How Expensive Is Your Favorite Casino Game?

Variety of Casino Images Jumbled Together With a Price Tag With a Question Mark on It

You’ll find dozens – if not hundreds – of casino games to play at any respectable casino. Most of them fall into a handful of categories, though. And the odds for each are different.

The odds aren’t the only thing that determines how much you’ll lose over time playing each of these games, though. The amount you bet per hour is the other big factor, and that’s determined by 2 factors:

The first is how much you’re betting on each outcome.

The second is how many bets you’re making per hour.

When you multiple those 3 factors by the house edge, you learn how expensive your favorite casino game really is.

How Much Does The House Edge Cost You?

The easiest way to define the house edge is as the difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds when you win.

For example, in roulette, the odds of winning a single number bet are 37 to 1. The payoff for that bet is 35 to 1.

The difference between 37 to 1 and 35 to 1 is the house edge, which is usually expressed as a percentage. That percentage is the average amount the casino expects to win in the long run for each bet that you place.

In the example of roulette, the house edge is 5.26%.

Mathematically, every time you put $100 into action at the roulette table, the casino expects to win $5.26.

Of course, that’s a long term average and an expectation. Actual results in the short term will vary widely from that.

For example, if you place a single $100 bet on a single number at roulette, you’ll either lose $100 or win $3500. It’s impossible to lose $5.26 on a single bet.

In fact, you can’t lose $5.26 on 2 or 3 bets, either.

It has to be a long-term average.

How Expensive Is Baccarat?

At an average baccarat table, you’ll see 70 hands per hour.

For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming that you’re a low roller, and you’re betting the lowest possible amount on the game. If you’re playing in Vegas, the lowest bet you can place on baccarat anywhere in town is $10.

This means you’ll put $700 per hour into action at the baccarat table.

View of a Baccarat Player's Hand on a Table

What’s that going to cost you in the long run?

It depends on which bet you place. The house edge in baccarat varies based on which bet you’re placing:

  • Banker – 1.06%
  • Player – 1.24%
  • Tie – 14.36%

The smart player is only going to place the banker bet repeatedly, so his expected loss is 1.06% X $700, or $7.42 per hour.

As gambling goes, that’s pretty cheap entertainment.

Keep in mind, too, that real money baccarat requires no skill other than to have enough sense to make the banker bet every time.

But let’s see how it compares to some of the other games here.

How Expensive Is Blackjack?

Blackjack is well known for having the best odds in the house, but to achieve that low house edge, you must master basic blackjack strategy. That’s easy enough to do, though.

The best blackjack game you’ll find in Vegas these days has a house edge of 0.4% and a minimum bet of $5 per hand. Those tables are usually full, so you’ll probably only see 60 hands per hour or so.

This means you’re putting $300 into action per hour.

The expected loss per hour on that is only $1.20.

Even if you’re a bad blackjack player, you’re probably still not going to lose more per hour than you would playing baccarat. Even if you make lots of basic strategy mistakes, the house edge on this game probably won’t go above 2%, which is an expected loss per hour of $6.

So far, blackjack is the cheapest casino game you can play.

How Expensive Is Craps?

Real money craps has a wide variety of bets you can make, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll assume that you know enough to stick with the pass line bet – the most basic bet in the game.

The house edge for the pass bet in craps is 1.41%.

You can find casinos in Vegas with minimum craps bets of between $1 and $3. I’m going to assume you’re going to play at the $3 tables, because the $1 tables are crowded and also hard to find.

You’ll get 100 rolls of the dice per hour in craps, but only 30 of those will result in a decision, so that’s the number you use to get the hourly expected loss.

At $3 per bet, you’re only putting $90 per hour into action.

With a house edge of 1.41%, the expected loss per hour is $1.27.

This makes craps just as cheap as blackjack.

Many craps bettors will have multiple bets operating at once, though. If you’re one of those, you might be putting a lot more money into action than $90.

How Expensive Is Roulette?

I’m going to keep using Vegas for these examples. In Las Vegas, most roulette tables have 2 zeros on them – they’re called American roulette games. The house edge for these games is 5.26%, which sounds high. In fact, you might think you’re looking at an expensive game.

Closeup of a Spinning Roulette Wheel

You’ll be surprised at how affordable roulette can be, though.

It’s reasonable to expect to find a $5 table, and if you’re only placing one bet every spin of the wheel, you’re looking at 50 bets per hour.

That’s $250 per hour in action.

5.26% of that $250 is $13.15.

So far, real money roulette is the most expensive game on the list, but we’re not done yet.

Also, if you can find a roulette table where the minimum bet is $3, you reduce you’re hourly action to $150 and your expected hourly loss to $7.89.

How Expensive Are Slot Machines?

Slot machines will cost you more money than any other game in the casino, even though you can bet less on the slots than any other game.

That’s because the amount of money you’re putting into action per hour is staggering.

The average slot machine player makes 600 spins of the reels per hour.

Of course, you can look for penny slots, but even playing penny slots, you’re going to need to bet more than a penny per spin. They usually have a minimum number of bets that you must place on every spin.

Let’s assume that you find a penny slot machine where you only have to bet 9 cents per spin.

That’s only $54 per hour in action.

But a slot machine game with stakes that low is going to have a house edge on the high end – maybe 15%.

So, you’re still looking at losing $8.10 per hour.

And that’s playing for 9 cents per spin, contrasted with $5 or $10 on most of the other games I’ve discussed so far.

You’re more likely to be betting at least $1 per spin. That’s $600 per hour in action.

At higher stakes, you might cut that house edge to 8% or even lower.

That’s still $48 per hour in expected losses.

I just don’t have that much fun playing slot machines.

Also, it’s impossible to tell what the payback percentage for a specific slot machine is.

How Expensive Is Video Poker?

Video poker games look like slot machines, but they’re a lot more varied. You have dozens of video poker games to choose from, and most of them have multiple pay tables to choose from.

For purposes of this post, I’ll assume that you find a Jacks or Better game with a 0.46% house edge. The minimum bet per hand is $1.25 on this theoretical game.

You’ll probably make 600 hands per hour at video poker, too.

That’s $750 in hourly action.

With a house edge of 0.46%, your expected loss is only $3.45, making video poker a much better bet than a slot machine.

But keep in mind that other pay tables can result in a much higher house edge. In fact, video poker can be just as expensive as slot machines if you’re not careful.

Conclusion

How expensive did your favorite casino game turn out to be?

Were you surprised?

I’m a blackjack player, so I’m happy with my expected hourly loss of just $1.20.

I also love craps, and I don’t lose much more than I do at blackjack, so that’s awesome.

Your best bet is to treat your casino game money as entertainment money, and measure your enjoyment of each game as entertainment.