Behind The Neon Lights: How Do Casinos Make Money?

Behind The Neon Lights: How Do Casinos Make Money?

Casinos make money because every game has a house edge created for it.

That edge is usually achieved in either of two ways.

1. The Casino Can Win More Decisions

The first way is that the casino can win more decisions, such as the pass line and come bets in craps, where the house wins 251 decisions and the player wins 244 decisions, a 1.41% house edge.

Or the casino offers you the game of blackjack where the house wins approximately 48 decisions and the casino wins approximately 44 decisions, with approximately 8 decisions a push (tie).

To keep the game somewhat close, the casino offers special hands (such as doubling down, splitting pairs, and paying more on a winning blackjack than just one-to-one), which gives the house about a 0.5% edge.

2. The Casino Can Short-Change Payoffs

Another way is that the casino can short-change the payoffs it gives for a bet. In American roulette, hitting a number occurs once every 38 times and should pay 37-1 on a winner, but the casino only pays 35-1. Bingo! A 5.26% edge has just been created for the house.

You can see with those manipulations of the betting results, the player is behind the eight ball. Even with perfect strategies, the player cannot become a long term (or maybe short-term or medium-term) winner. So, it seems the player cannot beat the casino.

Slot machines are a little different but they win more decisions and they do not give out the same amount of money as is put in by the player. That short fall of money gives the casino rather large edges over the payer … oops, I mean, the player. Once again, the player cannot beat the casino at slots.

And there you have it – the casino always wins. Maybe not today or tonight, but yes, the games are structured for the casinos to be the favorites and so it goes, right?

Right? Right? Nope.

How Can You Beat The Casino?

You see, even with the casinos’ manipulation, some players can still win. Yes, they can beat the house.

The first way is truly simple. The players get lucky today or tonight and they retire, thereby joining a very, very small club of quick quitters, who now can call themselves long-term winners. I know one of those, my mother! I don’t know any others.

Or, and here comes the BIG bomb my friends, they learn one or more of the advantage-play methods that can actually give the player the edge over the house and that means the long-term edge.

Let me go from bottom to top here:

Pai Gow Poker

You can get a tiny itsy-bitsy edge by over-betting in some cases against everyone at the table when you play as the bank. In some games you can play the bank enough times to reduce the house edge to almost nothing. Pai Gow Poker is a great game in my estimation. Give it a try.

Advantage Play Slot Machines

Don’t get too excited about these. They may not exist anymore. My good friend Jerry “Stickman” did the computer analysis on them and whamo! We made some money on them. I wrote about them in my book Slots Conquest and it appears most have gone the way of the Dodo Bird. You could, at times, get a decent edge over the house on what were known as banking machines. I think the book is still a fun read but I can’t really promise you any loot.

Advantage-Play Video Poker

There was a time when you could find many of these machines all over the country, but not today. There are still some but you must know the exact strategies to play them. The video-poker masters and mavens may know where they are. They aren’t really in my current purview.

Card Counting at Blackjack

Most casino players have heard of this method of play and a small percentage of players have tried their hand at it. Some of these players have become good, some have become really good, and some have become experts in figuring out when they have the edge and when the casino has the edge – and what to do about those edges.

Obviously, these players are not applauded by the casinos; they are like world championship eaters coming to your Sunday buffet in order to eat the restaurant out of house and home. You will not be on the top comping list if you show the casinos what you can do – to them!

Card counting was introduced to the casinos by Edward O. Thorp in the mid-1960s when he published his revolutionary blackjack book Beat the Dealer. After that book, blackjack zoomed to the top as the favorite table-game in the casino, replacing craps and roulette.

It is still the number one table game.

Dice Control (Dice Influence) at Craps

This technique has existed in many forms for many decades. The individual that brought it to the fore in today’s casino world was the late Captain of craps, an Atlantic City legend. I’ve written several books about him and his ideas about craps and casino playing in general.

The Captain, the Arm and Jimmy P. were the three dice controllers that I met in the early 1990s. The Arm was the most amazing dice controller I ever saw.

The Captain’s group was 22 high rollers who played Atlantic City for all it was worth. None are alive today. I miss them.

The Captain taught me everything I know about the casinos. He was my mentor and I hope he is playing craps in heaven with the Arm and Jimmy P. and his full Crew of high rollers.

A Final Thought

Okay, the casinos do have some players who are long-term winners, not a lot, but enough that they are out there as symbols to the rest of us casino players that some people can do the almost impossible – beat the almost unbeatable casinos!

All the best in and out of the casinos!

For similar articles, check out How Casinos Make Money On Poker and What Games Have The Best (And Worst) Odds?

Frank Scoblete’s books are available at, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries, and bookstores.

Author: Nathan Sanchez