Big name players have had their say on the subject and one PokerStars pro has resigned – what do we think about Stars offering casino games?
If you watch pro wrestling you’ll know the biggest shocks come from good guys turning heel. That’s pretty much what happened in the poker world recently as PokerStars, previously seen as the site that did more to grow the game than any other, announced it was going to offer casino games. On top of its recent rake increases it had the internet forums up in arms.
But it wasn’t just the keyboard warriors. Victoria Coren Mitchell – one of PokerStars’ most loyal ambassadors – resigned with immediate effect on hearing the news. She felt she couldn’t, ‘professionally and publicly endorse it.’
What’s the big deal? Well, casino games are unbeatable because of the house edge. Take the roulette table where there are 36 numbers and a zero (European) or zero and double zero (American). Bets on the numbers pay out 35/1, so the zeros represent the house edge. This is 2.7% and 5.26% respectively.
The house always wins
The house edge differs between games and bets but it’s possible to reduce it to almost nothing playing blackjack. At the other end of the spectrum, slots are set between 2% and 15%.
You can win in a single visit to the casino. You can go on crazy streaks. But if you keep playing you’ll eventually give it back. Like Archie Karas, who ran $50 into $40m in Vegas only to lose it all playing high stakes baccarat and craps. Try to erode the house edge through advantage play and you’ll still lose. Card counting isn’t illegal but if you’re suspected of running it you’ll be barred. As Ben Affleck found recently after being barred from the tables. Or Phil Ivey in his recent £7m court case for edge sorting.
So, pretty bad huh? Well there are two sides to every story. Go for a night out at a casino and treat it as fun where you’re liable to drop some cash and you can have a great time. Get on a roll and you’ll have a blast – like the lucky winners at the craps table at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in New Jersey in May 2009. In a game where the table wins if you don’t roll a seven, a new world record was set – 154 throws of the die without a seven over four hours. The odds? 1.56 trillion to 1.
Online casinos are, admittedly, a bit different. If you’ve got a gambling problem, having 24/7 access isn’t great.
Freedom of choice
Daniel Negreanu’s view is that, like it or not, poker is a gambling game. What’s more, because the skilled players actively seek out the fish, recreational players will have it worse than they would at the blackjack table. It’s fair to say that Negreanu would have better than a 1% edge over the average poker player.
What do we think? Poker’s a skill game and a gambling game. The difference from casino games is that you can win in the long run but it takes dedication. A lot of poker players think they’re better than they are and can lose a lot of money along the way.
PokerStars is a business and will try to maximize its revenue. Casino games are a logical brand extension. Don’t like it? Don’t play the casino games. Don’t like Stars for offering them? Play somewhere else but good luck finding another poker room that won’t try to fleece you at blackjack too.
The best advice? Improve your poker game and turn yourself into the person with the house edge. We’d like to think we can help with that.
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