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Best of Aaron Todd
10. Pai Gow Poker – House edge of 1.46%
In Pai Gow Poker, players are dealt seven cards and split them up into two hands, one with five cards and one with two cards. The five-card hand must have a higher poker rank than the two-card hand. The players' hands are compared to the dealer's hand, and if the player wins both, he wins the bet. If the player wins one but loses another, it's a push, and if the dealer wins both, the player loses. The house gets the edge by taking a five-percent commission on all winning bets and winning all hands that push (e.g., your two-card ace-queen loses to the dealer's ace-queen). You can reduce the house edge by banking, which means that your hand will win in pushes. Each player will be given an opportunity to bank in turn, should they choose to do so, in rotation with the dealer.
9. Craps (Pass/Come) – House edge of 1.41%
When you bet the pass line in craps, you're betting that the shooter's first roll will be a seven or 11 and not a two, three or 12. If it's any other number, your bet stands and now you're betting that the shooter will hit that "point" number again before a seven is rolled. The house edge is very small, just 1.41 percent.
8. Craps (Don't Pass/Don't Come) – House edge of 1.36%
Also known as the "dark side," betting on the Don't Pass line is the opposite of betting the Pass line, and is considered somewhat taboo at a craps table. Basically you're betting that the shooter will fail. Even though it may be taboo, it comes at a slightly smaller price than betting on the pass line.
7. Baccarat (Player) – House edge of 1.24%
The favorite game of James Bond (at least the Sean Connery and Roger Moore versions), baccarat is a game of tradition and ritual. The only real choice made is whether to bet on the player, the banker or the tie. Don't bet the tie; a whopping 14.36 percent house edge keeps it off this list. The player bet has a respectable 1.24 percent house edge.
6. Baccarat (Banker) – House edge of 1.06%
Baccarat gets two-in-a-row on our list of best casino bets, as the Banker bet slightly eclipses the house bet with a house edge slightly over one percent. At a big high-limit table, the shoe travels from player to player, and the "dealer" makes the Banker bet and the rest of the table bets on the Player (though players have the option to make any bet they please). At a mini baccarat table, the casino provides the dealer.
5. Catch a Wave – House edge of 0.5%
Not sure if you can still find this game anywhere anymore, but it's a favorite at the Casino City Home Poker Game, where a version of it is usually played in tournament style format between the cash game and the tournament. In this game, a player is dealt a card and must guess if the next card will be higher or lower. If the player guesses right six consecutive times, he is paid 6-to-1. He may also stand at any point (the player automatically loses his wager if he's wrong, similar to busting in blackjack), at which the dealer will play out a hand in the same manner, but according to house rules. If the player's "wave" is longer than the dealer, the player wins.
4. Jack or Better Video Poker – House edge of 0.46%
There are two key factors in making a 0.46 percent house edge a reality on a Jacks of Better video poker machine. The first factor involves finding the right machine. If you find a Jacks or Better machine paying 9-to-1 on a full house and 6-to-1 on a flush, you've probably found a full pay machine. The second involves learning optimal strategy. If you plan on playing video poker on your next trip to the casino, make sure you know the right strategy and practice before you go.
3. Spanish 21 – House edge of 0.4%
Spanish 21 is a variant of blackjack, played with decks of 48 cards (10s are removed). The game can get a little crazy, because you can double down on any number of cards, surrender after doubling, and five, six, and seven-or-more card 21s are paid at 3-to-2, 2-to-1, and 3-to-1, respectively. The house edge for this game is low because it has a much more complex basic strategy than blackjack. But if you can master all the intricacies of the game, Spanish 21 can be a lot of fun and offer an exciting alternative to standard blackjack.
2. Blackjack – House edge of 0.28%
Blackjack has the lowest house edge of any game in the casino, with a few caveats. The 0.28 percent house edge assumes the most liberal of house rules, including rarely seen rules such as the dealer standing on soft 17 and late surrender. To determine the exact house edge in the game you're playing visit the Wizard of Odds' Blackjack House Edge Calculator.
The house edge also assumes perfect basic strategy. If you plan on hitting the blackjack tables during your next visit to the casino, try to memorize it to maximize your play.
1. Full Pay Deuces Wild Video Poker – Player edge of 0.77%
Yes, you read that right. There is a casino game that offers the player a small edge, when played optimally. The game is played remarkably differently than Jack or Better, so make sure you know the optimal strategy when you play. And just like Jacks or Better, make sure the paytable is to your advantage. If you can find a machine that's paying natural royals at 800-to-1, four deuces at 200-to-1, wild royals at 25-to-1, five of a kind at 15-to-1, straight flushes at 9-to-1, five four of a kind at 5-to-1, full houses at 3-to-1, straights and flushes at 2-to-1, and three of a kind at 1-to-1, you'll make more money than you'll lose over the long haul, if you play it right.