CASINO ANSWER MAN
by John Grochowski
John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available athttp://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Send your question to Grochowski at email@example.com.
Q.I was at a craps table, $10 minimum, shooter was betting minimum pass and come, with 3x-4x-5x odds. On his come outs, besides his pass bet, he was betting $5 any 7. Terrible bet, right? He said he wanted to feel good about his winner 7s.
A. If we assume random rolls with a shooter who can't make 7s appear in a disproportionate manner, and then yes, it's a terrible bet.
His $10 pass bets are unaffected by extra bets. Any 7 stands or falls on its own - and mostly falls. Per 36 rolls with a total risk of $180, he wins the 4-1 payoff on any 7 only six times. On each win, he wins $20 and keeps the $5 bet on, leaving him with $150 of his original $180. The house keeps $30.
In his attempt to feel good about his 7s, the shooter was spotting the house an extra edge.
Q.I hate to beat a dead horse on "even money," but here goes. I play on a lot on cruise ships and many, if not most, are going to 6-5 blackjack on tables under $25. In that case, would taking even money be the better bet? I get it that the 6-5 game has a high vig and should be avoided, but if you don't have adequate bank to play a greenie a hand (or just don't want to risk that much) is it pretty good entertainment? The other problem I see with the 6-5 is when the casino puts the minimum bet at $6 and don't pay the extra quarter to bring it up to a true 6-5 on blackjack payoff. In that case they pay 6-6 which is even money. Wouldn't the smart bet to play be $10 a hand and at least get the full 6-5 odds?
A.Yes, if blackjacks pay only 6-5 and the house allows you to take even money payoffs when the dealer has an Ace up, you should take the money. Per 13 hands in which the dealer has an Ace face up, there will be a 10-value card down to complete a blackjack four times.
If you bet $10 on each of 13 such hands, and take even money all 13 times, you would win $130. If you decline even money, then you would win nine hands, and with 6-5 payoffs, each win would be worth $12. So per 13 hands with a blackjack against a dealer's Ace, you would win $120.
Most casinos don't offer even money on 6-5 blackjack games, but if offered, you should take it. With 3-2 payoffs, of course, the better play for non-card counters is to decline even-money or any other insurance bet.
As for times the shipboard casino raises the table minimum to $6, you have to weigh the increase in house edge if you don't bet enough to get 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks against the increased risk of betting more.
A six-deck game with rules that lead to a 0.6 percent house edge with 3-2 payoffs on blackjacks has a 2 percent edge if blackjacks pay 6-5, and 2.9 percent if they pay even money.
Per 100 hands at $10 per hand, your risk would be $1,000, and if blackjacks pay 6-5, the 2 percent house edge would lead to average losses of $20. If you bet only $6 per hand and settle for 6-6 blackjack pays, you risk $600 and the 2.9 percent edge leads to $17.40 in losses.
By average loss, you're slightly better off risking less money at the game, but you have a better shot to win by betting enough to get the 6-5 payoff.
I'd try to avoid the game altogether, but I've passed time on less-than-ideal games on at-sea days, and understand the urge to play.
Q. Slot players are getting more generous comps than video poker players: Does speed of play factor in? I know video poker takes extra time to make the draw.
A. You can play video poker just as fast as you can play video slots, where bonus events bring non-wagering play that more than offsets decision time on the poker machines. It's still easy to play 500 hands an hour - most experienced players would find that a slow pace. I've clocked in at more than 800 hands an hour, though I've slowed down a bit in the last few years. And I was by no means the fastest player around. Everybody has to find their own pace where speed doesn't get in the way of accuracy.
But the reason slot players are comped more generously has little to do with speed, and everything to do with the house edge. For the sake of example, let's assume 500 hands per hour on video poker vs. 500 spins per hour on a video slot, though we could just as easily make it 800 vs. 800.
Let's say you're playing a 40-line penny slots at one credit per line, for a wager of 40 cents per spin. If you play 500 spins per hour, you risk $200 per hour. An 88 percent return, which is normal for pennies, translates to a 12 percent house edge, leading to average hourly losses of $24.
On a quarter video poker machine, making maximum bets of $1.25 per hand, 500 hands per hour means an hourly risk of $625. But in 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, which returns 99 percent with expert play, the average hourly loss is only $6.25 - just a little more than a fourth of loss when you bet 40 cents on penny slots.
If you're playing a weaker game, such as 8-5 Double Double Bonus (96.79 percent), the hourly loss rises to $20 - still less than the penny slot loss.
Even when we look at a penny slot player making minimum bets vs. a quarter video poker player making maximum bets, the slot player is more valuable to the casino because of the difference in the house edge. Slot players who make bigger bets are golden, as far as casinos are concerned, and that's why they're comped more.
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