Casinos aren’t designed to rip off their customers, nor do they represent easy money available for the taking. Learning how to place smart bets is a big part of successful casino gambling. One way to beat the house is to stick to bets that give the house its smallest possible advantage. Another is to take advantage of comps and other freebies through the casino’s loyalty program.
What about other ways to increase your odds? Can you adjust the size of your bets to change your odds of winning? How can wager size be manipulated to improve your casino outcome?
This post answers all those questions. I’ll talk about bet sizes, game odds, and how small changes to your bet size can have big impacts on your bankroll, just not in the way you may be thinking.
What Is a Max Bet?
The phrase max bet just means “maximum bet,” the largest possible wager allowed by the rules of a given game or casino.
Casino games all have minimum and maximum bet sizes, created by the casino or by a game’s designer. These limits control player behavior, protect casino profits, and form a hedge against players’ winning streaks. These are called table limits in the parlance of casino gambling.
Table limits are part of why strategies that involve bet sizing, such as the Martingale, aren’t effective. Using the Martingale system, players double after losing, counting on the fact that they’ll eventually win back all their losses and then some. Blackjack is a streaky game, and players winning five or six hands in a row is a common occurrence. By capping blackjack bets at $1,000, the house controls how much players can win, and prevents bet sizing tactics that may otherwise bankrupt them.
In the next section, we’ll see the impact of table limits on casino games.
Max Bet Examples
Here’s how the max bet concept applies to different games in the casino.
For table games, casinos set a minimum and maximum wager amount for each game. You can sometimes find several different tables playing the same game at different bet sizes. It’s normal for a casino to host several levels of play on games like craps, roulette, and blackjack. You may find games allowing bets as low as $1 at off-peak times, though the standard blackjack minimum is now $10 or $20. As for maximums on table games, the sky is the limit if you take high-limit games into account.
Slot machines come in lots of different styles with a wide variety of available bets and denominations. Slot machines have a handy “max bet” button that lets you bet max automatically. If you’re playing slots and you want to bet max, just use that button to be sure you’re chasing the biggest payouts.
In video poker, the bet range is typically 1 to 5 coins. In that arrangement, the max bet is five coins. Video poker games come in different denominations just like slots. The least expensive video poker you’ll find is a nickel per coin, while high-limit versions may run up to $100 per coin. When you’re playing Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild, a five-coin bet is considered a max bet.
Sportsbooks handle this concept a little differently. Books all set their own bet limits, though they have the right to change that number at their discretion. Some sports bettors get around this by making multiple bets at the maximum, either at the same sportsbook or different books around town.
Do Max Bets Give You Better Odds?
Max bets don’t increase your odds of winning.
If you take apart a casino bet and examine it piece by piece, you’ll see for yourself that placing a max bet doesn’t make you more likely to win.
First, start by picking a game. Let’s say you’ve found a 10/7 Double Bonus Poker game and you want to chase its infamous 99.92% RTP. Like most video poker games, your best payouts come from a 5-coin max bet, thanks to the 4,000-credit payout for a Royal Flush at a max bet.
If you were to bet just one coin and pull off a Royal Flush, your payout would be 250 credits – not bad, but nothing compared to that 4,000-credit payout. You push the “max bet” button, activating the 5-coin section on the paytable.
Are the hands you play at a 5-coin bet any different from the hands you would be playing at a single coin? No – you draw the same number of random cards and have the same choices in terms of managing them. The only difference between your max bet and a minimum bet is the potential payout.
Placing a max bet gives you the best return to player percentage, but that isn’t quite the same as game odds. You have the same odds of drawing each paying hand when betting max on this game. The only difference is an increase in your potential return.
Having just spent a decent amount of time establishing that max bets don’t give you better odds, it seems that some games have been designed to do just that. I’m thinking specifically about the Mega Moolah slot machine, famous for producing the world’s largest slot jackpots.
A few years ago, reviewing an update to the game, I noticed a line of the fine print on the paytable, stating “your chances of winning the progressive jackpot are better with higher bets.” That stopped me short. In the case of this game, placing a larger bet gives you a better chance at the four-tiered progressive payout system, which improves your odds overall.
Of course, most casino games aren’t like that.
I still say that for most games in the casino, a larger bet doesn’t increase your odds. Mega Moolah (and a few other progressive slots) notwithstanding, the purpose of increasing your bet size is to potentially win more money and increase your return on your bankroll, not to give yourself a better chance of winning on each spin.
Benefits of Max Bets
The only max bet benefit worth mentioning is the increase in your potential RTP, meaning an improvement in your chances of getting bigger payouts.
There’s something to be said for the increased entertainment value of playing for larger amounts of money. Not every gambler enjoys that particular thrill, but for some players, gambling isn’t worth it without a meaningful number on the line. That kind of player isn’t going to be satisfied playing $1 blackjack at 4 in the morning on a Wednesday.
I know players who use maximum bets as part of their bankroll strategy but in an unusual way. What these people do is find games with the lowest-possible max bet then use the max bet button to speed up the process of play, content that they’re betting within their established limits. Video poker at $1.25 per max bet is a lot easier to deal with than playing a higher max bet game with a smaller wager.
Drawbacks of Max Bets
The biggest drawback is the effect maximum bets tend to have on your budget.
Some slot machines have multiple ways to win and infinite pay lines and such that make max bets expensive. Even the more affordable max bet slots, like the big progressive games with simple line layouts, charge $5 or $6 per spin at a max bet, putting those games way out of the reach of a typical slots player.
Placing max bets raises the ceiling on your potential losses, even as it does the same for your potential winnings. It’s a risk magnifier, and for some gamblers, it’s too much of one.
For gamblers looking to spend as many hours playing in the casino as possible, max bets aren’t a great idea. That’s because placing large bets means less time enjoying the games. This impacts entertainment value for some gamblers.
It’s unfortunate that in most cases placing a max bet doesn’t increase your odds of winning. It’d be cool if you could sway the odds in roulette by dropping a few grand on black. The casino would never agree to this – their losses would be catastrophic thanks to the variance baked into casino game rules. But it sure would be fun while it lasted.
Place max bets for a shot at larger payouts. Don’t do it expecting to win more frequently in exchange.