Hold Percentage Is Just a Number, Right?


After visiting numerous table games operations in rural locations across the country, I have noticed a disturbing trend regarding the ever-tightening odds related to the table games offerings. These properties, having little to no local competition, are offering similar sets of odds as many of the Las Vegas Strip operations. After observing this trend over and over and across the country, it leaves me asking myself if these table operators understand the true importance of happy engaged players and their relation to both the drop and hold in their pits?

While the house advantage we establish for a particular game is a very important part of the equation, the average bet, time on table, and the number of decisions per hour are equally important to the overall drop and hold of the game. While it is appropriate to increase the house advantage on a game at a destination property, it’s not necessarily a one size fits all solution. Destination property house advantages, designed for a transitory player base, can be disastrous for a rural property with a static player base.

No amount of articles or conference speakers can adequately assist an individual property in adjusting the house advantage on blackjack and blackjack variant games without having direct knowledge regarding that property. The actual adjustment by game is fairly complex, even for seasoned table games operators, due to the number of variables that must be considered. I’m not saying it’s magic, but the odds offered by the casino must be calculated with the value of the property’s player base in mind, the location of the casino in regards to its competition, and the options offered by those competitors.

There are a number of websites that can calculate the house advantage for each player option but these are strictly the math behind the combined average. Many table games operators make the mistake of listening to their peers or industry experts on adjusting these options without regard to their own situation. In order to meet the budget needs in the short term, they remove the advantages the players prefer to increase the hold and then lament when those same players look for a different place to play.

I have always found that offering the best set of odds compared to my competition ensured I had the attention and patronage of the area’s more knowledgeable players. These are players that are discerning, and search the area for the best overall advantage available to them. Simply put, you have to have winners to have players. I adjusted for the more favorable set of options by closely controlling the game pace and increasing table minimums based on volume. Many operators don’t seem to realize that when you raise the minimum bet by a full unit ( $5 bet to $10 bet) you decrease the player’s advantage by 50%. This serves to increase hold, keep the attention and affection of the players, and ensure there is always a place available for the patron just walking in the door. The use of side bets is also a huge boon to the hold percentage as long as you utilize promotions to attract new players and keep the interest of your known players.

At the end of the day, active playtime by patrons is key to the health of your drop. If you have the drop and your team controls the pace of play, the win will take care of itself. Remember, happy players game longer and the longer they play, the closer their losses will approach the house edge.

Contact Raving today for your customized (that means to your casino and your market) audit and review.

Kevin Parker