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Best of John Grochowski

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Casino Games: More Table Games

11 May 2004

When you play table games, are you looking for a shot at a big jackpot, or do you want more frequent small wins? Do you want a lot of action on the table, or do you want to take it one bet at a time?

Different table games attract players for different reasons. Last week, we went over the strengths and weaknesses of three old table favorites - blackjack, craps and baccarat. This week, let's look at one more traditional game, roulette, along with three newer games, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker.

ROULETTE

Strengths: Easy to play, with no complicated strategies - put your money on your chosen bets and wait for the wheel to decide who wins. Plenty of betting options. Those looking for a one-spin windfall can bet on single numbers, with a 35-1 payoff; those wanting to grind it out can make even-money bets such as red or black, odd or even, and there are many options in between the extremes. Spinning the wheel and waiting for players to place bets on the layout takes time, so roulette moves more slowly than most table games. Players who get entertainment value out of extended play can make their money last here with small, even-money bets at this stately paced game.

Weaknesses: House edge is higher than on most table games - the 5.26 percent house edge on most bets at a double-zero roulette wheel is 10 times higher than the house edge faced by blackjack basic strategy players. Despite slow pace, the average risk per hour is fairly high because most players make multiple wagers, betting more than the table minimum. Table layout with dozens of possible bets makes roulette look more complex than it really is, and it can be intimidating to a new player.

CARIBBEAN STUD POKER

Strengths: Potential for a large jackpot that is rare on table games - record payoff is in excess of $700,000 for a $1 side bet on the progressive pot. Based on five-card stud poker, so it has a familiar feel and is easy to learn for anyone who has played poker. Strategy is easy to learn, much less complex than blackjack.

Weaknesses: Even at a $5 table, risk per hour is fairly high because players must make a bet of double their ante to stay in the hand, and must bet another $1 for a chance at the big progressive payoffs. For a player anteing $5, the average total risk is $10, not including a progressive bet. House edge is higher than blackjack, craps or baccarat, at 5.2 percent of the ante or 2.6 percent of total action on basic play against the dealer. There is a frustration factor in that when the dealer doesn't qualify with an Ace-King or better, players are not paid on the bets of double the ante, no matter how good the hand. Frequency of winning hands is low, with player winning on only 39 percent of hands, and winning more than even-money payoffs on only 17 percent. Odds against hitting the really big progressive jackpot for a royal flush are astronomical - royals are dealt an average of once per 649,740 hands.

LET IT RIDE

Strengths: Like Caribbean Stud, based on five-card stud poker, making for a game that is easy to learn. No dealer hand to beat - if you have a hand that ranks high on the pay table, you'll get your money without having to worry if the dealer qualifies. For those lucky enough to get a royal flush, payoff without a side bet is higher than in Caribbean Stud even though the odds are the same - you'll get 1,000-1 in Let It Ride but only 100-1 in Caribbean Stud unless you make the progressive bet. Risk is lower than it looks. Players make three bets at once but have opportunities during play to pull back first two.

Weaknesses: House edge of 3.5 percent of one bet or 2.8 percent of total action is higher than blackjack, craps and baccarat. Frequency of winning hands is low - much lower than at Caribbean Stud - with player winning on only 24 percent of hands. That can lead to long losing streaks. Some "Bonus Let It Ride" tables offer a $1 side bet with a very high house edge, anywhere from 14 percent to 36.5 percent, depending on pay table.

THREE CARD POKER

Strengths: Two easy betting options - Pair Plus, which pays off on any pair or better, and play against the dealer, with an easy strategy of making a bet equal to the ante with any Queen-6-4 or better. Win frequency of 42 percent against the dealer is higher than on Caribbean Stud, win frequency of 26 percent on Pair Plus is higher than on the similar Let It Ride. Three-card format means the top payoff for a three-card straight flush occurs much more often than a royal does in five-card games. Players will hit a three-card straight flush an average of once per 460 hands, making it a realistic possibility.

Weaknesses: As in other new table games, house edge is higher than on some old standards. Best version of Three Card Poker has a 2.3 percent house edge on Pair Plus, and on play against the dealer it's 3.4 percent of the ante or 2 percent of total action. Multiple pay tables of this game exist, with the worst hiking the Pair Plus house edge to 7.3 percent - players should be wary. Big jackpots, as in Caribbean Stud, or 1,000-1 hits, as in Let It Ride, aren't available here. Biggest payoff is 40-1 in Pair Plus for a three-card straight flush.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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