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The Las Vegas Game You Should Avoid At All Costs

By Travis Hoium - Updated Oct 16, 2018 at 11:53AM

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You'll be surprised which games have the worst and best odds in Vegas

Have you ever wondered why casinos place annoying, noise slot machines right inside their front door? Or why the roulette table is placed at the corner you walk by every time you get off the elevator?

It all has to do with the likelihood of you playing a game and the odds the casino has at taking your money in each game. The house wants to put its most profitable games on prominent display in the casino and for different casinos that could mean different things.

Bank of slot machines in a casino

Image source: Getty Images.

At Caesars Entertainment's (CZR) Harrah's Cherokee in North Carolina the slot machines outnumber table games nearly 25:1 while in Las Vegas Flamingo and Paris resorts are only about 10:1.

On the flip side of the market are high end casinos in Asia like Wynn Resorts' (WYNN 4.22%) Wynn Macau and Las Vegas Sands' (LVS 3.38%) Four Seasons Macau, who have between one and two slot machines for every table game. But in Asia baccarat is what gamblers play, not slot machines. 

A lot goes into where the best odds are for gamblers and can even change from region to region. So, which games should you avoid and where are odds best for the player in a casino? 

Slots will drain you quickly
If it feels like the penny slots you may stop at from time to time are unlucky machines it's because they are. Penny slots have the worst odds of any slot machine in a casino and it's because the casino has to take a bigger cut of each bet to make money than it does if you're playing bigger bets on each pull.

Below is a table with the win percentage of slot machines on the Las Vegas Strip in 2013, as reported by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Slot Machine Wager

Casino Win Percentage 

1 Cent

11.90%

5 Cent

9.03%

25 Cent

8.63%

1 Dollar

6.70%

5 Dollar

5.26%

25 Dollar

4.80%

100 Dollar

3.74%

Source: Las Vegas Gaming Commission.

On a per bet basis, there are few places with worse odds than a slot machine. It's no wonder they're everywhere in a casino, especially in regional casinos like Caesars Entertainment where low limit players are likely to stop in for a few tries at their luck.

What chance do you have at table games?
For a little better chance at beating the house there are a variety of table games in a casino requiring various levels of skill. For example, roulette is simply a bet on a number or color, blackjack involves some skill on when to hit or stay, and craps includes a dizzying array of betting options.

The University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research has published the following house advantages for popular casino games.

Table Game

House Advantage 

Blackjack

2%

Craps (pass/come line bets)

1.4%

Craps (pass/come with double odds)

0.6%

Baccarat (no ties bets)

1.2%

Three Card Poker

3.4%

Roulette (double-zero)

5.3%

Source: University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research.

You can see why roulette and three card poker tables are so prominently placed in casino in Las Vegas. They're simple to understand and they have the biggest house edge for the casino.

It's worth noting that craps is the only game that has an even money bet in the casino. Betting "The Odds" is betting that "the point" will be thrown before a 7 and it pays even odds depending on what "the point" is in craps. 

But these lower odds means a casino needs to have larger wagers to make the same amount of money as a game with a greater house advantage. That's why you're more likely to see a craps game than you are in your regional casino or even a low end Las Vegas resort like Bally's. 

Do off-Strip casinos really pay out more?
The other question you might have is whether or not Downtown Las Vegas or Reno give you better odds versus the Las Vegas Strip? Depending on what you're playing it may.

The table below shows the Nevada Gaming Commission's casino  win percentage of low limit slots and popular table table games on the Las Vegas Strip, in Downtown Las Vegas and in Reno. You can see that Reno generally has better odds for players at low limit slots but players generally lose more at table games. 

 

Las Vegas Strip

Downtown Las Vegas

Reno Area

1 Cent Slot

11.90%

11.21%

7.82%

5 Cent Slot

9.03%

8.75%

5.36%

25 Cent Slot

8.63%

5.10%

6.95%

Blackjack

11.36%

12.69%

14.33%

Craps

13.42%

12.05%

15.25%

Roulette

17.30%

19.89%

22.88%

Source: Nevada Gaming Commission.

What's surprising is that the Las Vegas Strip may be the best place to play table games. The Strip may be more competitive with table game rules because of the close proximity to competitors or the fact that it generally has higher wagers than downtown or Reno. 

Either way, it's no guarantee you'll get a better deal off-Strip than you will in the heart of the action in Las Vegas. No matter where you play, stay away from low limit slots and roulette because they're the worst games in the casino for the player. That's why they're so prominently displayed when you walk in the door or off the elevator.

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Stocks Mentioned

Wynn Resorts, Limited Stock Quote
Wynn Resorts, Limited
WYNN
$68.11 (4.22%) $2.76
Las Vegas Sands Stock Quote
Las Vegas Sands
LVS
$37.89 (3.38%) $1.24
Caesars Entertainment Corporation Stock Quote
Caesars Entertainment Corporation
CZR

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