Some people play casino games purely for the gambling aspect. They get thrills from putting their money on the line and watching bets play out.

Others are more informed on the matter because they want the best possible chance to win profits. And these gamblers will find that three important factors to improving their winnings include the house edge, comps, and risk of ruin.

Knowing these aspects will increase your odds of winning more money, protecting your bankroll, and collecting more freebies from the casino.

Different gamblers weight each of these factors differently. But what’s truly the most important aspect with regard to winning in gambling?

I’ll answer this question by taking an in-depth look at the house edge, risk of ruin, and comps. I’ll also offer a conclusion on which of these three factors is the most important.

House Edge

What Is House Edge?

The house edge is the advantage that the casino has over players.

This figure differs based on the game you’re playing. The house advantage also varies based on strategy and the rules in play.

Blackjack is a good example of both concepts because it involves strategy and can have different rules based on the table/casino. Therefore, you want to choose casinos that give you the best rules possible on any game you play.

Here’s a list of popular casino games and their house advantages:

  • Video poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
  • Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (varies by table rules)
  • Baccarat = 1.06% (banker hand bet)
  • French roulette = 1.35% (la partage rule)
  • Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line and don’t come)
  • Pai Gow Poker = 1.46%
  • European roulette = 2.70%
  • Let It Ride = 3.51%
  • Online slot machines = 4.0% (varies based on games)
  • Online scratch cards = 5.0%
  • Caribbean Stud = 5.22%
  • American roulette = 5.26%
  • Big Six = 11.11%
  • Keno = 10% to 40%

You can see that Jacks or Better video poker is at the top with a 0.46% house edge. This means that video poker gives you the best long-term chance to win money.

Some forms of gambling give players an opportunity to gain a long-term edge. This includes daily fantasy sports (DFS), poker, and sports betting.

Skilled players can win long-term profits with any of these games. But the reverse is that there’s theoretically no limit to how much money you can lose with them, either.

It’s impossible to come up with a specific house edge on DFS, poker, and sports betting because this varies based on your skill level.

You can also gain an edge through advantage-play techniques, including ace sequencing, card counting, shuffle tracking, and wheel tracking.

Ace sequencing, card counting, and shuffle tracking are used in blackjack to track specific card values and gain an advantage. Wheel tracking is a controversial roulette advantage-play method that some gamblers claim can earn you profits.

In any case, advantage-play methods are like certain skill-based games in that you can’t define them with a static house edge.

How to Calculate House Edge

The house advantage can be easy or hard to calculate based on the game.

Here’s an example using American roulette:

  • You make a bet on “red” in the red/black bet
  • Payout on red/black bet is 1:1
  • The American wheel has 38 total numbers
  • 18 of these numbers are red and will win your bet
  • 20 of these numbers are black (or green) and will cause you to lose
  • 20/38 – 18/38 = 2/38
  • 2/38 = 5.26% house edge

Many casino games have more complex math behind the house edge. Blackjack, for example, offers several hand actions along with different payouts for natural blackjacks and double-down wins.

Luckily, mathematicians have calculated the house advantage for casino games long ago. You merely need to google the game you’re interested in along with the term “house edge” to find what you’re looking for.

Pros and Cons of Knowing the House Edge

Knowing the house advantage is crucial to beating casino games. This shows how realistic it is to expect winnings with any individual casino game/bet.

Your chances of beating baccarat (1.06% house edge) are decidedly better than beating American roulette (5.26%). You should know the house advantage for any casino game that you play.

But the downside is that this concept fails to account for volatility, or how much your short-term results will deviate from the statistical average.

I’ve played high-paying online slots with the same house edge as European roulette (2.70%). But slots results are far less predictable than European roulette, meaning the house advantage may not come anywhere close to reflecting your short-term winnings.

Another drawback to the house edge is that it doesn’t cover certain skill-based games or advantage-play methods. You can’t put a percentage on your chances of beating card counting, DFS, poker, shuffle tracking, and sports betting.

Risk of Ruin

What Is Risk of Ruin?

Risk of ruin is an important bankroll management concept that determines your chances of losing everything in a casino game.

  • I have $1,000
  • I bet the entire amount on a coin toss
  • This gives me a 50/50 chance of winning
  • My risk of ruin is 50%

Everybody knows that the house has a long-term advantage in most games. But the key is figuring out what your chances are of beating these negative expectation games or at least preserving your bankroll.

Few gambling situations work out as nicely as the coin toss example. Instead, you’re left dealing with imperfect numbers and house edges when trying to determine this.

Why Is Risk of Ruin Important?

Gamblers can learn how long their bankroll will last through risk of ruin. This concept puts your chances of losing everything into a percentage, with a lower percentage meaning that you’re less likely to lose everything.

Both advantage gamblers and recreational players can benefit from this information.

An advantage player is somebody who has an edge over the casino or other players. For example, a successful card counter has anywhere from a 0.5% to 1.5% advantage on the house.

Therefore, card counters make long-term profits. But their edge is so small that they can easily experience several losing sessions in a row, putting their bankroll in jeopardy.

Recreational gamblers don’t have an edge on the casino and will likely lose their money if they continue playing over time. But it’s still nice to know what your chances of losing are by calculating risk of ruin.

You can also figure out if you want to add more to your bankroll based on your risk of ruin calculations. This is especially important for advantage players who want the smallest short-term risk possible.

How to Calculate Risk of Ruin

You need to know several aspects about a casino game before being able to calculate your risk of ruin. These include your bankroll size, desired profit, win rate, expected value, and tie rate (if applicable).

The easiest way to express your bankroll size and desired profits is in terms of units. If you have a $1,000 bankroll and make $10 bets, then you can break this down into 100 units.

Win rate and expected value go hand in hand. Win rate refers to your odds of winning any single turn in a casino game.

European roulette gives you a 48.65% chance of winning on each bet. Therefore, your win rate will also be 48.65%.

Expected value can refer to the house edge or the advantage that you have over the casino. Looking at European roulette, your expected value would be -2.70.

You can put these variables into a risk of ruin calculator and figure out your odds of losing everything. Sites that offer these calculators include,, and

Here’s an example on calculating your risk of ruin for European roulette:

  • Units to risk = 150
  • Desired units profit = 25
  • Win rate = 48.65%
  • Expected value = -2.70% (automatically entered after inputting win rate)
  • Risk of ruin = 74.1%

The results show that you have a 74.1% chance of losing all your money before reaching a 25-unit profit. This obviously doesn’t bode well for winning your goal amount before losing your funds.

But you can always set your sights lower or add more to your bankroll to change risk of ruin. If I start with 300 units – instead of 150 – my risk of ruin goes down to 70.08%, which doesn’t make much a difference.

But if I lower my desired profit from 25 units to 10 units, it drops my risk of ruin to 41.7%.

Now let’s consider the situation if I’m a card counter with a 1% edge on the casino:

  • Units to risk = 200
  • Desired units profit = 100
  • Win rate = 50.5%
  • Expected value = 1.0%
  • Risk of ruin = 1.59%

Despite only having a 1% advantage on the house, my risk of ruin drops dramatically to 1.59% percent. This means that I have better than 49:1 odds of winning 100 units before losing my bankroll.

Pros and Cons of Knowing Risk of Ruin

Every gambler can benefit from knowing how likely they are to keep their bankroll when chasing a specific profit. I highly suggest that you make risk of ruin a part of your bankroll management strategy.

Doing so allows you to know the exact chances of losing everything when going for your goal. You can then adjust either your target profit or starting bankroll to get a risk of ruin that’s acceptable.

The downside is that this concept doesn’t change the house edge or directly improve your chances of winning. Instead, it only helps you determine your odds of going to zero and try to avoid doing so.


What Are Comps?

Casinos offer comps as rewards based on your play. The type of comps you receive can differ based on the casino you’re at and if you’re playing online or on land.

Brick-and-mortar casinos commonly offer free drinks, meals, hotel rooms, show tickets, and cashback. Online casinos offer free slots spins, cashback, and merchandise.

The degree to which you’re rewarded depends upon total betting volume activity and what tier you’re at in the rewards program. A special VIP who bets thousands of dollars per session will receive far more comps than a recreational player who bets a few hundred dollars.

Here are the standard reward tiers in a land-based players club:

  • Player level = Free drinks, meals, and/or hotel stay (highest reward)
  • Room and food (RF) = Room and food comped
  • RFB = Room, food, and beverage (even fine wine and liquor) comped

Online casino VIP programs offer different levels based on the casino where you play. Here’s an example of loyalty levels in an internet casino players club:

  • 1st level = Bronze
  • 2nd level = Silver
  • 3rd level = Gold
  • 4th level = Platinum

You move up the ladder by earning loyalty points. Some online casinos see you keep your VIP status once earned, while others force you to maintain the status by earning a certain amount of points every 1-3 months.

The benefit of moving up in either a land-based or online players club is that you’ll get bigger and more frequent rewards.

How to Calculate Comps

Online and land-based casinos generally offer around the same amount of comps per game. But both types of casinos also differ in certain areas.

First off, you need to sign up for the players club at land-based casinos before you start receiving rewards. The only comp that you’ll normally receive without a players club card is free drinks.

If you want to be eligible for meals and a hotel stay, you must sign up for a players club card so that you begin accumulating points.

Some casinos list the points you receive for playing each casino game on their website. But most brick-and-mortar casinos don’t, which leaves you in the dark on the exact comp rate.

Usually, though, land-based casinos comp slots players on 0.2% of their total wagers and table game players on 0.1% of the bets.

Here’s an example of the value you receive for slots points at the average land-based casino:

  • Comp rate is 1 point per $5 wagered
  • You can exchange 100 points for $1 cashback
  • You bet $2,000
  • $2,000 / $5 = 400 points
  • 400 points / 100 points = $4 in comps

Online casinos offer enough comp points to equal a 0.1% slots comp rate. The amount of points that you receive for table games varies based on the game you’re playing.

Some of the table games with low house edges like baccarat, blackjack, craps, and European roulette don’t even qualify for VIP rewards. This is why you should read the bonus terms and conditions before signing up at an internet casino.

Here’s an example of the type of comps that online slots player can look forward to:

  • Comp rate is 1 point per $10 wagered
  • You can exchange 100 points for $1 cashback
  • You bet $2,000
  • $2,000 / 10 = 200 points
  • 200 points / 10 points = $2 in comps

You may wonder why online casinos are stingier with comps than land-based casinos and don’t even count certain table games towards rewards. The answer is that most online casino games have a lower house edge than those found in brick-and-mortar venues.

For example, an online slot machine averages around 96% payback. Land-based slot machines barely pay back between 88% and 95% based on the coin denomination.

It’s easier to see why brick-and-mortar casinos are more generous with comps when considering that they make a lot more with their slot machines.

Nevertheless, I give land-based casinos credit for comping every casino game. Contrast this to many internet casinos, which cut out a portion of table games from rewards.

Pros and Cons of Knowing Your Comp Rate

The main benefit to knowing your comp rate is that you can predict the rewards you’ll earn at a specific casino.

I recommend visiting a land-based casino’s website and finding out what you can about their players club before joining. It’s worth playing at a certain brick-and-mortar venue if they offer better rewards than their competitors.

You should also look at bonus terms and conditions at any online casino before you deposit and begin playing games. The main thing you need to ensure is that your favorite games count towards rewards.

It’s obviously a good thing to earn comps on your casino play. The biggest drawback is that these rewards are tiny in comparison to the house edge.

Even if you receive a 0.3% comp rate – the highest that the average player will see in the gaming industry – this still pales in comparison to a 6%-12% house edge.


Comps are the least important aspect of casino gaming when compared to either house edge or risk of ruin. This is funny because some players treat comps like they’re the most important thing.

These same players often extend their sessions just to pick up rewards. But this is a mistake because the value of comps doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the house edge.

Example to illustrate my point:
  • You’re playing a slots game with a 5% house edge
  • You bet $1,000
  • The comp rate is 0.2%
  • 1,000 x 0.002 = $2 in comps
  • 1,000 x 0.05 = $50 in theoretical losses

You can see that theoretical losses are 25x higher than comps in this case.

I have a hard time deciding between risk of ruin and house edge when it comes to the most important factor. But I give the slight edge to the house advantage.

Risk of ruin is very important because this helps you determine how large your bankroll must be and what kind of a profit you should shoot for. The only drawback is that risk of ruin doesn’t help you figure out which games are profitable.

The house edge also has downsides in that it doesn’t account for volatility and can’t measure your edge in advantage play. But the benefit of knowing the house advantage is so great that this far outweighs the drawbacks.

If you’re a new gambler or giving advice to one, I recommend checking out casino games with the lowest house edge first. Once you find a few games that you like, proceed to calculate your risk of ruin and the amount of comps you can expect.

Related Articles
Leave Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *