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Gaming Overview

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There are no games where an unskilled/poor strategy player has an advantage against the casino. With skill or the right strategy, here are the 6 games where a player might play for a long term profit as an Advantage Player:

  • Poker
  • Blackjack
  • Sports Betting
  • Video Poker
  • Bingo
  • Craps

Below are the games where the player is at the least disadvantage and includes all the games above. If you have a good sized bankroll and do not have the time to become skilled at a game, Baccarat and Single 0 Roulette with European rules are the least disadvantageous games for you. You might have some end of shoe play in Baccarat as an Advantage Player but it is probably not enough to get you to positive expectations.

If you are a low roller, Bingo is surprisingly a low casino advantage game in Las Vegas in very sharp contrast to other cities.

 

Casino
Edge

Casino
Win %

Advantage
Play?

Skill?

Baccarat

1.04%

11.94%

Probably Not

None

Bingo

0.00%

1.65%

Slight

None

Blackjack

0.20%

12.42%

Yes

High

Craps

1.41%

13.35%

Probably Not

None to Highest

Poker

N/A

N/A

Yes

Highest

Single 0 Roulette

1.35%

18.69%

No

None

Sports Betting

0.00%

9.39%

Perhaps

Highest

Video Poker

-0.76%

6.41%

Yes

High

Nevada Gaming Control Board numbers for the 12 months ended this past September 30 are shown below. Non-restricted casinos have 100 or more slot machines.

The Board includes the keno, poker room, bingo parlor, and sports and race books with the table games which we believe should be broken out separately. Under the most recent numbers we have the pure table games separated by themselves. The casinos won 13.45% on table games.

Baccarat makes the most money per table, due to some whale bets despite the fact that it is a very good game for an unskilled non-Advantage Player. Blackjack is the most common game with over 2,300 tables in the greater Las Vegas area.

The Win % is different from the theoretical casino edge because there may be multiple buy-ins for a 24 hour period. Notice that slot machine win rates are calculated differently so that the house edge is their win %. Click here if you are interested in understanding the difference between the casino win rate and the casino Edge.

12 Months End 9/30/07

Non-Restricted
Clark County

Table Games

Casinos

Units

Win

% Chg

Win %

Blackjack

108

2,392

$1,285,009

13.87%

12.42%

Craps

95

324

$430,131

2.25%

13.35%

Roulette

97

370

$350,589

11.67%

18.69%

3 Card Poker

78

184

$152,382

-3.03%

26.57%

Baccarat

21

155

$889,963

10.73%

11.94%

Mini-Baccarat

41

122

$136,756

-32.86%

11.28%

Keno

56

105

$33,267

-6.61%

27.93%

Bingo

27

26

$3,090

-6.86%

1.65%

Caribbean Stud

23

23

$15,067

-30.54%

29.66%

Let it Ride

63

94

$54,190

4.32%

21.80%

Pai Gow

32

58

$35,268

28.44%

19.10%

Pai Gow Poker

68

193

$105,125

-4.53%

21.58%

Race Book

89

64

$85,535

-2.44%

15.41%

Sports Book

108

100

$175,702

54.72%

7.69%

Card Game

71

719

$146,847

6.01%

 

Other

 

260

$133,946

26.77%

23.92%

Total

112

5,189

$4,032,867

12.50%

13.74%

 

Slot and Video Poker

1 Cent

138

21,676

$1,207,232

29.38%

10.85%

5 Cent

143

11,180

$445,092

-10.01%

8.87%

25 Cent

142

21,506

$946,534

-14.89%

6.43%

1 Dollar

128

12,157

$814,304

-4.71%

5.67%

Megabucks

101

449

$73,869

-5.52%

12.32%

5 Dollar

83

1,847

$234,236

12.70%

5.70%

25 Dollar

47

293

$57,522

-1.44%

3.60%

100 Dollar

32

199

$41,859

9.50%

3.94%

Multi

181

58,062

$2,871,733

6.24%

5.30%

Other

 

2,476

$155,038

6.03%

 

Total Slot

185

129,845

$6,847,419

5.67%

6.41%

Total Table

112

5,189

$4,032,867

12.50%

13.74%

Total Slot

185

129,845

$6,847,419

5.67%

6.41%

Total

185

135,034

$10,880,286

8.10%

7.99%

 

 

Casinos

Books

Win

Change

Win %

Pari-Mutuel

66

66

$86,079

-2.65%

17.09%

Football

99

99

$91,164

178.22%

8.85%

Basketball

93

93

$31,779

-24.80%

5.25%

Baseball

101

101

$24,288

12.27%

5.09%

Sports Parlays

98

98

$16,367

116.75%

31.21%

Sports Pari-Mutuel

 

 

$41

7186.67%

14.41%

Other

 

 

$12,064

28.93%

10.06%

Total Books

101

101

$261,782

48.32%

9.39%

Table Games without Keno, Bingo, etc.

12 Months Ending 9/30/07

Non-Restricted
Clark County

Casinos

Units

Win ($000s)

% Chg

Win %

Blackjack

108

2,392

$1,285,009

13.87%

12.42%

Craps

95

324

$430,131

2.25%

13.35%

Roulette

97

370

$350,589

11.67%

18.69%

3 Card Poker

78

184

$152,382

-3.03%

26.57%

Baccarat

21

155

$889,963

10.73%

11.94%

Mini-Baccarat

41

122

$136,756

-32.86%

11.28%

Keno

56

105

$33,267

-6.61%

27.93%

Bingo

27

26

$3,090

-6.86%

1.65%

Caribbean Stud

23

23

$15,067

-30.54%

29.66%

Let it Ride

63

94

$54,190

4.32%

21.80%

Pai Gow

32

58

$35,268

28.44%

19.10%

Pai Gow Poker

68

193

$105,125

-4.53%

21.58%

Total

112

4,046

$3,490,837

6.50%

13.45%

Las Vegas Poker

In live games, you are not playing against the casino but other players. The casinos make money on the Rake which may be a max of $5 and rarely $2. The Nevada Gaming Control Board listed 719 tables in the Vegas area and on average they make a little less than $560 a day for the casinos. Many tables are unoccupied during most days and some rooms are only active during the weekends.

Skillful players don’t win every session and luck is important over the short term, but there are enough successful professionals to suggest that it is a skill game to a large extent.

However, there are some warnings. First, many tournament players don’t retain enough earnings to play in tournaments without backers. Also, the risk for gambling addiction seems higher than average but it may be because of a few high profile players.

One of the more recent books about poker has a very good statistical treatment of the game. King Yao also has published other very well-reviewed books in addition to Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker

Las Vegas Blackjack

If willing to put in the time, Blackjack is still an option for Advantage Play although it has become more difficult over the years. Unlike other casino games, Blackjack is not a series of Independent trials such as roulette where previous spins have no effect on the current spin. If you track cards you can determine how the odds are shifting and bet accordingly.

Although you still have good Blackjack at some of the Downtown casinos, the 6/5 payout for a natural or a 21 or the initial deal has become popular in Vegas. This lowers your expected return by almost 1.4%. Typically, your best bet is a double-deck game that has the 3 for 2 payout.

Card counting techniques can give you an edge over the casinos by about a point. However, most players don’t even play basic strategy. The win rate for Blackjack is 12.42% for the last 12 months ending in September which Vegas Made Easy.com estimates is about a 3.5-4%% casino Edge over all players. This includes some Advantage players and some really bad players who are giving the casinos an 8%+ advantage.

Because human nature is to overestimate your own capability, card counting has probably made the casinos much more money than the occasional Advantage Player losses. Nevertheless, if you truly work at it, card counting can make some money for you with a theoretical advantage of about a point and a practical advantage of maybe half that.

The easiest system uses a shortcut of counting low cards. It is not as accurate as others but simpler to learn and master: Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution . A stronger system that has respectable results even compared to advanced systems is Knock-Out Blackjack: The Easiest Card-Counting System Ever Devised which is not the easiest system devised but not complex.

Stanford Wong's Professional Blackjack is still one of the best for the serious player. A good package for training on blackjack is Casino Verite Blackjack Card Counting Game Software which has also been recommended by some MIT team members.

Sports Betting

Sports Betting is probably one of the better potential Advantage Player games. Although the casinos have a 5.09% to 31.21% win rate, the sharp bettor can pick specific spots and only bet when there is a perceived advantage for the player.

 

Casinos

Books

Win ($000s)

Change

Win %

Pari-Mutuel

66

66

$86,079

-2.65%

17.09%

Football

99

99

$91,164

178.22%

8.85%

Basketball

93

93

$31,779

-24.80%

5.25%

Baseball

101

101

$24,288

12.27%

5.09%

Sports Parlays

98

98

$16,367

116.75%

31.21%

Sports Pari-Mutuel

 

 

$41

7186.67%

14.41%

Other

 

 

$12,064

28.93%

10.06%

Total Books

101

101

$261,782

48.32%

9.39%






Advantage Players are not exactly playing against the casino although you will hear players bragging about killing the books or making the books their ATM, etc. In reality, for at least some bets, the sharp bettor is competing against the square or non-sharp bettor.

This means that casinos can afford to take bets because there will usually be some bettors on the opposite side of any sharp play. Unlike Video Poker which can be endangered over the long term by the aggressive Advantage Players (Fleas and Burn-out Artists), Sports Betting will always be offered because the casinos can always make some money even if they have to move lines alertly.

According to the Board numbers, the sports betting that have the smallest casino win rates are in order:

  • Baseball (dime lines help)
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Parlays

Vegas Made Easy.com does not believe that Race Betting is an Advantage Player game because 17% vigorish is a very large number to overcome without inside information. There may have been occassional opportunities at smaller tracks for odds manipulation that the Books have learned from, perhaps.

Also, Parlays, which can go up to 800 to 1 payoffs, are probably not a good idea as well. Casinos make 31.21% from these so an occasional $10 ten team parlay that comes through for $8,000 does not pay for all the attempts that go 9 out of 10 or 8 out of 10, etc.

The sports betting book that VegasMadeEasy.com rates as the overall best source is Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting because it doesn't brag about special insights. It is very matter of fact, educational and surprisingly easy to read.

 

Las Vegas Video Poker

Video Poker is clearly an Advantage Player’s game but many will not want to play it. Returns on the better machines such as Deuces Wild with a Full Pay schedule (FPDW) are 100.76% and with player’s club bonuses, extra points days, etc. can possibly reach a player’s edge on some days of 1.5%.

This compares favorably to Blackjack and is probably not too different from many good sharps at Sports Betting. However, the variance or difference in results from one day to another or player to player is huge and can be very painful.

On the positive side, you can hit Royal Flushes and other bonus hands multiple times in days or hours. However, you can also go years before hitting a Royal which is about 2% of the total return of most Video Poker games except for Pick Em which is geared more to pairs.

That 2% is critical because without it you will be playing a negative return game. If you are also unlucky as far as 4 of a kind or quads as well, then you can bleed money for an extended period of time.

In addition to playing the games with a large enough bankroll to overcome variance, the Advantage Player has to find the games. Casinos have mostly been downgrading good machines. The best Video Poker is often excluded from the promotions and extra points days as well. Even if you do find good machines, the Fleas and Burn-Out Artists may be hogging them leaving you little chance to get on them.

You will need to train on the correct strategy but for a weekend warrior type of player (serious amateur), Video Poker can be recommended. If you are looking for a professional Advantage Play, it is still possible but getting more difficult.

VegasMadeEasy.com rates Bob Dancer's text on professional play as far and away the best Advantage Player perspective of the game unless you are the type of reader who must view the protagonist as a hero without faults: Million Dollar Video Poker . His training software is rated as best by VegasMadeEasy.com and is available at www.BobDancer.com.

Paytables are the way to distinguish the good from bad machines but it is not easy to remember them all. Jean Scott has a very good resource for telling them apart as well as a good strategy book for video poker: The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide, Frugal Video Poker

Las Vegas Bingo

Many visitors to Las Vegas are astonished to find the casino’s Edge on Bingo is so small that it is often negative in many months. Before the September 2007 numbers came out, Bingo was actually a money loser for several months in a row. Even this last report by the Nevada Gaming Control Board shows Bingo’s win percentage as only 1.65% for the casinos.

In most cities, Bingo is used to raise money for a charity or ostensible charity so the odds can be very negative. In Las Vegas, casinos try to lure gamblers in because there are gaps between sessions (usually held on the odd hours) where slot machines beckon to idle Bingo players.

It is not a game of skill but timing your play can help. Some sessions, even at the larger Bingo halls, may have fewer than 50 players at a session and some sessions may have over 700 players through several linked casinos. If you are willing to settle for sharing a huge jackpot, crowded can be good. For a better shot at some prizes, not crowded is best.

Bingo Players are probably older than typical gamblers but not by as much as you would expect. If you don’t mind paying a little extra for the $3 electronics you can have a number of cards going at the same time for a higher level of action and not worry about missing a number.

Las Vegas Craps

As a non-skilled, non Advantage Player game Craps is a fast game but with a low house Edge of 1.41% (1.36% on Don’t Pass). Although it can intimidate the beginner with jargon, it is often the most fun game in the house with camaraderie on very long rolls as everyone except the Don’t Pass players sharing in the wealth.

However, Craps can also be an Advantage Play if the shooter can slightly control the dice. Dice Influencing or DI is not universally accepted as possible. The dice have to hit the back wall where pyramids can randomize a toss and the dice skid over a surface that can be corrugated or uneven due to multiple felt applications or placements of chips.

If the dice can be slightly influenced then the small advantage the casino has can be overcome. One of the proponents of DI is highly respected within the Advantage Player community and by the entire writing staff of Vegas Made Easy.com and for this reason we believe that it can be done.

However, the reduction in the casino’s advantage may be so small that only Pass line with full odds bets may make sense. There may be some who can develop a very good touch with the dice and be able to place additional numbers or even hardways bets but that could be pushing it.

Here are the 2 resources we recommend for Craps Players. The first is a good introduction that is often available at a very low price and the second is a less promotional view of Advantage Play craps.

Beat The Craps Table!

Wong on Dice

Las Vegas Slots

The Nevada Gaming Control Board lumps Video Poker and Slots together but we think the mix is skewed to slot machines. It has also been drifting more towards slots over the last few years.

Combined, Video Poker and Slot machines made 62.9% of the casino’s winnings for the most recent 12 months. Here is the tightest down to the loosest breakdown with progressive and penny slots the tightest and higher denominations looser.

Slot and Video Poker

 

Casinos

Units

Win

Change

Win %

Megabucks

101

449

$73,869

-5.52%

12.32%

1 Cent

138

21,676

$1,207,232

29.38%

10.85%

5 Cent

143

11,180

$445,092

-10.01%

8.87%

25 Cent

142

21,506

$946,534

-14.89%

6.43%

5 Dollar

83

1,847

$234,236

12.70%

5.70%

1 Dollar

128

12,157

$814,304

-4.71%

5.67%

Multi

181

58,062

$2,871,733

6.24%

5.30%

100 Dollar

32

199

$41,859

9.50%

3.94%

25 Dollar

47

293

$57,522

-1.44%

3.60%

Other

 

2,476

$155,038

6.03%

 

Total Slot

185

129,845

$6,847,419

5.67%

6.41%

Note that although total winnings for the casino are up 5.67% that most of the growth was in Penny slots up over 29% from the prior 12 month period. Also, the loosest slots are the $25 slots with the progressive Megabucks the tightest. The win % is calculated very closely to what the casino Edge is on the games.

Advantage Play on slots is not possible except for a rare case of credit/potential bonus abandonment. If a player is filling up a Cherry Pie with cherries towards a bonus or an S&H Green Stamps booklet for a bonus but leaves the game, an Advantage Play can result.

Some players are too drunk to keep track of credits or may be called away or simply give up when they lack enough credits for a maximum bet. An Advantage Player swoops in and plays a shortened amount of time until the bonus is reached exhausting credits if credits were left on the machine.

This practice is not highly regarded but is the only possible Advantage Play for slots which is why Vegas Made Easy.com does not recommend slot play. Table games can hold out better odds and even possible long term winnings.

See our other reports for more information about specific games.



 

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