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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The best bet without using brain power

19 August 2016

Dear Mark: When it comes to making the best bet in a casino, your advice has been playing perfect strategy at either blackjack or video poker. Here’s my issue with that: I am not interested in learning a new skill in any game that I will probably play once a month, for only four hours at best. But I also don’t want to make stupid bets that have a high house edge. So, what is your recommendation for either a game or wager where I don’t have to use my wits and still get a fair shake against the house? Cliff W.

Fortunately, Cliff, the good news there are alternative wagers so that you are not just limited to perfect play at blackjack or video poker when it comes to getting a “fair shake against the house.”

The best bet in the entire casino where you don’t have to use your noggin is to walk up to a craps table and make a bet on the pass line, and double odds underneath. It gets even better if you can get even higher multiple odds.

For instance, if you have a $5 pass line bet and the point is 4, if you win, your pass line bet is paid at even money (1:1), bringing you $5 in winnings. Your pass line bet alone has a house edge of 1.4%. The pass line wager alone is somewhat competitive against perfect play at video poker or blackjack, but NOT equal to or better than. So, Cliff, let’s enhance the wager to give it equal footing. By taking double odds ($10), you are paid at true odds (2:1) on that portion of the bet, bringing you $20 on the win.

The house edge is tied to the odds of the bet. At double odds the house edge drops to 0.6%, 10x odds to 0.2% and 100x odds, all the way down to 0.02%.

Bellying up to a crap table and joining the euphoria of this fast-paced game need not be intimidating, Cliff, as long as you stick to a simplified strategy of betting the pass line and taking odds.

Also, Cliff, there are two bets on a baccarat game that offer a somewhat higher edge, and again, with no need to use your gray matter; especially since you don’t even have to know the rules as the hitting sequence is predetermined. The house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the bank hand or 1.36% with a player hand wager.

Dear Mark: Are dealers allowed to give you advice with your hand while you’re playing blackjack? Jack K.

It pretty much depends, Jack, on where you are playing.

All casinos have their own internal rules and regulations. Where I either pitched cards or managed, it was either forbidden, frowned upon or ignored, or they didn’t give a damn, just as long as when you peeked under your ace you didn’t advance advice to the player. As to where you play, Jack, all you can do is ask to see if it is allowed.

And as for trusting any advice you get from the dealer, well, that’s another story.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I have seen a pregnant woman stand at a 21 game, oblivious to labor pains, until we thought we were going to become midwives, and leave only when we summoned an ambulance.” - Harold S. Smith Sr., I Want to Quit Winners (1961)
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.