Casino House Edge

Dear Dr. Per Cap:

My uncle says there are smart ways to gamble if you understand the odds. What’s the best way to win in the casino? He says craps is the way to go.


High Roller

Dear High Roller

I never like seeing the words “smart” and “gambling” in the same sentence. At best, gambling should be considered entertainment. At worst, it’s an unhealthy addiction. Somewhere in the middle is probably where most casino customers are.

That said, the best way to win in a casino is to splurge using that complimentary all-you-can-eat buffet coupon and then get the heck out of there.

Ok, enough pontificating. People are going to gamble regardless of what I think, so let’s do this!

Almost every casino game has a house edge the casino’s advantage over the customer or player. However, your chance of winning is lower with some games than others.

Your worst odds are slots. They don’t call them one-armed bandits for nothing. The house edge on a slot machine is about 7%. If you play long enough, you’ll lose 93 cents of every dollar you feed the machine. That might not sound like much, but like a leaky bathtub, eventually they’ll drain you dry.

You stand a better chance of winning at table games. The house edge on a roulette wheel is 5.26%. With blackjack, the house edge is 1%. A card-counter can get that 1% edge on a blackjack table even lower. But as soon as a casino catches on to someone counting cards, it reserves the right to show that person the exit.

Your best odds are usually at the craps table, like your uncle said. At some casinos, there’s no house edge on dice. You’ve got an even chance against the casino.

But this only applies if you bet strictly by the book―sticking only to the pass/don’t pass line and backing those bets with odds behind the line. In many casinos, you can reach true odds, which is another way of saying 0% house edge, when playing craps if you place the maximum odds bets that the house allows. Casinos list their maximum odds on a little plaque on the side of the dice table.

While this is the smartest way to play craps, it’s not always the most exciting. You have to steer clear of all the prop bets, like the horn, hard ways, field, and the granddaddy of all sucker bets – any 7.

Interestingly, these prop bets have the highest house edges and are the worst bets in the whole casino, which is why casinos make money on craps. Very few players have the discipline to resist prop bets and bet only the pass/don’t pass line during a long grind at a craps table.

And yes, once upon a time and before I found my calling as a financial skills educator, I considered myself a bit of a high roller, too.

Please gamble responsibly and remember what I tell people who invest in cryptocurrencies and meme stocks: Don’t gamble more than you can afford to lose.

If you feel like you have a gambling problem, reach out to casino staff or call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network: 1-800-522-4700.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email