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Best of Mark Pilarski

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You no longer need to cut off both ends of the ham

19 November 1999

Dear Mark,
I learned craps from my father, who learned it from his dad. We play your recommended pass line bet along with continual betting on the seven to hedge our line bet. In past columns you don't agree with that logic. Please explain. Marvin B.

Marvin, before you advance your crapology advice to future generations, may I share an anecdotal tale with you?

One day a young girl watched her mother prepare a ham for Thanksgiving dinner.
"Mom, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?" the daughter asked.
"Because my mother always did," said the mother.
"But why?"
"I don't know-why don't you call Granny and find out why."
So the daughter called Granny and asked her. "Granny, when you prepared your hams for baking, why did you always cut off both ends?"
"My mother always did it," said Granny.
"But why?"
"I don't know-why don't you call your Great-grandmother and ask her?" So the daughter preceded to telephone Great-grandmother to inquire why traditionally her family always cut off both ends of a ham before cooking it.
"Great-grandma, when you prepared your ham for baking, you always cut off both ends-why?"
"Well," Great-grandma said, "the pan was too small."

It is time, Marvin, to let go of your genealogically inspired gambling theories. Though you feel you are hedging you wager by betting the seven, it still doesn't change the house advantage of 16.7%. By sticking strictly to a pass line wager, maybe, just maybe, you will be the first in your clan to win some real money at craps.

Dear Mark ,
Does it make sense keeping a kicker in video poker? Martha M.

NEVER, repeat never, hold a kicker. Holding kickers (K, K, A) to any pair reduces your return by more than 5%.

Dear Mark,
I like to bet the don't side on a crap game. Isn't it a slightly better wager than a pass line bet? Kenny K.

You are correct in assuming, Kenny, that the don't pass bet (seven rolling before the point) is a marginally better wager-a 1.4 percent casino advantage versus the pass line's 1.41 percent-but craps is a game of community esprit, everyone in it for the win together. By betting the opposite you become the adversary, a villain against the majority of players. Why let the casino off the hook?

Dear Mark,
What was the largest amount ever won in roulette? Jason C.

In January, 1994, a computer programmer from London, England, wagered $220,000 on a single spin at the Horseshoe Club in Las Vegas. Placing the whole amount on red, he watched as the ball found the red 7. Picking up his one-roll winnings, he quickly deposited $440,000 in the cashier's cage. The tuxedo-clad gentleman was knowledgeable enough to play on the Horseshoe's single zero roulette table, cutting the house edge from 5.26 to 2.7%.

Dear Mark,
I really enjoy keno. Would you recommend video keno or a live-action game? Rosa M.

The correct answer, Rosa, would be to suggest politely neither.

The medium house advantage on all live keno games is approximately 28%. On a video keno game it is 7.5%. Why lower? Video keno has better paytables. Take the 8-spot ticket: By hitting four of eight on a video keno machine, you double your money. You'll never find that on a live keno game.

On paper, it looks like video poker is the better deal. Not so fast my friend. At $1 a pop, the most you could lose on a live game is about $15, as that is the average number of games called per hour. A typical video keno player can burn through $15 in quarters in under five minutes.

I recommend, Rosa, for those with a keno fixation, video poker instead.

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.