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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

7 March 2001

Q. I like to play roulette, especially in Las Vegas where I can buy quarter chips and spread them all over the layout. I prefer to make the single-number bets rather than bet the reds or the blacks. I like the thrill of a big win when one of my numbers comes up.

If I spread 12 chips on different numbers, am I getting a better deal than if I play the columns or dozens on the outside? I know I'm covering the same amount of numbers either way, but it sure feels like I'm winning more when I get paid 35-1 on one of my numbers.

Anna

A. The house edge is the same whichever way you play 12 numbers. In the long run on an American double-zero wheel, the house will keep $5.26 of every $100 you wager.

Let's walk through it. Say you make 25-cent single-number bets on 1, 3, 5, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 32, 34 and 36. (Why did I choose those particular numbers? Just because they're adjacent on the wheel, though not on the table layout.) You're risking $3 per spin of the wheel. In a perfect sequence of 38 spins in which each number comes up once, you risk $114.

When one of your numbers comes up, you win 35 chips and keep the one chip you wagered on the winning number, for a total of 36 chips. That's $9 per winning spin when you're betting quarter chips. You lose the 11 chips you wagered on the other numbers. Multiply that by 12 winning spins, and at the end of the sequence you have $108, meaning you've lost $6 overall.

Now let's say that instead of playing those single numbers, you wager the full $3 per spin on the first dozen. Your total risk for 38 spins is still $114. Any time a number from 1 through 12 turns up, you're paid at 2-1 odds. On each winning bet, you get $6 in winnings plus you keep your $3 wager, for a total of $9. Multiply that by 12 winning numbers, and at the end of the sequence you have $108 left for an overall $6 loss -- the same as when you were betting individual numbers.

By betting on 12 single numbers, you've essentially created your own dozens bet. The percentages are the same as if you'd just bet the dozens.

What's the house edge? On either set of wagers, the house keeps $6 of your $114. Divide the 6 by 114, and you get .0526. Multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and the house edge on either betting method is 5.26 percent.

Q. You've mentioned in your column that Caribbean Stud players get a better deal in Illinois than Las Vegas. That set me to wondering. Leaving aside the shows, cheap eats and glitz, where would you rather play other casino games? How big a difference is there between the games on the boats and in Las Vegas?

Ike

A. Caribbean Stud is a rarity in that the player who bets on the progressive jackpot gets a better deal in the Midwest than in Las Vegas. That's because casinos in Nevada are contracted to put at least 49 cents of each dollar in the progressive jackpot, while casinos in other parts of the country contribute at least 71 cents on the dollar.

In most other games, the player gets a better deal in Las Vegas:

Slot machines: Payback percentages are higher in Las Vegas. On the Strip, quarter players get about 93.5 percent and dollar players a shade less than 96 percent, while Chicago area returns are about 92 percent on quarters and 95 percent on dollars in Illinois and 91 percent on quarters and 94 percent on dollars in Indiana.

Video poker: The riverboats can't compare to the variety of near-100 percent payback games offered in Las Vegas. Full-pay Deuces Wild, with a theoretical return of 100.8 percent with expert play, doesn't exist outside Nevada.

Blackjack: Another easy win for Las Vegas. It's not difficult to find single-deck and double-deck games with decent rules. Single-deck blackjack doesn't exist in the Chicago area, and double-deck games have rules more restrictive than you'll find in Las Vegas.

Craps: More Las Vegas casinos offer big free-odds multiples, and low rollers will find lower table minimums there.

Roulette: Las Vegas has many tables with lower minimum bets than you'll find here, and bigger bettors can find single-zero wheels with a lower house edge there.

We have some pretty good gaming options in the Chicago area -- much better than when the riverboats first opened. But the player looking for the most favorable games still is more likely to find them in Las Vegas.

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:

> 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