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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Blackjack versus Let It Ride

20 May 2016

Dear Mark: I read your column in the Detroit Free Press weekly. My friends and I visit Las Vegas a couple of times a year and frequent the local casinos here in Detroit.

I like to stick to playing table games that have a lower house advantage, such as blackjack or craps, but I have some friends that insist on playing Let It Ride, which I can’t stand. And I have watched them win quite regularly in the past few years. I try telling them that the casino edge is high and over the long run they are going to take a beating, but, I just can't seem to get it across. I was wondering what the house advantage is for these games, and if it makes any sense to join in on Let It Ride more regularly.

Also, what about the side bets on Let It Ride where you are adding a $5 chip on trying to hit one of the big jackpots for a royal flush, etc.? Dan Y.


Your friends, Dan, seem to want to believe that “It’s all just luck,” right? In gambling, it isn’t. Everyone can expect a short-term slice of fortune, but over hundreds of thousands of hands, mathematics and skill always reign supreme.

Basing my answer on your using skill versus luck, over the long run, your game/bet selection trumps theirs.

With blackjack, the house has a 0.5% edge against the basic strategy player; that is, if said player is skillfully playing each hand correctly. As for those crap wagers that you mentioned, skill isn’t so much needed, but the correct bet selection is. Placing the 6 or 8 carries a house edge of 1.5%, and a pass line wager is slightly better at 1.4%; even lower when taking odds.

As for your friends clamoring over Let It Ride, sure, I will be the first to agree that the game is fun to play, slow enough for the gambling neophyte, and does allow you to pull back two of the three bets. Additionally, it’s played at a slower pace than either blackjack or craps, so it won’t gobble up you bankroll that quickly.

My problem with the game, Dan, is that even with perfect play, the casino's edge on Let It Ride is 3.51%, making it almost six times what it is in blackjack when using perfect basic strategy. This columnist has always recommended that players should “Never make a wager that has higher than a 2% house edge,” so this game doesn’t meet that standard.

Worse yet, Dan, are the Let It Ride side bets that you asked about where for $5 – although I’ve seen it offered for as little as $1 – you are presented with an additional payoff with specified paying hands; these bets carry a double-digit casino edge making them, “too good to be true."

In general, for most table games, Dan, side bets should always be labeled for what they are: sucker bets.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Even though I had a lucrative contract with MGM, I had a husband who was drinking and gambling our money away faster than I could make it.” – Esther Williams
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.