Recently I bought a condo for the summers in the Reno, Nevada area. I can no longer tolerate the humidity of the south Florida summers. For those of you that don’t know Reno is nothing like Las Vegas, which is located in a bowl in the middle of the desert. Reno is in the high desert about 5,000 feet above sea level.
I have been traveling to Nevada for years and cannot help noticing a very strange decline in the sophistication of the average casino player. I can remember a time when the table games, roulette, blackjack and the crap tables earned 80%-90% of a casino’s income and the slot machines earned the other 10%-20%. Today the whole process has been reversed. The slots are earning 80%-90% of the casino’s income and the tables are earning whatever is left.
The implications of this transformation are huge if you understand the odds of casino games. Every casino table game has predictable odds that are set by law and custom. In short, it is possible to know the correct odds for every play at a casino table. The correct odds for a slot machine are only known to casino management and can be changed at will. There is only one restriction. By state law, the house edge in Nevada casinos cannot exceed 25%. As a practical matter, most casinos set the house edge in the high teens, 16%-18% being typical.
Contrast this horrific house edge with the house edge in the casino tables.
In blackjack the typical player will be giving the house an edge of somewhere between 5%-10%. A true crackerjack card counter in a one-deck game, which is hard to find today, could have a 2%-3% edge against the house. Just try pulling this off in the real world. As soon as the casino sees that you are winning you will be escorted out of the casino. In a multiple deck game which is the norm our crackerjack card counter is probably playing about dead even with the house.