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Deal Me In: This buy is no bargain

23 December 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I was playing craps the other day at a casino in Pennsylvania. A player was making $30 bets on 5 and 9 and 'buying' them. I always thought you never buy numbers besides the 4 and 10 because the vig made buying those numbers worse then placing them. Am I missing something? Joe F A buy bet, Joe, for all intents and purposes is the same as a Place bet except that you pay a commission of 5% on the amount of your wager. If you win, the casino will pay you at the true odds, minus, of course, the 5%. Those willing to take the plunge will want to wager at least $20, since the minimum commission the casino will charge you for making a Buy wager is a dollar (5% of $20). The casino edge on any Buy bet for $20 works out to 4.76%, although the percentage becomes higher on smaller sized wagers. Therefore, Joe, I recommend you buy nothing. Since a buy bet does nothing more than give the house a 5% commission for paying you correct odds on a winning bet, stick with wagers that give the house less than a two percent advantage, one being as you mentioned, a Place bet, and only on only the 6 and 8. Not only does placing the 6 or 8 have a smaller house edge, 1.5%, it's plenty cheap. A Place bet can be made for as little as $6. A Quick side note, Joe. When making a Place bet on 6 or 8, you should always wager in multiplies of $6 ($12, $18, $24, etc.), because the 6 and 8 pay off at 7 to 6, which is $7 for every $6 bet. You will be shortchanged on any win under $6 because the dealer rounds down to the nearest dollar. As long as there are other wagers on a crap game that are far superior to buying the 4, 10, or any number for that matter, I cannot affirm the 'Buy' bet as recommended play. Dear Mark: When I put a coin in a slot machine, how does the random number generator determine which symbol appears on the reels? Does it ever stop? Len S. Depending on the maker of the machine, when you insert a coin, hit the spin button or pull the handle, a computer program within polls the random number generator to get an indiscriminate number that will determine which symbol will appear on the first reel. The program then polls the RNG to get a number for the second reel, and then polls the RNG to get the number for the third reel. Dear Mark: With the game of roulette, does the amount you bet based on your last wager, overcome the house edge in any way? Edward B. You cannot overcome the casino's built-in advantage on any games of chance by betting more of less based a previous wager. Patterns to your monetary wins and loses will change, but over the long run, Edward, the house has a 5.26% advantage over your play on a double zero roulette layout no matter how much you wager. Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Gaming is a principle inherent in human nature. - Edmund Burke (1780) House of Commons
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.