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Deal Me In: Cinco dos, adios

22 January 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I've been reading your column recently on craps betting and I agree with you regarding keeping the house advantage below two percent. However, since my recent retirement I've had the opportunity to play 3-4 times per week, and what I have noticed is that it seems like the most consistent winners are the Don't side players laying odds. Not big money, but consistent wins. I am currently a $5 pass line, odds, place 6 and 8 Come bettor. I'm seriously thinking of going the Don't side. Your answer would be much appreciated. John G.

Yes, John, by all means, if you want to go to the Don't side, do it. There is nothing wrong with being a Wrong bettor.

Once you join dark side, John, as a Wrong bettor you're wagering against the shooter and with the seven. All your bets become Don't pass and Don't come wagers. Yet, right or wrong, and nearly equally, Pass line and Don't Pass bettors are making some of the best wagers the casino offers.

Although I appreciate your way of thinking regarding switching, mathematically a "Don't pass" bet is only a slightly better wager than a pass line bet, as the house edge is 1.4 versus 1.41 percent. Subsequently, because the casino advantage between the two wagers is so minuscule, this columnist has always advocated a Pass line bet, mostly because I enjoy the peer play, where almost all the bettors battle the casino together, win or lose. It is this solidarity of most gamblers on the game rooting for the shooter to make his or her point that is my favorite part of craps. By becoming a Don't Pass, Wrong, or Back Line bettor, you have your fingers crossed that the "ugly 7" will show its face. Most players, myself included, wash out on a seven out, line away call. Hoping for five two, you're "all through" calls is nothing more than rooting for the house.

Dear Mark: In the answer to a question by Glen D., you used the term "selected machines." I play a lot of video poker and would like to know what that term means? Bruce F.

In the world of slots, "selected machines," means one thing for slots, another for video poker.

With reel slot machines, some casinos advertise a higher payback percentage—like a 98.5% return—on "selected machines." Typically that means dollar machines, but the return is usually not posted on the machines themselves, and generally will be limited to a single carousel of machines, or possibly just one or two slots. It becomes your responsibility to find them by asking a slot employee or their direct supervisor.

With video poker, "selected machines" means pay tables, and implies also the use of basic strategy on a decent pay table. With canny machine selection and some video poker prowess, you can reduce the house edge to well under one percent.

That, Bruce, is the biggest benefit of video poker, your ability to identify these "selected machines" by eyeballing the pay tables. When you add the comps and other slot club benefits, it's not hard to break even or better, which rather neatly elevates your chances of winning at video poker.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "That's very clever. But do me a favor and dump it in the trash. A Bally slot machine can't be made by amateurs." -- Bill O'Donnell, CEO of Bally Manufacturing Co., upon being shown a prototype of the first video poker machine. From King of the Slots, the forthcoming biography of William "Si" Redd

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.