conversely, the slot machines may not offer an avenue for skillful players to excel, but all it takes is one lucky spin to turn a few coins into a life-changing fortune. The beauty of gambling in Las Vegas is the sheer variety on offer, which is why answering the question of “which bets are best?” becomes so tricky.
We all have our preferences and predilections, so it’s easy to see how a seemingly objective inquiry can lead to so many subjective replies. I take an analytical approach when asked to identify the best way to spend time gambling in Sin City. By breaking down the probabilities of winning relative to the payouts, anybody can determine the house’s statistical edge over the player for any particular game or bet.
I’m a table game player by trade, so whenever people ask me to pin down the optimal way to bet when they visit Las Vegas, house edge rates for blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and craps are my metric of choice.
With that said, visitors to Las Vegas who want to stretch their gambling bankroll out as efficiently as possible should always look for the lowest house edges available. By doing so, you’ll give yourself the best chance to survive the gambling gauntlet over the long run.
On that note, check out the list below to find the best possible bet you can make when playing each of the Big Four table game classics.
Leaving aside the longshot side bets, you can only make one basic wager when playing blackjack—a bet on your hand against the dealer’s hand in a race to 21 without going bust.
Nonetheless, the house edge rate incurred by blackjack’s base bet can vary wildly depending on the house rules and payout awarded when you land a “natural blackjack” (any ace plus any 10-value card for a 21 on the deal). Most casinos in Las Vegas opt for the watered down 6:5 payout on natural blackjacks, meaning you’ll collect $6 in payouts for every $5 you bet.
But a few venues still offer the original 3:2 payout, which increases your payout on a natural blackjack to $7.50 for every $5 wagered. Typically, you’ll face a higher minimum betting limit in order to enjoy the 3:2 payout rate, so expect to see a $25 starting point when you’re playing blackjack on the Strip. Venture away from Las Vegas Boulevard, however, and 3:2 tables can be found at more reasonable $5 to $10 limits.
In the average Las Vegas game, playing blackjack with a 3:2 payout structure in place immediately carves the house edge* against you from 1.50% to 0.50%.*Assuming you play optimally using blackjack’s basic strategy.
That’s a great starting point, but sharp players can shave the house edge all the way down to 0.14% when they shop around for the most player friendly rules.
First of all, the number of decks held in the dealer’s shoe directly correlates to house edge. When the dealer is working with an eight-deck shoe, the house edge will be at its highest point, and removing decks from the equation causes the house edge to drop in kind.
The best possible format from the player’s perspective is a single-deck game, but because those are as rare as rain in the summer in Sin City these days, looking for a double-deck blackjack table is the next best thing.
From there, you’ll want to have the dealer be forced to stand when they hold a soft 17. Some tables require the dealer to hit on soft 17s, as the casino knows that this provision gives them a slightly higher house edge thanks to the occasional two, three, or four being drawn. When the dealer must stand on soft 17, however, player hands have a slightly higher chance to win on high totals thanks to the handicap.
Other rules that help whittle away at the house’s edge in blackjack include double downs after splitting a pair, and the ability to “re-split” a second pair after splitting your starting hand.
All in all, when you can find a 3:2 blackjack game that uses the following rules, you’ll face the lowest possible house edge on blackjack in all of Las Vegas.
And fortunately for you, I know exactly where to find these 0.14% house edge blackjack tables. They can be found at the M Resort.
This glittering off-Strip casino resort can be found a few miles south of the Mandalay Bay, but your reward for making the trek will be three tables that provide the most generous odds in town. The betting minimum on this game is $25, but that’s a small price to pay for playing blackjack against a house edge that has been winnowed down to such a razor thin margin.
The roulette table offers a plethora of wagers to choose from, ranging from the basic even money bets like red or black and odd or even, to the longshot single-number bets that bring back a cool 35 to 1 on your money.
But because every bet on the board offers the same house edge rate, most gamblers assume that a best bet can’t be found.
In reality, the wheel you choose to wager on can mean the difference between fading a high house edge of 5.26%, or a much more reasonable 2.70% rate. It all comes down to how many green “0” spaces you see on the wheel.
In the old days, European Roulette wheels featured the 1 to 36 spaces in alternating red and black, along with a single green “0” space working for the house. The presence of this zero on the wheel is what gives the house its 2.70% edge on every bet.
But at some point, a clever casino operator here in America decided to give his house a big boost by adding a second green “00” space to the wheel. Just like that, every spin held double the possibility of landing on “0” or “00,” which increased the house’s edge to 5.26% in the process.
These days, you’ll even find a few greedy Las Vegas casinos offering “Triple Zero Roulette,” a gambling abomination that causes the house edge to skyrocket to 7.69%. This game is akin to a criminal act on the part of casino owners, so by no means should you ever put a penny down on Triple Zero Roulette.
Obviously, players in the know prefer to play single-zero roulette wheels which offer the 2.70% house edge. But what if I told you an obscure rule used rarely by a few Las Vegas casinos can cause that rate to be cut in half?
That’s right, when you can find a so-called “French” Roulette wheel, the house edge against you plummets to only 1.35%.
The French Roulette concept is simply a single-zero wheel that happens to use a rule known as “La Partage.” That’s French for “the split,” and the rule requires the house to give players one-half of their even money (red or black, odd or even, low or high) bets whenever the ball lands in green “0.”
In other words, when you bet $20 on red at a French Roulette table, and the ball hits green “0,” you’ll get to keep $10 instead of losing the entire bet.
Just like blackjack, the casinos in Las Vegas tend to require a higher minimum betting limit in exchange for offering La Partage on French Roulette tables. Check out the table below to see exactly where you can find the best roulette bet of them all, along with the betting limits in place at that particular venue.
Despite its reputation as a complicated game gambled on by sophisticated high-rollers, baccarat actually offers the most simplistic gameplay of any table game in Las Vegas.
All you do is place a bet on one of two hands, the player hand or the banker hand and hope to see that hand wind up with the total closest to nine. You can also bet that both hands will tie, but the tie bet incurs a ridiculous house edge of 14.36%, making it a nonstarter for savvy gamblers.
As for the game’s two basic bets, baccarat offers a house edge of 1.24% on the player bet, but only 1.06% on the banker bet. At first glance, it seems like a random deal of either two or three cards to each hand should leave both bets with identical house edge rates.
But because the banker hand always “acts” last, by taking its cue to draw a third card based on the player hand’s final total, it holds a slight statistical advantage for bettors. For this reason, the casino charges a 5% commission on winning banker hand bets, meaning your $10 bet would bring back $9.50 in profit.
The commission is in place to compel players to take different sides, as everybody would simply bet on the banker hand otherwise.
Even so, when you’re playing baccarat, the best possible strategy is to bet on the banker hand at all times.
With dozens upon dozens of wagers to choose from, craps does indeed deserve its reputation as a complicated table game.
In fact, many regular visitors to Las Vegas never even try craps, mistakenly believing the game to be too difficult for beginners to play properly. That’s a shame too, because craps’ basic bets like the pass line and the don’t pass line offer some of the lowest house edges anywhere on the casino floor.
When you bet on the pass line, you’re hoping to see the shooter roll a seven or 11 on their first throw of the dice. However, should they roll a two, three, or 12 to “crap out,” your pass line bet will be a loser. And any other number becomes the “point,” so pass line bettors want to see the shooter roll the point number a second time before they roll a seven to “seven out.”
When shooters hit a point number, pass line bettors win even money on their wager, good for a house edge of 1.41%.
But craps also allows players to bet against the shooter by wagering on the don’t pass line. In this case, a two or three on the first roll is good for an even money winner, while a seven or 11 loses. And when a point number is set, don’t pass line bettors win even money when the shooter rolls a seven before hitting the point a second time.
Because they want to win when the shooter wins and enjoy a communal experience with fellow players, most craps enthusiasts stick with the pass line bet by default.
That’s a mistake though, as betting on the don’t pass line produces a house edge of only 1.36%.
However you choose to place your base bet though, be sure to back it up by taking the odds bet whenever a point number has been established. The odds bet pays back at true odds depending on which point number is in play, resulting in a house edge of 0% for the only “fair” wager offered in Sin City.
Gambling on table games when you visit Las Vegas can be exciting, entertaining, and potentially quite lucrative when you hit a lucky run. The casinos pad their pockets on the backs of players who don’t know the odds though, so your best chance to win over the long run comes from hunting for the lowest house edges around. Armed with the list above, you’ll always have your money down on the most favorable wagers.
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