I recently purchased a summer condo in the Reno, Nevada region. Summers in south Florida have become unbearably humid for me. For those unfamiliar with Reno, it is not to be confused with Las Vegas, which is situated in a bowl in the center of the desert. Reno is 5,000 feet above sea level in the high desert.
I’ve been visiting Nevada for several years and have seen a remarkable fall in the sophistication of the ordinary casino player. I recall a period when table games, such as roulette, blackjack, and craps, brought in 80 percent to 90 percent of a casino’s revenue, while slot machines brought in the remaining 10 percent to 20 percent. The entire procedure has now been reversed. The slots bring in 80 percent to 90 percent of the casino’s revenue, while the tables bring in the rest.
If you understand the chances of casino games, the ramifications of this transition are enormous. Every casino table game has odds that are predetermined by law and habit. In other words, knowing the right odds for each play at a casino table is achievable. Only casino management knows what the right odds are for a slot machine, and they can modify them at any time. Only one stipulation applies. The house edge in Nevada casinos is limited to 25% by state law. In practice, most casinos place the house edge in the high teens, averaging 16 percent to 18 percent.
Compare this horrific home edge to the casino tables’ house edge.
In blackjack, the average player gives the house a 5 percent to 10% advantage. In a one-deck game, a real crackerjack card counter, which is hard to come by nowadays, may have a 2% to 3% advantage over the house. Just try to pull this off in real life. You will be hauled out of the casino as soon as the casino notices that you are winning. Our crackerjack card counter is probably playing dead even with the house in a multiple deck game, which is the standard.
The house margin on practically every wager on the roulette wheel is a modest 5.26 percent.
Crap tables were the undisputed monarch of the casino tables in the days when casino players really knew what they were doing. The phrase “high-roller” was coined as a result of this. This is where you hung out if you knew what you were doing. Depending on the house’s odds policy, a savvy better can lower the house edge to as low as 1.41 percent and as low as 1%.
Since I was spending part of my summers in Reno, I concluded that it would be smarter to visit the so-called local casinos, which cater to the local people, rather than the tourist casinos on the strip. The argument was that the savvy locals were getting better reward cards and a better overall bargain than the tourists who frequented the strip.
I was completely mistaken!
I was astounded to find the same dumb conduct at the local casinos as I had seen in the tourist casinos on the strip. The table games with a possibility of winning were nearly deserted, while the foolish slot machines drew a lot of attention.
What was happening on here?
I started up a chat with a slot machine player who told me he had lived in Reno for the last 30 years. I posed the $64,000 question to this known loser. Why hadn’t he progressed to the table games, where he stood a chance of winning? He said that he didn’t comprehend the table games and that they were too difficult to learn. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’m sure there are at least a half-dozen good books about casino gaming. I’ve read them all.
I continued asking the locals the same question because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I kept receiving the same answer.
If the old timers were still alive, they’d be outraged.