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How Does The House Always Win?

Understand gambling odds and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of time, money and heartache.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The house always wins”, but what exactly does it mean? How does a bricks and mortar or online casino make their money? The short answer is, off punters like you.

That’s not a reason not to bet in moderation. But it is something you should be aware of. No casino sets out to make you money. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Learn how to understand gambling odds so you can make informed decisions next time you pull up a seat, virtual or otherwise.

Set outcomes in roulette makes it easier to understand gambling odds

In roulette, there are a very predictable set of outcomes. That makes it easy to know the probability of certain outcomes arising from the game. And each roulette game has a set payout table too.

Now, there is a slightly difference in odds in European roulette vs American roulette, with European being slightly more favourable. Having said that, the game is obviously still set up so that the house wins over time.

The least likely outcome is that a single number bet comes in for you. You’ve got a 2.7% chance in European and American roulette of that happening. And this type of bet pays out 35:1.

Meanwhile, the most likely bets to pay out are even/odd, high/low and red/black bets. They all have a 48.6% (European) and 47.4% (American) probability in coming through. In both cases, the payout is 1:1.

It’s possible to minimise losses with strategy in certain games

With some games, it’s possible to minimise losses by equipping yourself with some basic knowledge. Blackjack is a classic example.

If you know what to do in certain situations, you’re likely to minimise your losses over time. However, the odds are still stacked against you. Despite any wins you might have, over time the casino is designed to make more money off you than it dishes out in prizes.

Poker is another game in which strategy plays a huge part. When you understand gambling odds in poker, it’s a huge bonus to your game. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that in most online poker rooms and virtually all card rooms and casinos, the house takes a cut of everything.

For cash games, this is called a rake and comes off every hand you play. Meanwhile in tournaments, it’s called the tournament fee and is paid at the start when you buy in.

Random number generators rule slots, bingo and virtual scratchcards

In some forms of gambling, there are sensible decisions to be made. However in others, it’s totally luck pure and simple. That goes for slots, bingo and virtual scratchcards.

There is zero strategy, so don’t kid yourself that if you play a certain way, you’ll beat the house and end up with a big payout.

Instead, all you can do is press spin and hope you win. You can get an indication of how much these machines dish out over time. This is called the Return to Player. It’s expressed as a percentage and is always under 100%. So, for example, a slot that has an RTP of 94% sees the online casino take a cut of 6%. This figure is based on hundreds, if not thousands, of spins over long periods of time.

Sports odds stacked in their favour

Sportsbooks offer odds on markets in accordance to how likely a particular outcome is. Of course, it’s impossible to guess exactly what will happen. But they’ve got experts who try to work out what might come to pass, based on past performances.

The shorter odds will be on the more likely outcomes, whereas the long shots will have long odds. They make their money by encouraging people to take a range of types of bets so that they can cover their bases and costs, whatever the outcome.

Understand gambling odds: sports

FYI, to understand gambling odds in sports, you need to know that in the UK, odds are expressed as a fraction. A 4/1 bet means that if you bet £1, you’ll get £4 back. However, in the US, they tend to use a decimal system. That same bet will shop up like 4.00.

Problem gambling help

If you’re worried you might be showing signs of a gambling problem, you need to stop. You can take immediate steps by self-excluding from online gambling sites. You should also get help from professional organisations.

Be Gamble Aware is available to people in the United Kingdom. You can get in touch online or call 0808 8020 133. Outside the UK, there are lots of other organisations set up to help you.

Take a look at our other responsible gambling posts here:


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