Live games give you an edge the Slots machines can’t match
By Basil Nestor
Slots or table games? Happily, it’s not a competition. You can enjoy both, but the fact is that most people play slots. If you’re one of those people, and I’ve managed to catch your eye with a good title, then check this out…because table games have some very special charms and benefits.
Here are ten good reasons to invest at least part of your action at the tables:
#1 Tables are easier to beat than slots. It’s a mathematical fact. Most modern table games were developed from older contests that had no built-in house edge. Casinos modified the games enough to make them profitable, but they can’t mess around too much with formulas that have been around forever. Slots, on the other hand, are much easier to “re-invent.” This is why tables are more beatable than slots.
For example, the house edge for Three Card Poker is 3.4%. Craps is 1.4% or less (depending on how you play). Baccarat is about 1%. Blackjack is less than 1% when you practice perfect basic strategy. Compare that to the house edge on a typical slot game; it’s usually in the range of 7% to 10%. Of course, you can beat any game if you have a dose of good luck. But it’s a lot easier to win when you’re bucking a smaller edge.
#3 Table games are more sensitive to strategy. If you want to win more by playing well, then tables are definitely the way to go. Almost every table game has an optimal strategy that includes play choices to lower the house edge. It’s fun to use strategy and then watch your slick moves translate into profits.
#3 Table games have lower volatility. Dollar-for-dollar, in a typical session, you’re less likely to lose a lot of money playing tables compared to the same action playing slots. Let’s say you have $500 and you bet $5 per hand playing blackjack. You have less than 0.1% chance of losing it all in ten hours of play when you use an optimal strategy.
In contrast, most slot games will easily gobble $500 in a few hours when you bet $5 per hand. This is partly due to the house edge, but a bigger reason is that blackjack is a slower game, has frequent payouts which are usually 1:1, and there are no jackpot payoffs unless you make a side bet. Similar math applies to other table games. Slots pay less frequently, and rarely pay 1:1. Depending on the game, they either pay a fraction of your bet, or they dump a whole bunch of money on you at once.
#4 Meeting people is fun. It may seem scary or uncomfortable at first, but sitting inches away from strangers and playing with them (or sometimes against them) can be exhilarating. You can meet and interact with people who you would have never met under regular circumstances. It’s also fun to talk with a dealer. Mingling and people-watching is one of the greatest advantages and pleasures of playing at the tables.
#5 You’re allowed to take a break and keep your seat. Many players don’t know this. You can step away from the table, leave chips on the felt, and tell the dealer you’ll be back. Most casinos give you between 10 and 20 minutes. The dealer will protect your chips and save your seat. Try that at a slot machine!
#6 It’s easy to play with friends. Can four friends play slots together? That’s tough to arrange, finding four adjacent machines that all of you want to play. But you can find four seats at a table, and the interaction and excitement is priceless! Also, depending on the game, sometimes the whole table will win. High-five your pals! It’s a bonding experience that is unmatched at the machines.
#7 No stinkin’ RNG. We have nothing against Random Number Generators (RNGs), which are the electronic hearts of slots. But there is something beguiling and visceral about touching cards, tossing dice, or slamming a pai gow dice cup. And the sheer pleasure of raking and stacking chips…it’s transcendental!
#8 Tables have a slower pace. Most hands take a minute or two to resolve. The overall experience is more contemplative and organic compared to machines, which churn out about ten decisions per minute. Less action also means fewer opportunities for the house edge to work against your bankroll. This is yet another reason why tables are less profitable for casinos, and thus easier for you to beat.
#9 Lower comps, but more cash. This is related to the volatility described in item #3. Casinos comp you based on your expected “theoretical losses,” which for slots include occasional jackpots. Unfortunately, you might not actually hit those wins because they’re infrequent.
Using the previous example of $5 bets, your theoretical loss may be $300 after only two hours, but your actual loss may be $500 unless you reliably hit the expected mid-size jackpots. And your comps will probably have a value of about $100. That’s a $200 to $400 deficit unless you hit a much bigger jackpot. Meanwhile, at a table (let’s say blackjack), your comps for $5 bets will be essentially nothing. It sounds bad, but your theoretical loss over two hours should be about $6. And you have a much stronger chance of finishing the session with a profit.
#10 You share an experience with royalty and legends. Modern table games are descended from time-tested contests that stretch back centuries. From Chaucer to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I to George Washington, Harry Truman to Richard Nixon, they all played versions of games that you can play at the tables today. Toss dice with abandon like the Roman emperor Augustus, or bet your cards thoughtfully as Benjamin Franklin did. Go ahead, lay your money down and join the tradition.
Basil Nestor is author of The Smarter Bet Guide to Poker, The Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack, and other comprehensive gambling guides. Got a question? Visit SmarterBet.com and drop him a line.
Live games give you an edge the Slots machines can’t match.