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5 December 2013
By John Grochowski
Nearly every casino table game has strategies that occur to everyone who moves past the beginner’s stage and starts trying to understand how the games work.
If hitting all 16s and under and standing on all 17s and above works for the blackjack dealer, why shouldn’t it work for the player? Doesn’t betting the don’t side in craps mean you’re betting with the house? If the house gets its edge on the zeroes in roulette, aren’t the zeroes where your money should go?
I encountered one of the dealer’s rules players at a blackjack table in October. He determinedly hit every 16 and under, even if the dealer had a 6 or some other weak card face up. He stood on every 17, including the soft kind, no matter what the dealer’s hand.
I keep silent in such situations. The bad play of another is as likely to help me as to hurt me, and I don’t give advice unless asked. But it took only a short time before one 30-ish fellow spoke up.
“You know you should stand on that,” he said when the first player hit a 16 vs. a dealer’s 5. “Give the dealer a chance to bust once in a while.”
Mr. Dealer’s Rules replied, “The house makes money playing this way. Seems like I should, too.”
There’s a flaw in that logic, of course, or else everyone would be playing the house even at its own game. An even game doesn’t pay the casino’s bills.
Let’s take a look at why playing the house way doesn’t work.
BLACKJACK: Players and the dealer play under different conditions. Players can bust and lose their bets before the dealer ever plays his hand. If both dealer and player bust, it’s the dealer who wins.
If you play a mimic the dealer strategy, you and the dealer will both bust in the same hand about 8 percent of the team. So the house starts with an 8 percent natural edge, and it gives back about 2.3 percent by paying 3-2 on blackjacks. That takes the house edge down to about 5.7 percent, a bit more or less depending on the number of decks in play and other house rules.
A game with a 5.7 percent house edge is pretty awful, but fortunately, you don’t have to mimic the dealer. By using basic strategy for hitting, standing, doubling down and splitting pairs, you can narrow that house edge to a half percent or so --- again, variable depending on house rules.
CRAPS: Almost everybody at the table will be betting with the shooter, and the house makes money. So why not bet the opposite of the main flow of the game, and bet don’t pass?
Because don’t pass is not purely the opposite of pass. If the shooter rolls 12 on the comeout, that’s a loss for pass bettors, but it’s not a win for don’t pass. It’s just a push, getting your money back.
That’s enough an adjustment that the house will win more often than it loses if you bet don’t pass, just as it will on pass. You’re not betting with the house when you bet don’t pass. You’re betting against the house in a different way, spotting the house a 1.36 percent edge that’s not that far removed from the 1.41 percent edge on pass.
ROULETTE: The notion that the house derives its edge from the zeroes isn’t strictly accurate. The house makes money because it pays off at levels that would yield an even game if there were 36 numbers on the wheel, when there actually are 38, including 0 and 00.
That same condition is as true if you’re betting 0 or 00 as it is if you’re betting 3, 16, 28 or any other number. A single number bet on 0 at a double-zero wheel will pay 35-1 odds, even though the true odds are 37-1. A split bet on 0 and 00 will pay 17-1 odds, even though the true odds are 18-1.
When it comes to the outside bets --- red/black, odd/even, first 18/last 18, the dozens and columns --- you can’t bet on the zeroes. Part of the conditions of the games is that those extra numbers are there to facilitate the house paying at less than true odds. You can bet the zeroes only on inside bets, where they’re just part of the 38-number set, the same as any other numbers.
There’s no such thing as betting with the house. Trying to go the house way just subjects you to conditions built into the games to make sure the casino always has the edge.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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