Step into any casino and you’ll be surrounded by ample opportunities to play cards.
Not all card games a created equal, however. Most of the games you’ll encounter on a casino floor give the house a mathematical edge, making it impossible for the player to turn a profit in the long run.
The following list outlines the ten best casino card games you can play, along with the house’s edge assuming that you play an optimal strategy. All but one still offers the house an advantage, but these games stand as the most player-friendly card games found at a casino.
No. 1 on the list is the only game that offers the player the chance to not only win, but profit significantly with enough dedication to study.
10. Caribbean Stud
Caribbean Stud plays much like Three Card Poker, which you’ll find one spot up at No. 9 on this list. Minimizing the house edge requires playing perfect strategy in Caribbean Stud, and applying such a strategy is a monumental task.
Each round of Caribbean Stud deals five cards to the player and the dealer. The dealer turns one card face-up, while the player’s cards are all face down. The player can look at their own hand, but can’t share any information about their cards.
Before the cards are dealt, you must place an “Ante” bet. After looking at your cards, you can choose to fold, surrendering the Ante, or Raise, putting in an additional bet that’s two times the size of the Ante. For example, if your Ante is $100, and you decide to Raise, you’re now playing for $300 total (the $100 Ante plus the $200 raise).
The dealer must have at least Ace-King high to qualify. If you Raise, and the dealer turns over anything less than ace-king high, you win even money on your Ante, and push on the Raise.
If the dealer turns over Ace-King high or better, your five-card hand is pitted against the dealer, and the best hand according to standard poker hand rankings wins.
If your five-card hand is better, you win even money on both the Ante and the Raise. If the dealer has the better hand, you lose both the Ante and the Raise.
Before each hand, you can also opt-in for a side bet, which opens the possibility of winning big based on a separate paytable. The side bet payoffs award wins for making a royal flush, a straight flush, and other strong five-card poker hands.
Wizard of Odds puts the house edge on Caribbean Stud at 5.22%.
9. Three Card Poker
Three Card Poker involves elements of traditional poker. Like all of the casino card games on this list, Three Card Poker pits the player against the house.
Each round of Three Card Poker begins with the player making an “Ante” bet. The player gets three face-up cards, while the dealer gets a face-down three-card poker hand.
After you’re dealt your hand, you have the option to either play or fold. If you fold, you surrender your Ante. If you want to play your hand, you put out a “Play” bet, matching the amount of the “Ante” bet.
If you decide to play, the dealer turns over their three-card hand. The dealer must have a queen-high or better to qualify.
If the dealer doesn’t have at least queen-high, you win even money on your Ante, and push on your Play bet. If the dealer does have queen-high or better, you win even money on both your Ante and your Play bet.
Three Card Poker uses standard poker hand rankings (with one exception) for the Ante and Play bets, but is reduced to three cards. For example, 9♥ 8♠ 7♦ makes a straight, K♣ J♣ 2♣ is a flush, A♦ 9♠ 4♥ is an ace-high, and so on. Note that a straight beats a flush in Three Card Poker.
If you play your hand and the dealer has the better three-card hand, you lose both the Play and Ante bets.
Before each hand, you can also place a “Pair Plus” bet, a side wager that opens up a separate paytable. If you opt to bet the Pair Plus, and make a pair, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, or straight flush, you’ll get paid according to the Pair Plus table.
According to Wizard of Odds, the Ante/Play bets give the house a 3.37% edge, while Pair Plus betting results in a 7.28% house edge.
8. Let It Ride
Yet another casino poker game on our list, Let It Ride pays out strictly based on the strength of the player’s hand. There’s no dealer hand to contend with in Let It Ride, and you’re tasked with making the strongest hand based on the poker hand rankings.
A round of Let It Ride begins with the player placing three equal-sized bets. You then get three cards, dealt face up.
If you’re not feeling great about your three-card hand, you can pull back your first bet, surrender the other two bets, and end the hand.
If you want to continue with the hand, you let your first bet ride, and you get to see a fourth card. The fourth card is dealt as a community card, eligible for use by all players at the table.
You can fold after the fourth card hits the board, taking back your second bet but surrendering the first and third bet. If you want to see the fifth and final card, you once again let your bets ride, and a second community card hits the table.
If you make it through all five cards, you’ll get paid if you have a pair of tens or better. Anything less than a pair of tens results in a loss of all three bets. You can also place a side bet before each hand, which pays additional money based on the strength of a made five-card hand.
According to Wizard of Odds, Let It Ride gives the house a 3.51% edge.
7. Casino War
If you ever played the card game “War” as a kid, you should be well familiar with the casino version of the game. The aptly-titled Casino War offers perhaps the simplest game you’ll run into on a casino floor.
Each round of Casino War begins with the player making a bet. The player and the dealer then each get one card, from a six-deck shoe in most formats of the game.
The object is simple – draw a higher card than the dealer. The card rankings use the standard deuce as the lowest card and ace as the highest card. The ace doesn’t count as a low card in Casino War.
If your card is higher than the dealer’s, you win even money on your wager. If the dealer’s card is higher, you lose your bet.
If you and the dealer both draw the same-ranking card, you then have the option to take the game to “War” mode. To go to War, you must double the amount of your original bet. You can also surrender half of the original bet and end the round.
When the game goes to War, the dealer burns three cards, then deals the player and themselves another card. If the player’s card is higher, the player wins even money on the raise, and the original bet is a push.
If the dealer’s card is higher in the War round, the player loses both the original bet and the raise. The house edge in Casino War comes from the War round, where the player can only win one bet, but lose two.
If another tie happens in the War round, the game continues if the player wishes to do so. Some casinos pay bonus bets to the player if the game goes to a second War round or beyond.
Wizard of Odds puts the house edge at 2.88% for Casino War if the player always goes to War. If the player always surrenders after a tie, the house advantage goes up to 3.7%.
6. Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Ultimate Texas Hold’em takes part of its name from Texas Hold’em, the most popular peer-to-peer poker game in the world. Make no mistake about it, however – Ultimate Texas Hold’em pits the player against the house, and functions as a very different game than Texas Hold’em played against other players.
Each round of Ultimate Texas Hold’em begins with the player making equal Ante and Blind bets. You can also place a “Trips” side bet, which opens access to a separate paytable that awards money for all hands three-of-a-kind or better.
Once you’ve placed your Ante and Blind wagers, you and the dealer both get two hole cards. You can then choose to post a Play bet (3-4 times the size of the Ante/Blind), or check.
After the first betting round, community cards hit the board. If you made the Play bet based on your preflop hand, you can’t bet any further, and five community cards come out.
If you checked in the first betting round, you’ll the first three of five community cards (aka the flop) hit the table. You then have the option to make a Play bet equal to twice the amount of the Ante/Blind, or you can check again.
Whether you check or bet on the flop, the final two community cards (the turn and the river) hit the board. If you checked in both the preflop and flop betting rounds, you have one more chance to make a Play bet with all five cards on the board.
If you bet after all community cards are on the board, the Play bet is equal to the Ante/Blind. You can also fold at this point, losing both the Ante and the Blind.
When you choose to make a Play bet at any point in the hand, you and the dealer turn over hole cards at the end of the hand. The best five-card hand, using any combination of hole cards and community cards, wins.
If you have the better five-card hand, and the dealer has at least a pair, you win even money on your Play, Ante, and Blind bets. If you beat the dealer, but the dealer has less than a pair, you win even money on the Play and Blind, but push on the Ante.
If the dealer’s hand beats your hand, you lose all three primary bets. You can still win the Trips side bet, however, even if the dealer has a better hand.
Wizard of Odds puts the house edge at 2.19% for Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
5. Pai Gow Poker
Based on the ancient Chinese tile game Pai Gow, Pai Gow Poker tasks the player with making the best possible five-card hand and two-card hand out of a total of seven cards. One of the most popular casino card games, Pai Gow Poker is a staple on the casino floors of Las Vegas and the rest of the U.S.
You begin each round of Pai Gow Poker with seven cards, and you must separate those cards into a five-card high hand and a two-card low hand. The hands follow the standard poker hand rankings (with one notable exception which we’ll explain later), and the five-card hand must be stronger than the two-card hand.
After you’ve complied your high and low hands, the dealer does the same with their seven cards. The dealer must follow a set of rules known as the “house way” when putting together their high and low hands.
If both your five-card and two-card hands beat the dealer’s respective high and low hands, you win even money on your bet, minus a 5% rake. If one of your hands wins, but the other loses, your bet is a push. If both of your hands lose, you lose your entire bet.
You can also bet against other players in Pai Gow Poker, when it comes your turn to be the “banker.” The banker turn rotates or zig-zags around the table, but you can decline the option to be the banker when it gets to you.
Pai Gow Poker gives the house a 1.46% edge according to Wizard of Odds (if you play an optimal strategy).
A favorite of high-stakes gamblers (including poker legend Phil Ivey), Baccarat involves hands played between the “Player” and the “Banker” in each round. Both sides must get as close as possible to nine points, based on the game’s rules.
Players can bet on either the Player or the Banker before each round. After all bets are placed, both sides get two cards.
Baccarat rules count tens and face cards as zero points, aces as one point, and cards 2-9 as their face value. The totals of all cards dealt to a side are added together to get a final point total.
If a combined total is more than 10, the “1” is removed from the point total. For example, 5♠4♥ would count as nine total points, while 8♦8♠ would count as six total points (16 with the 1 removed).
After the cards are dealt, the action starts on the Player. A total of eight or nine points is called a “natural” in Baccarat, and if either the Player or Banker is dealt a natural, both hands stand and the round ends.
If neither side has a natural, the Player takes one more card on totals of five or less. Totals of six or seven require the player to stand.
After the Player has either taken an additional card or stood, the action then goes to the Banker. If the Player stands on six or seven, the Banker must draw another card on five or less, and stand on six or seven.
If the Player draws a third card, the Banker either draws an additional card or stands based on a pre-determined set of rules. No matter what the action, whichever side is closer to nine wins.
Winning bets on the Player pay even money, while winning wagers on the Banker pay even money minus a 5% commission. The 5% commission accounts for the positional advantage enjoyed by the Banker.
Ties between the Player and Banker pay 8-to-1. At some casinos, you can also place side bets like Player Pair, Banker Pair, and others.
Wizard of Odds gives the house a 1.06% edge on Player bets, and a 1.24% edge on the Banker. Despite the 8-to-1 payout, the house takes a 14.36% advantage on ties.
3. Video Poker
Part slot machine, part five-card draw, video poker functions as one of the most simple casino card games you’ll encounter on the gaming floor. Many different variants of video poker are found around the world, with some more favorable to the player than others.
For many video poker games, you can bet up to five credits before each deal. Assuming you’re playing a five-card version of video poker, each hand begins with five cards appearing on the screen face up.
You’re strictly trying to make strong hands according to the poker hand rankings in video poker, and not competing against a dealer or other players. Jacks or Better, for example, pays out on any hand that’s a pair of jacks or stronger.
When you’re dealt your five cards, you can hold as many of them as you like, and discard the rest. Once you’ve chosen what cards to hold, you’ll hit the “Deal” button and get new cards that replace your discards.
Whatever five-card hand you end up with after the discard round determines whether you win or lose. Wizard of Odds puts the house edge at 0.46% for Jack or Better, assuming you’re betting the max number of credits before each hand.
The house advantage can vary dramatically depending on which video poker variant you’re playing. Many resources exist for optimal video poker strategy, and it remains one of the most popular games on the casino floor decades after its introduction.
A staple on casino floors around the world, Blackjack stands as the most popular casino table game in the United States. Plenty of avid poker players share a similar enthusiasm for blackjack, but the game known as “21” still favors the house.
Rules for blackjack can vary significantly depending on the casino and the format played. Most American blackjack games use a standard set of rules, with the player tasked with beating the dealer without going over a total of 21.
Each hand of blackjack begins with each player dealt two face-up cards, and the dealer getting one upcard and one downcard. Aces count as either one or 11 in blackjack, face cards count as ten, and all other cards count as their numerical value.
If you’re dealt a total of 21 with your first two cards, you automatically get paid 3-to-2 on your bet. Anything less than 21 gives the player the option to hit (take another card), or stand (take no more cards and allow the dealer to reveal their hand).
Other situational play options include splitting pairs (splitting a paired hand into two separate hands and getting one additional card on each).
You can also double down in certain situations, doubling the amount of your bet and taking exactly one more card. Some blackjack games allow you to double down on any two cards, while others only allow a double down on nine, ten, or 11.
If at any point in the hand your point total goes over 21, you automatically lose your bet. If you stand, the dealer then turns over their downcard.
In most games, the dealer must hit on 16 or less, and stand on 17 or greater. If you stand and the dealer stands with a total less than yours, or goes over 21, you win even money on your bet.
If the dealer’s upcard is an ace or a ten-value card, the dealer will check their downcard and expose their hand if they have a blackjack. Unless you also have a blackjack, you automatically lose. If the dealer is showing an ace, you can put down an “Insurance” side bet, which is half of your original bet and pays 2-to-1 if the dealer does reveal a blackjack.
A player’s strategy can drastically alter the house advantage, and skilled card counters can actually swing the game into an edge for the player. According to Wizard of Odds, blackjack played under “Liberal Vegas Rules” gives the house an 0.28% edge, assuming optimal strategy by the player.
Poker (the true, peer-to-peer version of the game) remains the only game at the casino that pits player against player, instead of the player against the house. The house makes money from poker by taking rake from each pot, but skilled players can achieve profitable win rates even with house rake factored in.
A more complex game than any other in a casino, poker allows players to hone strategies, exploit the tendencies of opponents, and choose who to play against. There is no “optimal strategy” for poker, as your strategy for making the most money depends entirely on what opponent your playing against.
For example, you could study optimal baccarat strategy and perfect your game, and the house would still have an edge. There are no upper boundaries for how skilled you can become at poker, as even the world’s best players must work hard and always improve.
Even top, high-stakes players run the risk of letting their peers surpass them in poker if they don’t continually improve their game. You can take advantage of this concept at any stakes, by putting yourself in a position to play against opponents who aren’t as skilled as you are.
Poker training courses, like those found here at Upswing Poker, give you the necessary tools to make poker a profitable venture. The Upswing Poker Lab offers a comprehensive menu of poker courses, with the library of modules always expanding.
Out of all casino card games, only poker allows you to the chance to consistently win money. Putting more time into poker, and less into the other games on this list, allows you to always play with an edge.