Fixed-odds & skill games
Some forms of gambling are largely skill-based, others contain an element of skill and many are based entirely on luck.
The majority of gamblers don’t really understand how odds work. Many punters believe that all games are based on luck and play with their gut. Others believe they have a system for everything – even slot machines!
The reality is that some gambling activities can be profitable given enough skill, practice and knowledge. Others can be optimised with mathematically sound wagers. The rest are totally down to fate – these are known as ‘fixed-odds’ games.
There’s nothing wrong with gambling for fun without considering how to play ‘smart’ (as long as you play responsibly) but we believe it’s important that you know all the facts.
The following games can provide a profit to skilled individuals, although, of course, luck still plays a role.
Poker is a global competitive sport, with international tournaments, stars and player sponsorship. The highest-earning tournament poker star at the time of writing (Daniel Negreanu) has racked up £19,483,040 in winnings to date.
Playing online poker profitability requires a significant amount of skill, practice and patience. The game’s mathematical and psychological elements mean it is widely acknowledged as a skill game. While it is possible for weak, inexperienced players to win in the short-term (because of variance) skilled players will almost always prevail in the long-term.
To learn the ins-and-outs of poker, click here.
There have been literally hundreds of books published on accumulating cash through sports betting. The key to sports betting success is a thorough understanding of the statistical landscape of sport (past and present) and (ideally) access to inside knowledge.
For instance, Patrick Veitch (a self-described ‘professional punter’ and mathematician) explained in his autobiography how he was able to beat the bookies on horse races by pouring over stats and watching race videos for hours, in addition to forging useful contacts within the stables.
Lacking this privileged access, the next best thing is to connect with the vast sports betting community, share opinions, get the buzz and analyse pundits’ tips.
To get the skinny on sports betting, click here.
The following games are ultimately weighted against the player. However, it is possible to improve your odds and minimise the house edge by adhering to mathematically optimised betting systems.
By following ‘Basic strategy’ the house-edge in blackjack can be brought very close to zero, meaning the house has virtually no advantage over the player.
To learn basic blackjack strategy, click here.
Craps can be a very good game or a terrible game for players, depending on the types of bets chosen. Certain plays result in a low house edge or none at all, while others produce an edge as high as 17 percent.
To learn how to optimise your bets in craps, click here.
The house edge in video poker can be theoretically beaten in video poker, if the game is played with an optimal strategy. Even without employing any kind of strategy, the house edge in all variants of video poker is very small.
To learn how to optimise your bets in video poker, click here.
Published pay-out percentages
Many casinos and software developers will publish the pay-out percentages attached to its games. You need to find out if these figures are based on independent audits or internal assessments. If it’s the latter, they probably aren’t trustworthy.
Many casino games come with a fixed house-edge, meaning there is nothing players can do to improve their chances. That’s not to say you shouldn’t play these games, but you should be aware that you’re in it for fun, not for profit!
European and American roulette both come with a fixed edge, resulting from the green pocket. As each spin is statistically independent from the next in this game, it is impossible to develop an optimised betting system.
To learn why you should never trust roulette strategies, click here.
For all its pomp and ceremony, baccarat is basically a glorified game of odds or evens. The marginally reduced house-edge means you should always bet on the dealer hand, but aside from that, it’s totally down to luck.
To learn how to play baccarat, click here.
Online slots – and indeed all virtual games with outcomes based on random number generation – come with a fixed edge determined by software that generates extremely long sequences of numbers. This ‘pseudo number generation’ makes it impossible to beat these games in the long run, even when bonus rounds create the illusion of skill. Physical slot machines in the UK and America can come with positive expectation if they use an adaptive logic pay-out system, or if they boast a large progressive jackpot.
To learn all about slot games, click here.