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Best of John Grochowski
By Any Other Name - Part 26 June 2002
When you play craps, do you seek out tables that offer the most free odds? Are you paid odds-to-1 or odds-for-1 on the center-table propositions? At roulette, do you seek out wheels with just one zero? At baccarat, do you pay a full 5 percent commission on winning banker bets?
As we saw recently with a look at Let It Ride and Three Card Poker, casino table offerings can be vastly different games when when the name's the same.
Let's check out three old casino standbys and the way changes in rules and payoffs alter what we can expect from the games.
CRAPS: Well-bankrolled players in the know understand that they get more for their money and a better shot to win when allowed to back their pass, come, don't pass and don't come bets with more free odds.
Unlike other craps bets, free odds carry no house edge. They are paid at true odds. Let's say you bet $5 on the pass line and the point is 6. At a single-odds table, you then back with $5 in free odds. The odds against you winning are 6-5, because with two six-sided dice there are six ways of making a loser 7 and five ways of making a winner 6. If you win, your pass bet is paid at even money, bringing you $5 in winnings, but your odds bet is paid at the 6-5 true odds, bringing you an additional $6.
The house edge is 1.41 percent on pass or come, or 1.4 percent on don't pass or don't come, but backing with free odds brings the overall edge on the combination down to less than 1 percent.
With single odds, the house edge on the pass-odds (or come-odds) combination drops to 0.8 percent. With double odds, allowing you to make an odds bet twice the size of your original pass bet, the house edge drops to 0.6 percent, to 0.2 percent with 10x odds and 0.02 percent with 100x odds.
The combinations look even better on the don't side: 0.7 percent for don't pass-odds or don't come-odds with single odds; 0.4 percent with double odds; 0.1 percent with 10x odds and 0.01 percent with 100x odds.
For those who can afford it, the best craps game is the one that allows the most free odds, with the proviso that free odds are best used to first drop the basic line bet to table-minimum levels, while making up the bet size in free odds.
Not many of us can really afford to back $5 pass line bets with $500 in odds, but even the most budget-conscious low-roller may be affected by the differences in payoffs on some one-roll propositions. Mind you, these aren't bets I recommend. In the best case, the house edge is too high for my taste. You're better off sticking with pass, come, don't pass and don't come, perhaps along with place bets on 6 and 8 with their 1.52 percent house edge.
Still, many players make the center-table bets, and should keep in mind the difference between odds-to-1 and odds-for-1. Let's take the one-roll bet on 12 as an example. Some casinos will pay 30-to-1, meaning that on a winning $1 bet, you keep your wager and get $30 in winnings. Others pay 30-for-1. At those casinos, after your winning $1 bet is paid off, you're left with a total of $30-or $29 in winnings plus your $1 bet. Paid at 30-to-1, the house edge on 12 is a too-high 13.89 percent, but at 30-for-1 it's a ridiculous 16.67 percent edge to the house. Numbers are the same on the one-roll proposition on 2; 11.1 percent at 30-to-1, or 16.67 percent at 30-for-1. On the one-roll propositions on 11 or 3, payoffs are either 15-to-1 (11.1 percent house edge) or 15-for-1 (16.67 percent).
ROULETTE: The large majority of roulette wheels in the United States have both a zero and a double-zero, leaving a house edge of 5.26 percent on every bet except the five-number wager on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, which has a house edge of 7.89 percent. But wheels with just one zero exist, and they cut the house edge nearly in half, to 2.7 percent. There are a number of single-zero wheels in Las Vegas, notably at Monte Carlo and Paris, some in high-limit rooms in Atlantic City, and both Mississippi and Louisiana have a few.
Single-zero roulette is even better with the en prison rule, rare in the United States, in which even-money bets are not immediate losers if the ball lands on zero. Instead, the wager is placed "in prison." If it's a winner on the next spin, the player gets the bet back. En prison drops the house edge to 1.35 percent.
BACCARAT: The banker bet wins more often than the player bet, and the house doesn't need to add any extra rules or charges to have a 1.36 percent edge on player. However, the house has an edge on the banker bet only because it charges the bettor a commission on any winning bets on banker. At most casinos, the commission is 5 percent, and the overall house edge on banker is 1.17 percent. However, casinos sometimes try to attract players by lowering the commission to 4 percent. That drops the house edge on banker to 0.7 percent. This isn't common, but when you find such a game, it's as good a deal as you'll get in baccarat.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Articles in this Series
Best of John Grochowski