Recently I bought a condo for the summers in the Reno, Nevada area. I can no longer tolerate the humidity of the south Florida summers. For those of you that don’t know Reno is nothing like Las Vegas, which is located in a bowl in the middle of the desert. Reno is in the high desert about 5,000 feet above sea level.
I have been traveling to Nevada for years and cannot help noticing a very strange decline in the sophistication of the average casino player. I can remember a time when the table games, roulette, blackjack and the crap tables earned 80%-90% of a casino’s income and the slot machines earned the other 10%-20%. Today the whole process has been reversed. The slots are earning 80%-90% of the casino’s income and the tables are earning whatever is left.
The implications of this transformation are huge if you understand the odds of casino games. Every casino table game has predictable odds that are set by law and custom. In short, it is possible to know the correct odds for every play at a casino table. The correct odds for a slot machine are only known to casino management and can be changed at will. There is only one restriction. By state law, the house edge in Nevada casinos cannot exceed 25%. As a practical matter, most casinos set the house edge in the high teens, 16%-18% being typical.
Contrast this horrific house edge with the house edge in the casino tables.
In blackjack the typical player will be giving the house an edge of somewhere between 5%-10%. A true crackerjack card counter in a one-deck game, which is hard to find today, could have a 2%-3% edge against the house. Just try pulling this off in the real world. As soon as the casino sees that you are winning you will be escorted out of the casino. In a multiple deck game which is the norm our crackerjack card counter is probably playing about dead even with the house.
For almost every bet on the roulette wheel, the house edge is a reasonable 5.26%.
In the old days when casino players actually knew what they were doing the unchallenged king of the casino tables were the crap tables. This is where the term high-roller came from. If you knew what you were, doing this is where you hung out. A shrewd better can reduce the house edge to as low as 1.41% and to below 1% depending on the house’s odds policy.
Since I was now spending some of my summers in Reno I decided that the smart money move was to patronize the so-called local casinos that cater to the local population rather than the tourist casinos on the strip. The theory here being that the shrewd locals were receiving superior reward cards and a better over all deal than the stupid tourists who patronized the strip.
Boy was I wrong!
As I patronized the local casinos, I was stunned to see the same stupid behavior that I was seeing in the tourist casinos on the strip. The table games that gave you a fighting chance to win were almost deserted and the stupid slot machines were getting plenty of action.
What on earth was going on?
I struck up a conversation with a slot player who informed me that he had been living in Reno for the last 30 years. I asked this proven loser the $64,000 question. Why hadn’t he graduated to the table games where he had a fighting chance to win? He told me that he really didn’t understand the table games and it was too complicated to learn. I could not believe it. I know for a fact that there are least a half dozen sound books on casino gambling. I have read them.
Since I could not believe what I was hearing, I kept asking the locals the same question and kept getting the same answer.