I’m a firm believer that all online casino gamblers would be better off if they dropped online gambling slot machines from their repertoire altogether and stuck with the online table games.
This post looks at the math behind the games and why table games are so much better for the player. I also offer some recommendations about which online table games to try and why.
How Average Losses Work in Casino Games
All casino games have a built-in edge for the casino. This “house edge” can be expressed as an average amount of each bet you can expect to lose in the long run, and that number is always expressed as a percentage.
If you’re playing a game with a 5% house edge and betting $10 per round, your expected loss per bet in the long run is 50 cents.
Obviously, the more bets you place, the higher your expected loss is.
One way to look at casino games is to look at how much money you can expect to lose per hour when you’re playing them.
Average bet size X number of bets per hour X house edge = expected hourly loss
If you’re playing an online slot machine with a house edge of 5%, and you’re spinning the reels at 600 spins per hour, and you’re betting $1 per spin, your expected loss is easy to calculate:
$1 X 600 bets per hour X 5% = $30/hour
This is, of course, an estimate, but if you gamble long enough, your actual results should start to resemble the mathematically predicted results.
If you lower any of those 3 factors, you can reduce the expected loss per hour.
For example, if you decide to play slot machines half as fast as the average person, your expected loss per hour drops to $15 instead of $30—even though you’re playing the same game at the same stakes.
This leads right into my discussion of why table games are better even though they seem like they’d be more expensive.
Why It Only Seems Like Table Games Are More Expensive
The minimum bet at most table games in most online gambling sites is $5 or $10. For a slot machine player who only bets $1 per spin, that might sound like a lot of money.
Also, the house edge for most table games is lower than the house edge for most gambling machines.
Finding a slot machine with a house edge of only 5% is a trick in itself. At most online casinos, the house edge for an average slot machine is probably closer to 10%.
Even roulette, with its house edge of 5.26%, is better than that.
But look at it from the perspective of your average loss per hour:
Let’s say you’re playing online roulette for $5 per spin. You’re probably looking at 50 bets per hour, maximum. And you already know that the house edge is 5.26%.
Your average loss per hour on this roulette game is:
$5 X 50 bets per hour X 5.26% = $13.15
That’s less than half of your expected loss on the slot machine you’re playing for $1 per spin, even though you’re wagering 5 times as much per spin.
Look at a game like blackjack, where if you learn basic strategy, you can get the house edge down to 1%. If you’re at a table where the dealer is getting in 70 hands per hour, you’re looking at the following average loss:
$5 X 70 bets per hour X 1% = $3.50
I don’t know of many forms of entertainment as fun as blackjack for $3.50 per hour.
It’s Okay to Ask the Dealer Questions
You might have other objections to playing online table games instead of online slot machines. Maybe you’re afraid that you won’t know how to play.
Here’s the thing about that:
You can learn to play most table games in practically no time at all. The casinos, in fact, have a vested interest in making the games easy for you to learn so that you’ll be more likely to play.
You can also find online casino game tutorials all over the internet. Free versions of these games are also available. Between the tutorials and the free games, it should be easy to learn to play any casino table game you can imagine.
Don’t be shy about asking a dealer questions while you’re playing. My partner and I visited a casino recently, and he sat down to play Mississippi Stud without ever having played before. We were the only 2 players at the table for most of the night, and the dealer had no problem explaining how to play the game.
We had a blast, and we didn’t lose much money that night, either. We wound up with some good hands early, so we ratholed enough winnings that we were playing with house money for the rest of the night.
Which Table Games Should You Play?
ANY online table game is better than an online slot machine.
But some online table games are better than others.
Your temperament makes a difference, too.
The game with the best odds in almost any casino is blackjack, but to achieve that low house edge of between 0.5% and 1%, you must learn basic strategy. If you’re not willing to learn it, you can also bring a basic strategy chart to the table with you and consult it on every hand.
Craps is another table game you should consider. It’s fun and exciting, and the house edge is relatively low if you stick with the basic bets (pass, come, and odds).
The drawback with craps is that it can seem overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the game. Luckily, it’s easier to play than most people think. And once you get it, you’ve got it.
Roulette gets looked down on by a lot of “serious” gamblers because the house edge is so high compared to other games.
Those snobs who ignore roulette aren’t taking into account the relatively sedate nature of the game. Most roulette tables, especially the full ones, are moving so slowly that you’re only placing 30 to 50 bets per hour.
This means that your losses are correspondingly lower, too, because you’re just not putting that much money into action per hour.
The even-money bets on the roulette table are ideal for betting systems like the Martingale, of which I’m a fan. That puts me in the minority, but I love the Martingale system.
The trick with the Martingale is to accept that it won’t work in the long run.
You just have to accept that you’re going to walk away a big loser some of the time, too.
And when you average those big losing sessions with the smaller winning sessions, you’ll still be a net loser.
The new breed of poker-based table games are all fun in their way, too, and many of them include a strategic element. My partner loves Mississippi Stud, for example, but I’m a bigger fan of Let It Ride. I think most players probably prefer Mississippi Stud.
The bottom line is that you should be willing to learn and try any table game in the casino until you find one that you love.
Now that you’ve explored the differences between table games and gambling machines, are you willing to switch from one to the other?
Or were you already playing table games some (or all) the time already?
Let me know if your gambling habits will change based on this information in the comments.