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Deal Me In: The "L" bet cuts the house edge in half

13 September 2013

Dear Mark: When I play roulette, I take your recommendation and search for a European wheel with the single zero. Single zero games are rare. While chatting over some different wagers with me on my last casino visit, the dealer mentioned a bet in roulette that begins with the letter "L." Do you know what wager he was talking about? Bruce S.

The difference between "American" and "European" roulette seems subtle. The American wheel has two green zeros (0 and 00) while the European wheel has just one (0).

I have always been surprised, Bruce, at how few players realize that on a single zero game, the casino advantage of 2.63 percent is directly related to the presence of that singular zero (0) on the layout. Otherwise, a roulette layout with two zeros (0, 00) gives the house a 5.26 percent advantage on all the wagers offered but one.

My guess here, Bruce, is that those single zero tables that you are finding are not true "European" games. A true European single-zero wheel offers a rule called "en prison." On a European single-zero wheel, when making an even money bet and the ball lands on zero, the dealer (croupier across the pond) does not rake in your bet. Instead, your wager is "imprisoned" or held hostage, and you have to let it ride until the next spin. If your bet wins, you can remove it from the table. What is exciting about this wager is that it cuts the house edge on even money bets in half, down to a very respectable 1.35 percent. This makes it one of the better bets in European casinos.

That wager the dealer spoke of that begins with the letter "L" is called "la partage." This rule is similar to en prison, but instead of keeping your even money bets in place when a zero is called, you instantly lose half your wager instead of all of it. This reduces the house edge on these wagers, like en prison, to 1.35 percent for single zero wheels and 2.63 percent for double zero wheels.

Atlantic City casinos offer a surrender rule that when you make an even-money bet (red/black, odd/even, 1-18/9-36) you lose only half your wager if the roulette ball lands on 0 or 00. By your being able to salvage half of your wager, the casino's edge is reduced to 2.63 percent versus 5.26 percent on the even-money outside bets.

Unfortunately, Bruce, except for some of the higher-end joints on the Las Vegas Strip, most casinos in the US do not offer the "la partage" or "en prison" rules on their roulette tables.

Dear Mark: Is the center of a 10-spot Hold'em poker table between the 5 and 6 spot, or as a dealer informed me, over his right shoulder. Jim

The number of players that can sit at a poker table varies depending on the game being played, and of course, the size of the table. A 10-person Hold'em poker table is typically used in tournament play, whereas a nine spot table is for cash play.

The 10-person table is usually oval-shaped, with the player spots positioned around the curve, with a dealer facing them in an indented area set specifically for him or her. The center of these 10-spot tables is as you guessed, Jim, located directly across from the dealer, between the five and six spot.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "One time he was sick and wouldn't take penicillin, because he bet his fever would go to one hundred and four." -– Frank Sinatra on Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls (1955)
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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.