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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Common sense is legal, but not encouraged in casinos

22 August 2008

Dear Mark: Why is the betting the seven considered a "sucker bet" in craps? Jason F.

Bet quality, Jason, reminds me of rating the value of baseball cards. Poor, being a Yankee Red Ruffing retrieved 40 years ago from spokes of your Schwinn Sting-ray, or a mint Mantle, still in the wrapper, gum included.

In the casino, bet quality is rated in terms of the house edge. This is the long haul average percentage the casino theoretically earns on every dollar wagered. The greater the edge, the more of your hard-earned money that you put into action the casino gets to keep, and the less you take home.

Although proposition bets like the seven have seemingly lofty payoffs, the house edge is way too high for you to waste your hard-earned money on them. The seven, in particular, is called a sucker bet because it is the worst wager on a craps game, or any table game for that matter. This one-roll proposition bet has a house edge of 16.7%. Compare that, Jason, to a pass line wager with a casino advantage of 1.41%, and you can see which is the more valuable baseball card.

Don't be an easy target (OK, sucker) and trade your pristine 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle for a pitcher with a win percentage of .548, even if Ruffing did have an exceptional World Series record of 7-2.

Dear Mark: Does electronic blackjack have the same odds as the table blackjack? It seems to me that electronic blackjack could be programmed to the casino's advantage more than the table blackjack. Ming W.

It is a Nevada law (and I'm sure most states follow suit) that video representations of cards follow the same odds as those in a real game with a human dealer, and that they be completely random.

What you need to concern yourself with is legally "altered" rules. For instance, in video blackjack, it's tough to find a machine that pays you the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2). Most video blackjack machines pay only even money on natural 21's. The loss of that bonus is going to cost you an additional 2.3%.

So, Ming, be assured that even though the cards are dealt randomly, you are giving away a considerable amount percentage-wise on a blackjack machine, so naturally, the odds there wouldn't necessarily be the same as they'd be in table blackjack.

Dear Mark: My aunt Harriet "Kitty" Marshall started dealing 21 around 1948 and she worked in Reno, Lake Tahoe & Carson City. She finally had to quit two or three months ago due to vision problems with her commuting from Silver Springs. She is currently 86. Ray M.

Last week I mentioned that John Stanislaus Matuszak, who, at 86, was possibly the oldest person known to have dealt cards in a casino. I'm adding Kitty to that elite and honored club for dealing well into her ninth decade.

…and to think that I've got 30-plus more years in this business to catch this pair. That's either a sobering thought, or employment well into my golden years. I'll get back with you later on which.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "When people enter a casino, a whole new transformation takes place. People who wouldn't bet you the Pope was Catholic even get caught in the urge to gamble." -- John Patrick, So You Want To Be a Gambler

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.