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Best of Mark Pilarski

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A little flim, a little flam

12 November 2004

Dear Mark: I am frequently receiving in the mail various advertisements offering winning slot systems. The latest is from author Tom McQueen with his winning slot formula. The cost is $50.00. He shows winning thousands of dollars week after week. What advice can you offer regarding this system? Ted G.

I have kept free of my fair share of claimants offering at a modest price their sure-shot systems for beating such games of luck as the lottery, roulette, keno, and, yes, a plethora of systems promising that one can win mega $$$ at slots. Though I personally haven't heard yet from Mr. McQueen, Ted, I highly recommend you hold tight onto your hard earned money, as there is no system for slots, or any other casino game for that matter, that can beat a game based on pure chance.

Why, just last week a system swindler wrote inviting me to get involved with a roulette system he's created that promises to make me a millionaire in less than one year. I wrote him back and invited him to call me and rub it in with "I told you so" after he makes his first million.

Dear Mark,
I typically play three-, four- or five-team parlays. Could you please give me the exact house edge on playing these amounts of games as a parlay bet? Jimmy L.

The parlay is a way of simultaneously betting multiple sporting events with a hope for a humongous payoff if you hit on all of them. All games generally have the same point spread as straight bets off the board. With parlays, if one game doesn't win or at least tie, you lose your entire bet. If one of the events is a tie, then that game is disregarded and you get paid according to the number of games that you did win. The corresponding house edge, based on the number of events and what the casino typically pays is as follows: Three teams pay 6 to 1, with a house edge of 12.50%. Four teams pay 10 to 1, with a 31.25% casino advantage. And five teams pay 20 to 1, with a house edge of 34.38%.

Because of the steep house edge, I have never been a fan of parlay wagering. Besides, it's hard enough for me to win just one game against the spread. But a better way to play a four- or five-team parlay is to bet your first game as a straight bet, then let the winnings ride to the next game, then the next, then the next. Except for winning three separate sporting events, where the house edge is slightly less than on a parlay card, it's the smarter way to play a group of games, one at a time, then parlaying your winnings. The house edge is reduced for four games to 16.98%, and 20.75% for five games, but for three-team straight play, the casino advantage is slightly higher at 13.03% versus 12.50%.

Dear Mark,
Does the house have the same edge when betting the point spread as if you were to bet totals? Keith B.

As in a point spread wager, totals, where you bet the combined scores of both teams in a game, have a 50/50 chance of winning if picked randomly. With both wagers, the bettor as a rule bets $11 to win $10. Both bets have the same casino advantage of 4.55%.

Gambling quote of the week: "Gamblers are not at war with the casino, but with the casino edge." Jean Scott

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.