Casino Odds, RTP, and House Edge

The Odds Are Not in Your Favour 

“The house always wins” is a widespread phrase used to caution all those wishing to engage in the risky pastime of gambling. The warning of these four words is that, in the long run, a casino will always win more from the individual gambler than it will lose. The title of this phenomenon is House Edge, and if you are a gambler in any official setting, you cannot escape it. To understand the concept of House Edge, one has first to accept the reality that; whenever a gambler sits at a slot machine or a table game within the walls of a casino, that gambler is essentially competing against the house for capital.

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A loss of money for the gambler means the casino turned a profit off of that interaction, and a loss of money for the casino means the gambler is the one who turned a profit. Over an extended period, the casino will invariably win more of these interactions than they lose, a phenomenon resulting from House Edge.  

House Edge, defined within the gambling industry, is the inherent advantage enjoyed by the casino in any of the games offered. The House edge is a calculated number that illustrates how much a casino stands to lose on a particular game over time. An example of this would be a slot machine that boasts a House Edge of 3,5%. This percentage means that the collective loss of the players involved will total 3,5% throughout millions of games.

On an individual level, this number is essentially invisible to the player. Individual players can win a lot of money or lose 100% of their initial bet with every casino engagement. It is not until the game in question reaches a certain level of engagement initiated that the influence of House Edge starts to become apparent over the table or slot machine.

Slot Machines: A Casino Owner’s Best Friend

Slot machines are an excellent example of casino games that implements the concept of the house edge. Casino owners tend to favour slot machines over most other casino games because these games have the most significant house edge. The heavy emphasis on house edge on slot machine games boils down to a variety of factors. Still, the most prominent among them is that the house edge becomes more pronounced for the casino owners on these machines.

Each slot machine has what is called paylines across its screens. These lines facilitate the winning combinations for the player, but only if the gambler chooses to activate those lines before each roll. There are several reasons why a gambler would decide not to start all of the available lines on a slot machine. Still, the most common cause is that doing so requires a more considerable initial investment on the player’s part, meaning they are risking more money each game. 

Interestingly enough, a player choosing to start fewer paylines to mitigate financial risk is still eschewing the game in the house’s favour. The gambler may be mitigating the risk of losing a lot of money all at once by choosing to activate fewer lines per game. Still, they are also cutting their chances of landing on a winning combination in half since any winning combination on one of the inactive paylines is not count towards rewards. Slots machine games are far from the only games that utilize the house edge concept to keep profits firmly on the side of the casino, but they are certainly the most effective at it.  

House Edge is Almost Always Present

While table games like blackjack and roulette also utilize the house edge concept to empty the wallets of naive gamblers, the percentage of the advantage varies from table to table. Still, it is worth noting that even though the house edge concept is present with all of these games, the house edge percentage is often significantly lower than those of a slot machine, Blackjack being the lowest. 

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Poker, on the other hand, is the only game without a House Edge. Since you are playing against other players and not the House, the casino has a different way of collecting money from their players. After every pot, the players need to pay a certain percentage of it to the casino. This is called rake. For this reason, you can in theory win in the long run on poker as long as you are a better player than your opponents.  
While the house edge is essentially the casino weighing the outcomes of games in the house’s favour, knowledge of this concept is a handy tool for the career gambler. The average gambler can use their knowledge of house edge to discern which games are the most likely to yield profit. This knowledge is the primary advantage of understanding the house edge concept and how it affects a player’s chances at a profit on any casino game.  

The knowledge of house edge is a valuable tool in the gambler toolkit. This knowledge can quickly disabuse the notion of winning big on certain games or even quell the desire to become a professional gambler. What the knowledge of house edge does, is to illustrate just how stacked the deck is against the player in any given casino game. Winning anything in a casino game would require a significant amount of luck and some excellent timing.  

Profit Returned-to-Player

RTP is an acronym for the concept known as Profit Returned to Player. RTP is essentially the same as the house edge, except that the percentage calculated represents the opposite outcome. In other words, while the house edge is the calculation of the casino’s advantage in any game, the RTP is the calculation of the player’s advantage. While figuring out the house edge of the various games within a casino will help the gambler understand just how much the casino is guaranteed to earn over a certain number of games, the RTP calculates how much the individual gambler is likely to make over a certain number of games.  

In other words, if the RTP of a particular slot machine is 88.12%, then throughout a predetermined number of games, the collective participants of a game can expect to earn back 88.12% of their bets. There is no real difference between the house edge and RTP on a conceptual level since the individual gambler can have both applied to the various games in a casino to calculate risk vs. reward. House edge and RTP are so similar that the only real difference is that gamblers calculate the percentages these concepts represent in reverse order to the other.  
Being aware of the average profit returned to the player that each game distributes is another valuable tool in the arsenal of the career gambler. Understanding the RTP of games helps inform decisions surrounding sunk cost fallacy and other common mistakes gamblers who remain ignorant of the concept. Let us take a look at some of the slots with the highest RTP:  

The Power of Knowledge

The novice gambler may initially wonder why this information is of any use; after all, it’s not as though the individual gambler has any ability to manipulate the concepts of house edge or profit returned-to-player. The good news is that knowledge of both concepts does indeed grant the individual gambler a limited ability to control the conditions of the game to maximize profit. Rather than blowing a good night chasing a payday, the machine legitimately could not have paid.

A gambler savvy to the concepts of house edge will realize when he has reached the pinnacle of profit on a particular roulette and disengages from playing. Avoiding sunk cost fallacy shows that just a burgeoning awareness of these concepts can influence behaviour intended to minimize financial loss while inside a casino.  

Understanding how house edge and RTP work will also benefit the gambler by influencing their gameplay choice. Slots tend to be one of the worst choices of games if one wanted to maximize the effectiveness of RTP over House Edge. Slots are a casino’s largest source of income due to the easily adjusted RTP ratio and lack of player agency when approaching a win condition.   

Table games such as Blackjack and Baccarat are the gamblers’ best bet. The former choice has a slight house edge of 0.5%, which is reduced further through knowledge of the game, deck, and the application of both. The game of Baccarat has what is known as a variable house edge. At its lowest point, the game can have a house edge of 1%, but some circumstances can increase the casino’s advantage up to a whopping 15%.  

The variable House edge or RTP rates are standard among table games such as poker & blackjack, where player skill can help increase the RTP in their favour. Craps are another table game with a variable house edge percentage. The lowest house edge percentage rate recorded for the game of craps is zero percent, but at its highest point, it has a massive house edge percentage of 16.67 percent.  

Tools of the Career Gambler

Variable house edge and the hidden challenge within each slot machine illustrate how understanding house edge and RTP will go a long way in maintaining the success of the career gambler. An individual lacking the knowledge of these concepts is far more likely to exit a casino with their financial situation in worse condition than when they entered. Either they will blow a modest windfall on a slot machine by chasing a jackpot the device was not programmed to distribute, or they will seat themselves at a craps table and drive up the house edge percentage through their ignorance of the game.

Worse still are those players who make suboptimal choices of both games and the method in which the game is played, choosing to spin a slot machine without activating all of the paylines, for example. While it is true that gambling is an exercise in futility (the more you play, the more you lose), there are ways to minimize the financial damage done by choosing to enter a casino.  

 The concepts of house edge and profit returned to the player were developed and further explored to protect the average gambler’s bankroll from the ever-present house edge. When considering these two concepts, it is vital to keep in mind that they each represent opposing circumstances. The simple definition of both concepts is as follows; the house edge calculates the advantage of the casino on any given game while RTP calculates the player advantage.

Certain games, such as the slot machines that populate the playing floors, have a house edge that is freely manipulated by the house and mainly invisible to the player. Other table games involving blackjack and craps have a variable house edge that is mitigated or maximized depending on player skill and knowledge.   


Becoming aware of the concept house edge won’t do too much to mitigate the inherent advantage of the casino. After all, this is an industry built to profit from the hopes of all those who enter its walls. The lights, music, and promise of untold wealth all work to mesmerize the average gambler into chasing a dream that the house will not allow.

The concept of house edge and RTP are also immune to ignorance. Immunity to ignorance means that it does not matter whether you are aware of them or not; both of these concepts will still exert some degree of control over the outcome of your gambling experience. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of house edge only serves to cripple any potential the gambler may have had at generating a profit through their actions on the casino floor. It still gives gamblers the knowledge necessary to choose their casino engagements wisely.