With so much money wagered every second across the globe, casino gaming is awash with conspiracy theories, accusations and casino myths.
Here’s the lowdown on some of the biggest online casino myths and why you should take them with a pinch of salt.
Casino Myth 1 – The House Always Wins
There’s an element of truth in this popular saying but if you examine it more closely it’s wide of the mark.
The house sometimes wins is a fairer assessment while, in terms of pure statistics, the house rarely wins is more accurate. Casinos are billion-dollar enterprises and the main way they make their money is from bets made by gamblers. But if the house always won then nobody would ever come back to a casino as it would be a total waste of time and money.
What seduces gamblers is the fact they often win and occasionally win big. So the casinos have to strike a balance between making money and ensuring that customers keep flocking back.
The way they do this is through something called the house edge. This is the long-term gain casinos can expect to earn from each of their games.
It’s typically between one and five percent, which means that for every £100 wagered by punters, £1-£5 will go to the house. With games of pure chance such as slots and roulette, this house edge rarely changes.
However, in games with an element of skill such as poker and Blackjack then players can either reduce or increase the edge by good or poor strategy and gameplay.
Here’s a look at the typical estimated house edge for each game in a casino, with the figure subject to change for different versions of the game: Baccarat (from 1.5%), Blackjack (from 1.5%), Roulette (from 2.5%), Slots (from 2% to 10%).
The house edge may seem quite low to the average punter but bear in mind the vast sums spent inside a casino. If £100,000 of Blackjack bets are wagered in an hour at a casino, the house will make around £1,500 each hour.
Factor in all the other games and slots machines in a casino and it adds up to a huge profit.
Casino Myth 2 – Slot Machines Run Hot and Cold
One of the saddest sights in a casino is watching a desperate punter continue to chuck money into a slot machine in the belief it’s ready to payout.
The law of averages would suggest he is right but it has no basis in fact. The belief you are due a win is called gambler’s fallacy and it’s something that has cost many a punter huge amounts of money.
Slot machines are run by Random Number Generators which have no memory of what has gone before. Each spin is a fresh start so there is no way a previous run of results can affect what the next spin will be. Indeed, one of the gaming laws in Nevada, home of Las Vegas and its myriad casinos, states that machines “must not produce detectable patterns of game elements”.
Casino Myth 3 – Casinos Rig Their Machines
A lot of people suspect that casinos sneakily rig their machines to ensure they pay more in favour of the house than the intended house edge. But while it is technically possible to rig a Random Number Generator, almost every casino does not do this.
There have been a few bad apples, including a programmer who worked for the Nevada Gaming Control Board and used his inside knowledge to rig a machine, but they have been caught and punished accordingly.
The programmer in question was sentenced to seven years in jail and served two.
Casinos regularly have their machines tested by independent third parties to make sure their games are deemed fair and random. Gambling in the UK is also regulated by the Gambling Commission. They license and police all the UK’s gambling providers, ensuring they adhere to legal guidelines and strictly follow the rules as laid out in legislation.
In America, state gaming commissions play a similar role while there is also regulation from the federal government.
Casino Myth 4 – Card Counting is Illegal
A gambler can boost their chance of winning by counting cards in-game such as Blackjack and Punto Banco.
Card counters typically tally points for each card dealt (for example, 1 point for cards 2–6, 0 points for 7–9 and −1 point for 10–A) then use this running total to work out the chances of a high or low card being dealt next. When a pack is freshly shuffled the count returns to zero.
Card counting has a greater effect when there are fewer decks of cards in play. If a casino is playing with just one deck then card counting is highly effective but it is more difficult if several decks of cards are being used. It requires great skill in mathematics and memory, with a huge degree of concentration also required.
Most people will think of films such as Rain Man and the Hangover when they hear of counting cards, where Dustin Hoffman and Zach Galifianakis display savant skills to beat the casinos.
Such movies create the impression that card counting is a hugely dangerous pursuit, with anyone caught banished from a casino and shepherded towards the nearest police cell.
But, despite what many believe, card counting isn’t illegal. It’s just frowned upon although some casinos will ask you to leave if you are caught card counting. They have the right to ask anyone to leave their casino as the owners of the land.
Casino Myth 5 – You Will Get Lots of Money Just for Signing Up
Many online casinos will try to attract new customers with huge amounts of so-called ‘free bets’ and bonuses.
Yes, it’s true, some of these online casino bonuses are really attractive.
But some also seems too good to be true, with casinos offering welcome packages of up to £2000.
But getting your hands on this money is far from easy, due to a clause called a “wagering requirement”.
This is the amount of money you will need to bet in order to release your bonus winnings into your main cash balance.
For example, if you have a welcome bonus of £100 with a wagering requirement of 25, you would only be able to access the bonus once you have a bet a total of £2,500.
This means that most casual users will never get their hands on the huge sums of money they are promised as inducements.
I have chosen a list of online casinos where the wagering requirements are achievable.
Myth 6 – You Will Lose Money with Online Casinos.
There is no statistical basis to believe that you will lose more money playing online than you will in a real casino. There is an equal chance of winning and losing whether you are at the table in person or playing virtually. The only factor could be a psychological one.
Because you are not walking to a banker to hand over money for more chips, you may lose track of how much money is coming out of your account.
For that reason, it’s hugely important to set budgets and limits whenever you are playing online to make sure you don’t spend more money than you have.
However, the problem is not with the online casino but with your own behaviour.