I remember the first time I walked into a casino. I’d been gambling for years, but had no idea what a real casino was like.

The first thing that hit me was how many different options I had to place a bet.

Hundreds of slot machines, with a few video poker machines, surrounded pits of table games were ready and willing to take my money.

I’ve never enjoyed slot machines too much, so I walked by them and started looking at the table games.

At the time, I didn’t have any idea which games offered the best odds and lowest house edge, so I was just like any other sucker in the casino.

I sat down at a Let It Ride table and lost $100 over several hours of play, making $5 bets. As it turns out, Let It Ride wasn’t the worst game to play, and I had fun, but it wasn’t my best choice either.

If you’re getting ready to take your first trip to the casino, or simply want to look for better betting alternatives, I’ve put together a list of 7 bad bets and followed each one up with a better alternative.

You can play any games you like, but many times a similar game, or even a different bet on the same game, offers a lower house edge.

When you play games that offer a lower house edge you have a better chance to win and your bankroll lasts longer. The list below doesn’t cover every single game available in casinos, but it includes all of the popular games.

1 – Baccarat Tie Bet

When you play baccarat you have the choice of three bets. You can bet on the player hand, the banker hand, or that the player and banker hands tie.

Bets on the player that win pay 1 to 1, or even money. Bets on the banker that win pay 1 to 1 minus a 5% commission. For example, a $20 banker bet pays $19.

A winning tie bet pays 8 to 1, but many tables show this as 9 for 1. 8 to 1 and 9 for 1 are the same thing.

When payouts have the word “to” between the numbers it means you get back your original wager plus the firs number. So a $20 bet at 8 to 1 returns your original $20 and a win of $160, for a total of $180. When the payout listing has the word “for” between the numbers, you receive an amount equal to your original wager times the first number. A $20 bet at 9 for 1 is a return of $180.

So any time you see a payout listed as for instead of to, subtract one from the first number listed to get the more common to payout.

The baccarat tie bet is the worst of the three options. It has a house edge of 14.36%. This makes it one of the worst bets in the casino.

Alternative – Baccarat Banker Bet

Both the player and banker bet offer a lower house edge than the tie bet. A bet on the player hand has a house edge of 1.24%.

This is a fairly low house edge in comparison to most casino games, but the house edge on the banker bet is even lower.

With a house edge of only 1.06%, the banker bet is better than most games offer. It can be a bit confusing to make banker hand bets because of the 5% commission, but the dealer takes care of everything.

And the 1.06% house edge already takes the commission into account, so the banker hand is the best bet at the baccarat table.

When you make banker bets, it keeps things simple if you always bet in $20 increments. A $20 bet returns $19, a $40 wager returns $38, etc.

Different casinos have different rules about how they collect the commission, so make sure you ask about the house rules before you start playing.

2 – Craps Inside Bets

When you play craps you have plenty of betting options. It can be confusing for beginning players, but most of the available bets are simple once you learn about them. The most common bets are pass line and don’t pass line, followed by odds bets.

All of the available bets at the craps table other than the three mentioned in the last paragraph have a higher house edge. The exact edge varies depending on the bet, from a low of 1.52%, to a high of 16.67%.

Here are the bets listed from worst to just bad:

Bet House Edge
Any seven 16.67%
2 13.89%
12 13.89%
Hard hops 13.89%
Any craps 11.11%
Hard 4 11.11%
Hard 10 11.11%
3 11.11%
11 11.11%
Easy hops 11.11%
Hard 6 9.09%
Hard 8 9.09%
Place 4 6.67%
Place 10 6.67%
Field 5.56%
Place 5 4.00%
Place 9 4.00%
Place 6 1.52%
Place 8 1.52%

Alternative – Craps Don’t Pass Line Bet

The only bets you should make playing craps are pass line, don’t pass line, and odds. The don’t pass line wager is the best, with a house edge of 1.36%.

The pass line bet has a house edge of 1.41%. The odds bet is a special bet that has a house edge of 0%. But you can’t place it unless you place a pass line or don’t pass line wager that results in a point.

To play craps you only need to know how to place two bets. Use the don’t pass and back it with odds. Ignore all of the other betting options.

3 – Roulette Double Zero Wheel

Roulette wheels come in two varieties. Some wheels have 38 spaces and some only have 37. A quick way to see which type of wheel you’re playing is to see if the wheel has a double zero space.

Wheels with a double zero have 38 spaces and wheels without double zero have 37.

Wheels with 38 spaces are sometimes called American roulette, and 37 space wheels are sometimes called European wheels.

American roulette wheels have a house edge of 5.26%. The house edge is the same on every bet you can make except the basket bet, which has a higher edge.

Alternative – Roulette Single Zero Wheel

European roulette wheels, without the double zero space, have a house edge of 2.70%. If you want to play roulette you should always play on a wheel that doesn’t have a double zero space. The house edge is almost half compared to a double zero wheel.

Every bet on a European wheel has the same house edge, so you can bet on single numbers, groups of two or four numbers, red, black, odd, even, columns, rows, thirds, and halves.

I recommend starting with simple even money wagers like red, black, odd, and even. These bets pay 1 to 1 and are easy to place and you can quickly see if you win.

On even money bets you win almost 50% of the time. The actual number is 18 out of 37, or 48.65% of the time. Though you’re still going to lose money in the long run, this is one of the best bets in the casino if you want the best chance to win any individual wager.

4 – Slot Machines

Slot machines are as popular today as they’ve ever been, but they’re one of the worst games to play. Different slot machines have different house edges, ranging from somewhere around 2% to as high as 20%.

Most slot machines are in the 3% to 10% range, but even at the low end of the range it’s a bad bet.

One of the biggest problems with playing slots is most players take hundreds of spins per hour.

While the bet size of each spin can be relatively small, at $1 to $2 on average, if you take 500 spins per hour you’re wagering $500 to $1,000 every hour.

The combination of a high house edge and betting such a high amount every hour can quickly drain your bankroll. At a 3% house edge, you lose $30 on average every hour betting $1,000.

Another problem with slot machines is you don’t know the exact house edge of each machine. With some research you can find a range for some machines, but most slot machine manufacturers that publish this information have designed their games so the casinos that order them can buy machines with a specific return.

The casino is filled with better options for gamblers, but if you like to play machine based games, video poker machines are much better.

Alternative – Video Poker Machines

Just like slot machines, video poker machines come with a wide range of house edges. But there are a few differences.

The house edge of video poker machines range from less than a half percent to seven percent. And you can determine the house edge based on the pay table the video poker machine uses.

The only potential issue with playing video poker instead of slot machines is you have to make strategy decisions while playing video poker.

If you don’t use the proper strategy the house edge goes up. The good news is that you can use strategy cards or charts for popular video poker machines.

My favorite two video poker games are Deuces Wild with the NSUD pay table and 9/6 Jacks or Better. The NSUD pay table has a house edge of .27%. The pay table you’re looking for is 400 – 200 – 25 – 16 – 10 – 4 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1.

The strategy for Deuces Wild is a little more complicated than Jacks or Better, but it’s not too hard to learn.

9/6 Jacks or Better has a .46% house edge and has an easy to use strategy. You can identify a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine by the pay table showing a return of 9 coins for a full house and 6 coins for a flush.

If you play on a machine with a different pay table, you’re probably playing with a higher house edge. A few other video poker machines offer a low house edge, but Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild are easy to find.

When you play video poker, make sure you always bet five coins per hand. This unlocks the bonus when you hit a royal flush. The normal pay out for a one coin bet is 200 or 250, but the five coin payout is 4,000.

You can compare the amount you wager per hour between slot machines and video poker machines by using the total of a five coin bet.

If you’re playing a quarter video poker machine, your total bet per hand is $1.25. This is comparable to most slot machines.

Once you learn the proper strategy you can play hundreds of hands per hour playing video poker, but usually you play fewer video poker hands than slots spins because of the extra step of choosing which cards to hold.

5 – Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean Stud Poker is a fairly popular table game offered in many casinos. It doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to be, and this might be because it has a house edge of 5.22%.

The rules are a bit confusing at first, but once you learn them it’s a simple game to play.

The basic strategy is fairly simple as well, but even using the best possible strategy the house edge is still too high. The basic strategy is to fold any hand with no pairs or better and worse than an ace king high. Raise with any hand with a pair or higher and with any hand with at least an ace king high.

You can learn an advanced strategy that deals with when you have ace king, but it’s quite complicated and the difference in the house edge is tenths of a percent.

This isn’t worth the extra effort, especially when other games offer a lower house edge.

Alternative – Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is another casino table game, but the house edge can be as low as 1.46%. Just like in Caribbean Stud Poker, you and the dealer each receive a hand.

You receive seven cards which you need to split into a five card hand and a two card hand. The five card hand must rank higher than the two card hand, and you must beat the dealer with both hands in order to win. If you win one hand and lose the other the bet is a push.

In order to reach the 1.46% house edge you have to play where the casino lets you bank every other hand. But even if you don’t bank hands, the house edge is much lower than Caribbean Stud Poker.

The other advantage is that Pai Gow Poker plays at a slow pace.

When you combine the slow play with many hands ending up in a tie, you lose less per hour.

6 – Three Card Poker

Three card poker is one of the most popular casino table games other than blackjack. When you play three card poker you can place two bets.

The ante and play bet is required, and holds a 3.37% house edge on the most common pay table. An optional bet, which most players play, is called the pair plus, and the house edge on it is 7.28%.

You’ve seen above that many bets offer a lower edge than 3.37%. The 7.28% edge on the pair plus wager is one of the worst in the casino, so if you must play Three Card Poker, just make the ante play bet.

Alternative – Blackjack

If you’re willing to memorize basic strategy for blackjack, or at least use a strategy card, you can keep the house edge under 1%. The house edge of each individual blackjack game depends on the house rules, but many games are available with an edge of less than .5%.

This makes blackjack, along with good video poker machines, the best options for gamblers when it comes to a low house edge.

The first thing you need to do if you want to play blackjack is learn the rules. The basic rules are simple, but you need to know which rules are better for you so you can find the best games.

Here’s an overview of common blackjack rules:

  • Blackjack pays 3 to 2. Some games only pay 6 to 5, but you should only play at tables offering 3 to 2 payouts on natural blackjacks.
  • Double down rules. The more hands you can double down on and ways you can double, the lower the house edge. You want to be able to double down on any two cards, and being able to double after splitting is even better.
  • Splitting pairs. Almost every blackjack table lets you split pairs on your first two cards, but some also let you split again when you get another pair. The more times you can split the better.
  • Surrender. Some blackjack games offer the surrender rule. If you can surrender, you can fold your hand and only lose half your bet. A few tables offer early surrender, but it’s rare. Early surrender lets you fold your hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. Late surrender is more common. With late surrender, you can’t fold your hand until after the dealer checks for a blackjack.
  • The other main rule to be aware of is insurance. Every blackjack table offers insurance when the dealer has an ace showing, but the reason I include it here is because it’s a terrible bet. Never take insurance because it makes the house edge go up.

7 – Keno

Keno used to be more popular than it is now, with many casinos having a special area called a keno lounge for players. Most casinos have replaced their keno lounges, and fewer and fewer play.

The house edge on most keno games runs from 25% to 30%, so you should avoid playing.

If you do find a casino hat still offers traditional keno, the game does have a few advantages over other games.

Traditional keno games have a draw every 10 to 15 minutes, so you only make four to six bets per hour. This is the slowest game in the casino.

The other advantage is you can make bets as low as $1 with a chance to win $10,000 or more on some keno games.

But no matter how many advantages you can come up with, the huge hose edge simply makes keno a bad gamble.

Many casinos have replaced their traditional keno games with video keno machines. These machines operate much like traditional keno, including the terrible house edge, but let you play much faster.

Many keno machines can be played as fast as slot machines. When you combine a big house edge with fast play, your bankroll gets drained at an alarming rate.

Alternative – Almost Every Other Game

Every game on this page, including all of the other bad bets, offers a better option than keno. If you’re looking for a slow game, try Pai Gow Poker.

If you’re looking for games with a low house edge, look at blackjack and video poker.

The only reason I can think of that you might choose to play keno is if you want to bet less than $10 an hour and have a chance to win a fairly big prize if you get lucky.

But even if that’s your goal, I recommend playing the Powerball or Mega Millions lottery draws. You can play for $2 a ticket, and you have a chance to win millions.


The casino has a built in house edge on any game you play. But that doesn’t mean you need to give the casino more than you need to.

Instead of making one of the 7 bad bets listed on this page, consider one of the 7 better alternatives.

If you’re getting ready for your first casino trip, this list helps you know which bets to make, and which ones to skip.

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