Online casinos and land-based gaming venues alike offer a wide variety of table games, including dice games like sic bo and craps, wheel games like roulette, and card games such as baccarat, three card poker, Caribbean stud and numerous versions of blackjack.
While all provide plenty of entertainment and the chance to win serious money, a little bit of number crunching reveals that some are better value than others. Here, we will show you the most player-friendly casino games for Australian gamblers, complete with house edge figures so you can see how these titles compare to the rest of the casino floor.
Online blackjack odds
There is a reason blackjack is Australia’s most popular casino card game. For decades, this was just about the only game where you could get anywhere near a true even-money return on your investment, especially in the days when you could up your advantage through card counting. While the advent of continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) and random number generators (RNGs) has made such techniques far less effective in recent times, real money blackjack remains one of the best bets around.
This is especially true at Internet gambling sites, which carry dozens of varieties – the vast majority of which favour the house far less than your standard tables at land-based Australian blackjack casinos. Take the Classic Blackjack Gold Series title, for example. Available at Microgaming casinos like Royal Vegas, Casino-Mate and 7 Sultans, this is a single-deck blackjack game which carries a house edge of just 0.13% when basic strategy is applied. That’s about as good as it gets in any kind of real money casino.
Of course, there are myriad rule variations which, for better or worse, can affect the player odds in any game of 21. Here are a few common conditions to look out for whenever you play AUD blackjack online.
Single deck: Compared to games which use a full shoe of eight standard decks, playing with just 52 cards drops the house edge by some 0.48%. Be wary, though, for single-deck 21 games often load up on other, far less friendly conditions.
Dealer always stands on 17: Sometimes the dealer is allowed to hit a ‘soft’ 17 (i.e. a hand where the Ace can count as one or 11), while other games state the house must always stay with 17. The latter option is the one you want, as it decreases the casino’s advantage by 0.22%.
Hit split Aces: Splitting rules are among the most malleable in all of blackjack, especially with regards to what you can do with a pair of Aces. When you are allowed to draw more cards after separating Aces, your odds improve by 0.19%.
Dealer peeks vs. no hole card: In American blackjack, the dealer takes a hole card and always checks for 21 before the players can take any actions. In Europe, Asia and Australia, however, the croupier tends not to take a down-card on the initial deal. Depending on the specific rules regarding what happens to any additional bets in the event of a dealer natural, the European format can knock the house edge up by as much as 0.11%.
Australian Pontoon & Spanish 21
Although usually classed as variations of blackjack, we think these two are different enough from the norm to warrant their own section. Both games are played with up to eight Spanish decks of 48 cards each, with all face-value 10s removed. They also award a variety of bonus payouts for specific hands:
– 3 to 2 payout for natural blackjack, five-card 21 and 7 7 7 or 6 7 8 in mixed suits
– 2 to 1 payout for six-card 21 and 7 7 7 or 6 7 8 in same colour
– 3 to 1 payout for seven-card 21 and 7 7 7 or 6 7 8 in Spades
There is also a Super Bonus payout for landing three suited Sevens when the dealer also shows Seven. This traditionally pays a fixed sum of $1000 for bets under $25, or $5000 for wagers of $25 and over. However, some online versions – such as Microgaming’s Spanish Blackjack Gold – instead offer a 50 to 1 return on bets of any amount.
Another player-friendly aspect of online pontoon and Spanish 21 is the ‘double down rescue’ rule, which allows you to surrender even after you have doubled your wager. This knocks about 0.10% off the house advantage.
If you’re at a land-based Australian casino and want value for money, pontoon is almost always the way to go. Rules are fairly consistent across the country, with the house edge floating somewhere between 0.34% and 0.42% at most venues. This makes it way better value than many Aussie and New Zealand blackjack tables, which can side with the dealer by more than 5.5% (read Blackjack Plus, found in Melbourne, Perth and Queenstown).
Baccarat house edge
Baccarat is most often associated with high stakes and VIPs, due in no small part to its association with James Bond 007 and the prestigious Monte Carlo Casino. But with a minimal house edge when you stick to certain wagers, this simple yet unique casino game is also one of the most affordable options for punters on a budget.
The most common form of Australian baccarat is punto banco (which literally translates as “player banker”). Two hands are dealt: one representing the player, the other belonging to the bank. The best hand is a natural total of eight or nine, and all 10s and face cards count as zero. Check out our dedicated baccarat page for more detailed information on rules and gameplay.
You can bet on either hand, or else opt for the tie. The banker and player hands both pay 1 to 1 odds, although the former charges a 5% commission on all winning bets. Nevertheless, betting on the bank is the smartest way to go, as it provides a theoretical return of up to 98.99% (1.01% house edge). The tie bet pays as much as 10 to 1 at online casino sites, but most seasoned punters avoid it due to a hefty house edge of up to 15.75%.
For the best real money baccarat odds, look for games which use only a single deck of 52 cards – if you want to play the banker bet, that is. If you prefer the player bet, or even the occasional splash on the tie, a standard game with six to eight decks will suit you better. The chart below shows the house edge for each wager depending on the number of cards in play.
|Wager||Eight decks||Six decks||One deck|
Other casino games with high return odds
We don’t often talk about dice and wheel games here at AustralianCardGames.com.au, but we figure it can’t hurt to show you how some of the other, card-less options on the gaming floor stack up against blackjack, baccarat and pontoon odds. These three are all good value:
Video poker – It’s not quite the pokies and not quite table poker, but you will struggle to find any Australian casino game which offers better bang for your buck. Microgaming’s All Aces online video poker carries just a 0.08% house edge, for instance, while some land-based video poker machines have even been known to favour the player slightly.
Craps – Although confusing at first glance, given the sheer amount of bets on offer, real money craps is great value (and heaps of fun) once you get the hang of it. Stick to the pass/don’t pass line to keep the house edge down at around 0.40% per roll.
French roulette – The Parisian format can feature either ‘la partage’ or ‘en prison’ rules. Both these conditions limit the damage for even money wagers (red or black, even or odd, high or low) when the ball lands on zero, which actually cuts the house edge for standard European roulette (2.70%) down to just 1.35%.