Playing casino games, of course, involves risk. This risk level is usually appropriate when considering the odds of winning. For example, a blackjack game with a 1% house edge puts you on near-equal footing with the house.
However, some casino games and individual bets are awful in this regard. These “sucker bets” can feature a 10% house advantage or higher. If you’re looking for your best chance to win, you’ll likely want to avoid these options. The following guide discusses casino sucker bets in detail, along with some terrible wagers outside of the casino. It also provides suggestions on what bets will give you the best chance to win.
What is a sucker bet?
A sucker bet is a wager where the potential payout is significantly lower than your odds of winning. In other words, only suckers who lack gambling knowledge are likely to place these wagers. Here’s an example involving a craps sucker bet:
- You bet on a 3 being rolled.
- The payout for this wager is 15:1.
- The odds of winning are 17:1.
- The house edge is 11.11% due to the unfavorable gap between the 15:1 payout and 17:1 odds.
Casinos love when you place these bets because they stand to win much more money over time. They do their best to dress up sucker bets with high payouts and/or terms like “insurance.”
Speaking of which, blackjack insurance is one of the best examples of a sucker bet. It seems like a harmless way to insure yourself against the dealer having a natural blackjack. In reality, though, it’s simply a regular bet — and a bad one at that. Its payout (2:1) is easily counteracted by its low 30.7% success rate.
Blackjack insurance carries a 7.40% house edge. Most casino games and bets feature between a 1% and 5% house edge. Ideally, you’ll stick with games and wagers within this range.
Sucker bets to watch for
The best way to avoid sucker bets is by identifying them. The following wagers are among the worst of the worst.
1. Keno in land-based casinos — 25% to 35% house edge
Keno doesn’t have to be a sucker bet. Some machines in land-based casinos carry around a 10% house advantage, while online keno typically is in the 5% to 8% range. However, keno in land-based casinos is often the worst bet on a per-dollar basis. You could face anywhere from a 25% to 35% house advantage when playing this game in brick-and-mortar casinos.
2. Specific number combinations in sic bo — 29.2% house edge
Sic bo has plenty of bad bets, but specific single- and double-number combinations are the absolute worst. This wager wins when two dice show a specific number and the third shows a certain number as well. It initially looks attractive due to its 50:1 payout, but it also has just a 1.4% chance of winning. The end result is a 29.2% house advantage.
3. Big Six — up to a 24.07% house edge
Big Six is a common variation of the wheel-based games in land-based and live dealer casinos. The wheel features different slices that indicate bet sizes and payouts, including $1, $2, $5, $10, $20 and logo. A $2 wager, for example, pays 2:1 if the wheel pointer lands on $2. The logo bet looks especially attractive due to its 40:1 payout, but it also carries a 24.07% house edge.
4. Tie bet in Casino War — 18.65% house edge
Casino War is one of the simplest table games. You merely bet on whether your card will be higher than the dealer’s card. You can also wager on both cards tying, which carries an 18.65% house edge. You’re better off sticking with the basic bet and going to war on ties. This simple approach leads to a reasonable 2.88% house advantage.
5. Any 7 bet in craps — 16.67% house edge
You win if a 7 is rolled. This bet pays 4:1 and has 5:1 odds of winning. The result is a 16.67% house edge, making it the worst craps bet.
6. Tie bet in baccarat — 14.36% house edge
Baccarat gives you three main bet choices:
- Banker hand winning
- Player hand winning
- Both hands tying
The banker (1.06% house edge) and player (1.24%) wagers are two of the best in casino gambling. The tie bet, however, has a 14.36% house advantage. It can improve to a 4.84% house edge, though, if the payout is 9:1 instead of 8:1.
7. Craps bets on 2 and 12 — 13.89% house edge
The 2 and 12 wagers have the longest odds in craps at 35:1. However, both of these wagers are attractive due to their 30:1 payouts. The 30:1 payoff looks much less attractive, though, when considering the 13.89% house advantage for each bet.
8. “Whirl” bet in craps — 13.33% house edge
“Whirl” is a craps wager that can win through several dice combinations. As seen below, payouts vary for each combo:
- 2 and 12 — 26:5 payout
- 3 and 11 — 11:5 payout
- 7 — push
This bet is intriguing due to the fact that four numbers can win. But the drawback is that whirl carries a 13.33% house edge.
9. Progressive slots — anywhere from 10% to 13% house edge
Progressive slots take small percentages of each wager to seed a jackpot. The jackpot keeps growing until somebody manages to win it. The problem here, though, is that you’ll face a high house edge if you don’t win the progressive prize. Excluding the jackpot, progressive slots typically have between a 10% and 13% house edge.
10. Blackjack insurance
As we said, blackjack insurance doesn’t insure anything. It’s merely a side bet that becomes available when the dealer’s upcard is an ace. You win 2:1 when the dealer’s hole card is 10, thus completing the natural blackjack. This occurrence only happens 30.7% of the time, though, leading to a 7.4% house advantage.
Summary of sucker bet house edges
Here’s a quick recap of the biggest sucker bets along with their house advantages:
- Keno (land-based casinos): Up to a 35% house edge
- Sic bo (specific single- and double-number combos): 29.2%
- Big Six (logo bet): 24.07%
- Casino war tie bet: 18.65%
- Any 7 wager in craps: 16.67%
- Baccarat tie bet (with an 8:1 payout): 14.36%
- 2 and 12 bets in craps: 13.89%
- Whirl bet in craps: 13.33%
- Progressive slots: Up to 13%
- Blackjack insurance: 7.4%
Other sucker bets beyond the casino
The casino isn’t the only place where you’ll run into bad wagers. The following bets will also be detrimental to your bankroll over time.
1. Lottery tickets — up to a 51% house edge
The lottery attracts many people due to its easy gameplay and big prizes. All you need to do is buy a lottery ticket, select numbers and wait for the drawing. Considering that some lottery payouts have topped $1 billion, it’s no surprise why people love buying tickets. Unfortunately, most lotteries feature somewhere between a 40% and 50% house edge. Mega Millions, for example, carries around a 51% house advantage.
2. Parlay sports bets — over 34%
A parlay requires you to wager on two or more outcomes on the same ticket. You must win all of your picks for a successful parlay. Given that this is hard to do, parlay sports bets pay more than a single sports bet (e.g., moneyline, point spread). However, they also give sportsbooks a larger edge — especially as you add more legs to the parlay. For example, four-leg and five-leg parlays can carry house advantages of around 31.25% to 34.38%.
3. Fast-paced casino games
While the house edge for a particular game or bet is important to know, it’s not the only thing to pay attention to. Some games and bets play much slower than others, meaning you won’t feel their poor house edges as much.
Keno is a perfect example of this point because it runs so slowly. You may buy a couple of $1 tickets and wait 30 minutes for the results to play out. The theoretical $0.60 loss (2 x 0.30 house edge) would feel insignificant at this point.
Parlays provide another example of slow play. You might fill out your parlay betting slip a week in advance and only risk $10. If you do this frequently enough, of course, the losses can add up, but taking a shot for fun every once in a while won’t damage your bankroll too much.
Of course, some sucker bets play out fast enough to where they crank up the losses. Casino War and baccarat tie wagers are among the fastest sucker bets regarding how quickly they run. Mini baccarat is especially brutal, with 150 to 200 hands per hour.
Best bets in the casino
With the worst casino house edges out of the way, here are some of the best you can find among casino games:
1. Video poker — 0.08% house edge
Technically, full-pay Deuces Wild video poker can give you a 0.72% edge over the casino. But full-pay Deuces Wild machines are rare outside of select Vegas casinos.
2. Blackjack — 0.2% house edge
The blackjack house edge varies greatly based on the rules and variation. Certain online blackjack variants feature just a 0.2% house advantage. You can read about some of the best online blackjack games here.
3. Craps — 0.23% house edge
Pass line and don’t pass line — the two main craps bets — carry 1.41% and 1.36% house edges, respectively. You can reduce these figures even more, though, by backing your pass line or don’t pass line wager with “odds.” Odds don’t have a house edge and are worth multiples of your original wager. A don’t pass line bet coupled with 5x odds results in a 0.23% house edge.
4. Spanish 21 — 0.42% house edge
Spanish 21 is a blackjack variation that removes 10s from the deck. It can feature a 0.42% house edge with the right rules and perfect strategy.
5. Texas Hold’em Bonus — 0.53% house edge
Texas Hold’em Bonus is a poker variation that pits you against the dealer. You can go through up to three betting rounds while trying to win. The Texas Hold’em Bonus house edge is 2.04% on the initial bet. With perfect strategy in the later betting rounds, you can reduce that to 0.53%.
6. Baccarat banker bet — 1.06% house edge
You only face a 1.06% house edge when wagering on the banker to win. This even accounts for how casinos take a 5% commission from wins.
7. Baccarat player bet — 1.24% house edge
The player wager is almost as favorable as the banker, with a 1.24% house advantage. Additionally, casinos don’t take a 5% commission from winning player bets.
8. French roulette — 1.35% house edge
The European roulette wheel normally has a 2.7% house edge. French roulette, which plays on a European wheel, pays half back on losing bets when the ball lands on zero. This special rule lowers the French roulette house edge to 1.35%.
9. Online slots — 2% house edge
Slot machines don’t have a reputation for being the best bets in the casino. However, certain online slots, like NetEnt’s Blood Suckers, offer a house edge of around 2%.
10. European roulette — 2.7% house edge
As we mentioned, European roulette carries a 2.7% house advantage. You should definitely choose a European wheel versus an American wheel (5.26% house edge) when possible.