Expected Value in Casino Games


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People often make a big deal about the house edge in casino gaming because it represents their relative chances of winning money. For example, French roulette carries a potential house edge of 1.35%, which is pretty low when compared to most games. 

Interestingly enough though, the subject of expected value isn't discussed quite as much when it comes to casino games. But as you'll find out, expected value is just as important when trying to determine how much money you can win while playing certain games.

Expected Value Definition

Expected value (EV) is how much money you can expect to win or lose with each bet. In order to find out the expected value of each wager, it's important to know the house edge of the games you play. 

Using the aforementioned 1.35% French roulette house edge, your expected value would be 0.9865 (1.00 - 0.0135). Assuming you made a $5 French roulette wager, your EV in terms of dollars would be -$0.07 [($5 x 0.9865) - $5]. As you can see, your expected value for each French roulette bet is negative. 

Why play Negative Expected Value Games?

Seeing as how many casino games have a negative expected value, some people wonder what the point in gambling is. After all, the casino will win over the long-term in most games. But this is exactly the point because players can beat casinos over the short-term. 

Calling upon French roulette once more, you stand to lose $0.07 with every $5 wager you make. However, this is an extremely small edge when you consider the size of the bet; in other words, you are dealing with an almost equal chance of making profits with every wager made.

Positive Expected Value Games

What's nice is that there are actually a few casino games where players have positive expected value with each bet. Video poker is one game where this is the case because certain versions of Deuces Wild (100.8%) and Double Bonus (100.2%) poker give players a chance to win long-term money.

To illustrate how this works, let's say that you play a Deuces Wild game with 100.8% payback; in this case, your expected value would be 1.008. So if you made a $5 wager here, your expected value would be $0.04 [($5 x 1.008)) - $5]. Of course, it's also important to realize that you need to use excellent video poker strategy to get this positive expected value.

Some other positive expected value casino games that you might consider taking a look at include poker and blackjack (when card counting is involved). But just like with video poker, you need to be very skilled at these games to take advantage of the positive expected value.