Forget your superstitious rituals. Casinos are designed to make a profit. How? With a precisely calculated house advantage, according to Bob Hannum, professor of risk analysis and gaming at the University of Denver. The only game in which you enjoy even odds with the casino is old-style, single-deck blackjack (now nearly extinct), and that’s only if you strictly follow a 45-rule strategy (always stand on 17 or a pair of 10s; always split a pair of aces or eights). If you’re a keno player, better be both lucky and disciplined (meaning able to quit while you’re ahead). Otherwise, just write the house a check. Here’s a handy guide to the casino’s advantage in every game currently played (legally) in Oregon, plus a few tips for gaining a little edge—but don’t bet the mortgage payment!

GAMES OF SKILL

Games in this category can be influenced by your skill level (a select few players can make a living on the tournament circuit), but the house still has the edge.

THREE-CARD POKER

House advantage: 3.4%
Played at: Chinook Winds, The Mill, Seven Feathers, Spirit Mountain, Wildhorse
One deck, simple rules: if your three cards beat the dealer’s hand, you win!
Tip: “Pair Plus” side bets lower house advantage to 2.3%—you just need a hand with a pair or better.

FOUR-CARD POKER

House advantage: 3.9%
Played at: Seven Feathers
Player is dealt five cards face down but makes the best four-card hand. The dealer is dealt six cards, which are used to make the best four-card hand.
Tip: If you have pair of 10s or better, raise your bet.

LET IT RIDE

House advantage: 3.5%
Played at: Chinook Winds, Seven Feathers, Spirit Mountain, Three Rivers
Variation of five-card stud. The object of the game is to get a pair of 10s or better using three cards dealt to the player and two community cards, which the whole table uses.
Tip: Whenever you have a pair of 10s or better, let it ride.

PAI GOW POKER

House advantage: 2.8%
Played at: Chinook Winds, Seven Feathers, Spirit Mountain, Three Rivers
To win, players must split seven cards into a five-card hand and a two-card hand, with both hands beating the dealer’s two hands.
Tip: Remember to keep both hands in mind. Build hands that have the best chance of winning when combined.

TEXAS HOLD’EM

House advantage: Players play against each other.
Played at: Chinook Winds, The Mill, Spirit Mountain, Three Rivers, Wildhorse
We’ve seen it on TV: two cards dealt, five community cards.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to bail. If the flop (the community cards) isn’t good, fold.

OMAHA

House advantage: Players play against each other.
Played at: Chinook Winds, Spirit Mountain
Each player is dealt four cards. The best hand using two of their own cards and three of the five community cards wins.
Tip: Low pairs won’t get you far. Even a low set on the flop is not very strong.

GAMES OF CHANCE

You may be able to increase the money you pocket through some rudimentary strategies, but you’ll need luck on your side to win big here.

BLACK JACK: SINGLE DECK

House advantage: up to 2%
Played at: all Oregon casinos
The object is to draw cards that total 21 without going over (busting).
Tip: Always stand (refuse more cards) if you have a hard (no aces) total of 17 or more. Go to hitorstand.net to learn the 45-rule strategy.

CRAPS

House advantage: 0.6–1.4%
Played at: Chinook Winds, The Mill, Seven Feathers, Spirit Mountain, Three Rivers, Wildhorse
Player rolls dice hoping for specific combinations. Everyone else bets on the table.
Tip: Avoid proposition bets (one-roll bets that the dice will show the number you chose). House edge: 16.7%.

ROULETTE

House advantage: 2.6–5.3%
Played at: Chinook Winds, The Mill, Seven Feathers, Spirit Mountain, Three Rivers, Wildhorse
The object is to predict the next winning number.
Tip: Finding a wheel with only one zero (lowers house edge to 2.7%) or the surrender rule in which only half your bet is lost on zero (lowers house edge to 1.4%).

BLACK JACK: DOUBLE DECK

House advantage: 0.32%
Played at: Spirit Mountain, Wildhorse
Uses two decks instead of the six- and eight-deck games that have become the norm.
Tip: Double down on 9 against dealer’s 2 through 6, or on 10 against 2 through 9, and on all 11s.

VIDEO POKER

House advantage: 0.5–3%
Played everywhere
Insert cash and choose your favorite poker game. Just don’t expect your people-reading skills to give you the upper-hand.
Tip: Take your time to make your move. The machine won’t care if you dawdle.

SPANISH 21

House advantage: 0.40–0.76%
Played at: The Mill, Wildhorse
Like blackjack, but with more ways to win. Uses a Spanish deck of 48 cards; face cards count as 10, but there are no numerical 10s.
Tip: If you have a hard 17, surrender against an ace. Stand against all other cards except 6 or higher when the dealer is showing an 8, 9, or 10.

SLOTS

House advantage: 5–10%
Played everywhere
Pull the lever, cross your fingers, and hope that the wheels land on three matching symbols (or another winning combination).
Tip: A slot machine is never “due” for a jackpot.