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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle through the Gaming Mailbag

8 February 2005

Q. My buddy and I were playing craps, and a guy across the table looked at his watch and said he had to leave. He was playing don't pass, and they just took his bets down for him and gave him his money. When I'm playing pass, they won't let me take my bets down. OK, the odds I can take down, but not the line bets. How come he gets to take his bets down, and I don't?

Eddie, via e-mail

A. If casinos allowed craps players to take down pass line bets whenever we wanted, we'd be stuffing our pockets with profits - at least until the casinos changed the rules, eliminated the games or closed their doors.

On the comeout roll, pass line players have eight ways to win - the six rolls that total 7 and the two ways to make 11 - and only four ways to lose - the two rolls that total 3, the one way to make 2 and the one way to make 12. The casinos make their money after a point number is established, when the players become the underdogs. If we could take down our pass bets at will, the smart play would be to bet pass on the comeout, collect our winnings on 7 and 11, accept our losses on 2, 3 or 12, and take down our bets if any other number was rolled, establshing a point. We'd win two-thirds of bets played to a decision.

Obviously, the casinos aren't going to let that happen. If we want our edge on the comeout roll, we have to accept our place as underdog on subsequent rolls.

So why is it different for a don't pass bettor? Because a don't pass bettor who takes down his bet after a point is established is passing up the portion of the wager on which he, not the house, has an edge. For a don't pass bettor, the danger period is the comeout roll, with only three ways to win (one way to make 2 and two ways to make 3) and eight ways to lose (7s and 11s). After that, when a point is established, the don't pass bettor becomes the favorite.

Naturally, the house will allow the player to take down a bet when the players is the favorite.

Q. At the roulette table recently, the dealer told us the house wins because of the zeroes. It seems to me that if that's where the edge is, that's where my money can go. Do I get the advantage if I bet on the zeroes?

Sal, via e-mail

A. When someone tells you the house gets its edge at roulette from the zeroes, it's a short-hand way of saying, "The house pays off winning bets at odds that would make it an even game if 1 through 36 were the only numbers on the wheel, but since there are also 0 and 00 on most American wheels, those payoffs are short of the true odds on the game."

Betting the zeroes does not give you an edge. Zero is just another number of the 38 on the wheel, as is double-zero. They are subject to the same house edge that comes from paying winning bets as if there were only 36 numbers on the wheel, when there are really 38.

It is true that adding extra zeroes adds to the house edge. Roulette games with only one zero have a lower house edge than double-zero games, and if someone decided to use a wheel with zero, double-zero and triple-zero, it would have a higher house edge than the others. Payoffs remain constant - 35-1 on a single-number bet, for instance - but the true odds change as more numbers are added to the wheel - on a single-number bet, true odds are 36-1 on a single-zero wheel, 37-1 on a double-zero wheel, 38-1 on a triple-zero wheel and so on.

Does anyone use a triple-zero wheel? I've never seen one, but I've been told of wheels with three zeroes and special symbols that function as extra zeroes in games outside catsino settings.

Q. When I play video poker, why do I only get half the slot club points as when I play the slots? I get a point for every $4 I bet on a slot machine, but it takes $8 to get a point on video poker. Can you explain why? Am I better off just playing the slots?

Razguru, via e-mail

A. Most casinos nowadays require more play per point on video poker than on slot machines. That's because they're giving more money back on the games at video poker.

If you're playing quarter three-reel slots, chances are your long-term paybacks range from about 90 to 93 percent. If you're choosing the best video poker games in any jurisdictions, you should be able to do considerably better than that. Maybe your casino doesn't have quarter machines with 9-6 Jacks or Better, which returns 99.5 percent with a strategy that's not difficult to learn. Maybe it doesn't even have 8-5 Jacks or Better, which returns 97.3 percent with expert play. But chances are it has 7-5 Jacks or Better (96.2), or some other game with an equivalent payback percentage, such as 6-5 Bonus Poker (96.1), or 9-6-4 Double Bonus Poker (96.8).

Those low-level options aren't great video poker games, and many casinos have far better options. But even the "bad" video poker games bring returns 3 or 4 percent or more higher than the average paybacks on quarter slot machines. The difference in slot club cash back doesn't begin to make up that difference.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski