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Deal Me In: The courteous sidestep demonstrated and explained

9 September 2011

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I liked your response to David last week regarding sports wagers but you forgot to mention parlay bets. For one small wager you get to bet multiple teams with a decent payback if you win. Did you accidentally ignore this wager? Justin B.

I purposely snubbed it for two reasons: Primarily because David did not inquire about a parlay wager, and, more to the point, because the exorbitant house edge on parlay bets stifles any rational enthusiasm.

A parlay bet is a way of simultaneously betting multiple football games with a hope of a much larger payoff than offered by a straight single-contest bet, that is, if you hit them all. Each game generally has the same point spread as straight bets off the board. With parlays, if one game does not win, or at least tie, you can say goodbye to your entire bet.

If one of the games is a tie, then that game is ignored and you are paid according to games you did win. The corresponding house edge, based on the number of games and what the casino typically pays is as follows: Three teams pay 6 to 1, with a house edge of 12.50%. Four teams pay 10 to 1, with a 31.25% casino advantage, and five teams pay 20 to 1, with a house edge of 34.38%. Your cost – the house edge – on any sporting bet where you wager $11 to win $10 is just 4.55%. Big difference, Justin; besides, don’t you think it’s tough enough to win one game against the spread, let alone five?

Dear Mark: Where I live, Hooters does reasonably well as a restaurant but their casino in Las Vegas is in bankruptcy. Any reason you can think of for that. Bruce T.

The convenient answer is casino saturation, competition from Indian casinos in Southern California and declining revenue resulting from the economic downturn. However, Bruce, here’s something to mull over: I don’t know who makes the decisions in your household on hotel reservations, but at the N. Michigan compound, it’s my wife, and I hardly think she will book Hooters for a weekend getaway.

Dear Mark: I have memorized the basic strategy charts for video poker and I believe I play at, or near, an expert level. My wife, who plays next to me, just wings it. Unless she gets lucky and hits a couple more four-of-a-kinds than I do on any given night, I typically come home with more money, or lose less than her. What percentage advantage does the casino have over the novice player versus someone using basic strategy? Jake R.

Recalling from working slots during my Green Felt Jungle days, without your wife learning a strategy for the video poker game she’s playing, the casino is contentedly holding at least an additional three to four percent advantage over your happy-go-lucky wife compared with someone like you playing at an expert level.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The single biggest problem for most intelligent and successful people who want to gamble in a casino is that the moment they walk into the casino, they lose their intelligence. They throw away everything that has made them successful in the first place.” —Wayne Allyn Root, The King of Vegas’ Guide to Gambling
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.