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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Barnum Bets for those born every minute

11 April 2005

Dear Mark,
I was told that the tie bet on a baccarat table was the worst bet in the casino. Someone else told me the blackjack insurance bet was. I’ve been a fan of both for years. Any chance you list some of the sucker bets the casino offers so I can avoid them in the future? Charles J.

The dictionary describes "worst" as the superlative of bad, and believe me, Charles, there are plenty of bad bets the casino offers. Casino owners figure that so long as some die-hard gamblers insist on making stupid wagers; why not offer a smorgasbord of them to the die-soon players.

So, Charles, for you, and others who have any interest in beating the casino at their own game, PLUCK, EXILE AND BANISH these WORST wagers from your playing repertoire.

The Insurance Bet at Blackjack: Unless you are an experienced card counter, you should never make this wager. Depending upon the table rules, the casino edge runs from 5% to 8%. Worse yet, insuring a hand composed of two face cards on a single-deck game gives the casino a 14.3% edge.

The Tie bet at Casino War: A monster loser. This bet has a house advantage of 18.65%.

The Tie Bet in Baccarat: Another tie wager that carries a hefty house advantage. It’s 14.1%.

The Side bet in Caribbean Stud Poker: Don't let that progressive meter jackpot suck you into a dollar wager, with the hope of being dealt a "natural" royal flush. The true odds are almost 650,000 to 1. Even though a $100,000 plus jackpot looks tempting — as it was designed to be — unless you see a progressive figure closing in on those high odds, it is a no-value bet. Avoid also the Let It Ride side bets: They too carry a double-digit casino edge.

Proposition Bets on a craps game: The stickman will entice you to make a multitude of lousy wagers, such as one-number bets like the betting the 7. This wager alone has a casino advantage of over 16% against you.

Here is list of sucker bets found on a craps game along with their house edge.

Big 6 & 8 (9.1%)
Hardway 6 or 8 (9.1%)
Hardway 4 or 10 (11.1%)
Any craps (11.1%)
3 or 11 proposition (11.1%)
2 or 12 proposition (13.9%)
Any 7 (16.1%)

Most Sic-Bo Bets: Place a bet on anything except Big or Small, and you're looking at a house edge of from 7.87% to 18.52%.

The Big Six: Any bet on this game has a minimum house edge of 15%. I'd run from this game.

Keno: This game of luck has an extremely high house advantage, at the bare minimum of 25%.

The 5-Number (0, 00, 1, 2, 3) wager in roulette: This bet has a casino advantage of 7.89%. We're not through. The house edge on a Double Zero roulette table is 5.26% against you no matter how you bet it. If roulette just happens to be your favorite game, at least look for the single zero wheel where the house edge is down to the 2% range.

Indeed, there are more, like one-armed bandits in general, or haphazard and hunch play at blackjack or video poker, but the gist of it, Charles, is that the casino figures so long as you are giving your hard-earned money away, you might as well be giving it to them with the wagers listed above. But if you choose your bets wisely, you can drastically affect the outcome of your casino visit in your favor, not theirs. Not a bad idea.

Gambling quote of the week: “The more I reflect upon the great number of events, past or present, the more I recognize the effect of chance in all earthly things.” TACITUS, Germanicus (A.D. 99)

Recent Articles
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.