William writes:

How would you rank the top ten casino games from best to worst? Firstly from the gambler’s perspective and secondly from the casino’s perspective, and why?

The Guru replies:

To rate 10 games would be far too lengthy for this forum so I will stick to the 5 or 6 major games.

The casino’s perspective is always bottom line profit. When the balance sheet is closed at the end of the month, which games put the most net profit in their pockets.

Number 5: Baccarat

This game’s popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years. It is very popular with Asian clientele many of whom are associated with large corporate entities and tend to be bigger than average players. The casino advantage is small on this game so limits are usually set higher. Big Bac limits are always at least $25 per hand while Mini Bac can still be played for as little as $5 per hand in most casinos offering the game.

In recent years some casinos have taken some of their worst hits at the baccarat tables. One casino executive confided that his casino’s Ligawd baccarat take was once in the red for a period of almost 6 weeks.

Baccarat has ceased to be offered at a couple of the casinos in my area which used to have it. It is not as popular in the South because not too many people know much about the game and for some reason have never bothered to learn, although it is the easiest game in the casino. Also, even though it is easy to play, it is difficult to deal and there are not too many dealers who are proficient at it. And, because of its slim house percentage of 1.17% on bank, it is not as profitable as other games, especially since there are proportionately so few baccarat players.

Number 4: Craps

Some American casinos have cut back their craps tables to make room for more slots. In Europe, the game is rarely even found. Once again, the casino take on the game is slim (about 1.41% on Don’t Pass and 1.47% on Pass). Also, a few hot rolls here and there can really cut into the casino’s bottom line. Also, expense for this game is high since it takes a crew of 4 people (box man, stick man, and 2 dealers) to run the game. Another aspect is that it takes dealers a little longer to become proficient at dealing this game than others.

Number 3: Blackjack

Even though casinos still somewhat fear card counters, the threat is not nearly so great as it once was. And on multiple deck games casinos realize they have virtually nothing to fear.

Blackjack is probably the second most popular casino game overall, thus there is a strong customer demand for the game. It attracts the whole gamut of gamblers from high rollers to the working stiff who occasionally scrapes together a small bankroll to challenge the casinos. Since blackjack is the only game which has been proven to be beatable, many novices who memorize a basic strategy card think they can just go and extract money from the casino. This has worked very much in favor of the casinos. It has made blackjack one of the gambling industry’s most profitable ventures.

Hundreds of thousands of players drop hundreds of millions yearly playing blackjack and they more than make up for the few skilled and savvy players who manage to extract a little money because of their expert play.

Number 2: Roulette

Casinos love this game because of their huge advantage of over 5%. The only thing they don’t like is that the game tends to be slow especially at a crowded table. They will often put 2 dealers at a roulette table in order to speed things along because once again, the more decisions the wheel turns out, the more money they make.

Casinos also like the game because they believe it to be unbeatable in the long run. For a casino to be in the red on this game for a month is unheard of. One could only argue that the casinos would prefer blackjack to roulette because of the greater volume of play at the blackjack tables which results in larger profits. But if there were as many roulette players as blackjack players, the casinos would be ecstatic.

I am going to insert one comment here. The casinos who offer high stakes poker and attract a large clientele love this game. They get a healthy percentage off the top of every pot and never have any of their own money at risk. It’s hard to beat that!

And now we come to the game most loved and cherished by the casinos. Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is…


If the casinos had their way, that’s all they would have. Wall to wall bells ringing clanging and jangling Slot Machines!

Slot machines are not paid a salary. They are on duty 24 hours per day 7 days a week. They never complain to their supervisors or call in sick. They just grind out a healthy profit day in and day out. As I’ve said before, the average take on a slot machine is over 7%. Due to the fact that gaming laws vary from state to state, some machines are set for house percentages of 60% or more. As long as they are offset by other more liberal machines.

It is my personal opinion that whoever coined the expression “one armed bandit” was right on the money.

Now, for my personal choices.

Number 5: Slot Machines

The reason they are last is there is no skill involved and I don’t like throwing my money away. My personality is not that of one who plays for a big score. I prefer a long term profit.

Number 4: Baccarat

I am totally frustrated with this game. I wish I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent researching and trying to devise a system to beat it. In the 21 years I’ve been frequenting casinos, I’ve only met one man who claimed to be a professional baccarat player. And although I played with him several times, I only saw him win once.

I’ve seen and researched baccarat systems costing anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. In the final analysis, there was not one of them that I could not do just as well in the long run by purely guessing. Perhaps someone who made baccarat their life’s study could beat this game, but I am convinced that there is no mechanical system which can be devised to beat it on a long term basis.

Number 3: Roulette

The fun part of this game is hitting a number and having the dealer shove that big stack of chips to you. It makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something and in fact you have. Once again, I don’t believe there is any mechanical system which will beat this game in the long run, but it can be beaten by someone who puts in the time and effort to study and practice. And I’m talking hundreds of hours of study and practice.

Roulette is a game for which you can get a feel and if you have a good method to use as a framework to build upon, you can be successful. I don’t like the fact that it is slow and you often don’t get a lot of action, but when I’m playing certain methods I sometimes wish it was even slower because I have to really race to get all my bets down. And if there are several other people at the table you are getting in each other’s way. Also, there are areas of the layout which are difficult to reach depending upon where you are sitting.

Number 2: Blackjack

I like the fact that this game can be beaten over the long haul. It is not a fantasy or dream, it can be done and many have done it and are doing it. I don’t like the fact that the casinos only want to open as many tables as they can almost totally fill. If you want to get a heads up game with the dealer or at least have no more than one or two other players with you at the table, you must play from about 3am to 11am.

In addition to the above, I also don’t like the fact that the play someone else makes can cause me to lose. I also don’t like the fact that some casinos do what I call “legal cheating” by the way they manipulate their shuffles. Yet, all in all it is the game at which I’ve had the most consistent success over the years.

Number 1: Craps

Ah, the jubilant shouts of the players when a shooter on a hot roll makes his point. The heavy spirits, the profanity that fills the air when a table turns cold. The dream roll where the 7 takes a vacation for an hour or more. These are the sirens that call to the craps player. There is excitement and tremendous potential for profits.

Also, there is great potential for loss if one doesn’t carefully guard his bankroll and not get carried away. The thing I like most about craps is that of all the games, it is easier for me to have some idea about the potential for certain bets to win or lose. Crap tables (as well as roulette tables) go through definite cycles. Through observation and experience, you can learn to recognize these cycles and capitalize on them.

Well, there you have it. Hope this answers your question sufficiently.