By Carl Van Eton
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I was recently telling a friend of mine about the benefits of the Casino Players Club including the educational component that is built into it. This particular friend is a skilled entrepreneur who is incredibly analytical when it comes to building a business. However, when it comes to the casinos, as I soon found out, he was anything but. After listening to me tell him about the free educational videos on our website and our resident blackjack school, he looked up at me with furrowed brow.
“I like to play roulette. What can you teach me about that game?”
“Go find a European wheel.”
“How many numbers are on a roulette wheel?” I asked.
“On an American wheel there are thirty-eight, thirty-six numbers and two house numbers. This gives the house a 5.26% edge no matter the wager. Whether you bet a single number, a quad, a row, even or odd, red or black, the house edge remains 5.26%. A European wheel with only one house number cuts the edge nearly in half to 2.7%. When it comes to roulette, that’s as good as it gets.”
I then went onto explain how 5.26% is a huge advantage. The house edge on the Pass Line bet on the craps table is only 1.4 percent and the house edge on a 5-deck game for a basic strategy player is .56%.
“So, what you’re saying is that I need to go to Europe to play better roulette?” he asked.
“No, what I’m saying is you need to find a better game to play,” I told him.
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The game of roulette is actually an excellent way to get a bead on house edge. If you place a dollar on a single number, let’s say 12, and the ball hits that number, the house will pay you $35 on an American Wheel. If they were going to pay you true odds, they would pay you $38 for the bet, since there are 38-numbers on the wheel. That’s how house edge works, by paying you less than true odds.
But hey, there are lots of other bets to make on a roulette wheel. Let’s say you decide to bet red and black at the same time, figuring you can’t lose. Are you going to lose? You bet, because the house numbers 0 and 00 are green, which means every time they come up you would lose both bets.
What if you watch the electronic tote board posted at the end of every roulette wheel and wait until black has come up 6 times straight, then drop a black $100 chip on red. Why do you think the casino provides the tote board? They want you to believe that that one spin has an effect on the next. But it doesn’t. That’s why they can afford to spend a billion dollars to build a casino. Because the vast majority of players don’t have a clue as to how house edge works.
Of course, there are other games you can play. Let’s take a look at craps. Anyone who plays craps knows the odds of rolling a seven is 1-in-6. That’s because there are 6 ways the dice can come up with 6: 1-5, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 3-4 or 4-3. Just as in roulette, in the game of craps, one roll of the dice has no bearing over the outcome of the next roll. Dice players have a saying for this. “The dice have no memory.”
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The reason this little ditty has such weight in craps is with the exception of the comeout roll,whenever the seven rears its ugly head, the dealer will sweep the table clean, with the exception of the don’t players. That’s the bad news. The good news is that when compared to roulette, there are some bargains to be had at the dice table. Remember when I told you that the Pass Line was only worth 1.4 percent to the house. Well, there is a way to sweeten the deal on the Pass Line by taking odds. The way this works is that the Pass Line bettor will add a second wager equal to their original bet which is kind of like doubling down at blackjack. The dealer will then pay this second wager at true odds. This means if the point is 4 or 10 and the shooter makes the point, the dealer will pay the odds wager at 2-1. If the point is 5 or 9, the dealer will pay the odds wager at 3-2, and if the point is 6 or 8, the dealer will pay the odds wager 6-5. This in turn reduces the overall house edge on the Pass Line to eight tenths of one percent. Of course, in order to do so you need to in essence double your bet, which also doubles your risk.
Don’t forget, there are many other wagers on the craps table that make roulette seem like a bargain. The Hardways are worth anywhere from 9 to 11 percent to the house depending on the number. Any Craps is worth 11.11%. The Horn bet is worth 12.5%. Any 7 takes the cake being worth 16.7%.
Unless you can find a way to overcome the house edge, you aren’t gambling. You are donating to the casino coffers. The casino owners and managers would like you to think that it’s alright to pay for the pleasure of their company. But at what price? Below is a chart that shows you expected hourly losses on a number of popular casino games.
Slot Machines – 25 cent wager set at Vegas Strip odds of 9% $158
$1.00 wager set at odds of 7% $490
Roulette – American Wheel with a $5 wager $145
Craps – Pass Line with a $5 wager $ 30
Blackjack – Basic Strategy with a $5 wager $ 17
Baccarat – Banker with a $20 wager $148
Player with a $20 wager $174
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You’ll notice that the basic strategy player at blackjack only loses 10% of the baccarat player. But that assumes the blackjack player uses perfect basic strategy. A hunch player at blackjack can lose as much or more than a quarter slot player, depending on their lack of knowledge. And what about those baccarat players. Why is the burn on the game so high, when you consider that the house edge on the player side is 1.24 percent? That’s because the table minimum on baccarat is usually set at $20. This also means that a blackjack player sitting at a $10 table playing perfect basic strategy is looking at a $35 per hour burn.
Make no mistake about it, casinos are built for one thing and one thing only; to siphon every last dollar from your wallet. That’s why you will always find hundreds of dollar slots and a Big 6 wheel stationed at the entrance to a casino. Casino management doesn’t want you to leave the premises with even a dollar rattling around in your pocket if they can help it.
That’s also why you need to find a game that pays if you don’t want to visit your money every time you travel to the casinos. Like it or not, there are only 2 games in the house where the player can overcome house edge: Poker and Blackjack. That’s because neither of these games is governed by a random trial process. Unlike roulette and craps where one outcome has no bearing on the next, in blackjack and poker the removal of even one card directly effects the odds.
Sometimes while you were sitting at the blackjack table the odds favored the player. Remember the time you were sitting there grinding out those $5 bets and the dealer busted five times in a row? I’ll bet you can also remember the time the dealer beat you five times in a row even if it took drawing four times to do so. That didn’t happen by accident. That’s because the production of big cards favors the players and the production of small cards favors the house.
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The only fly in the ointment is that Basic Strategy isn’t capable of telling you when this happens. Todetermine the composition of the shoe, you are going to need to add another tool to your blackjack kit: card counting. Why is it that every time I hear the words “Card Counting” I also hear a distant peel of thunder? It’s because the casinos have managed to convince the vast majority of players that counting cards is either illegal, or it takes a brain like a Swiss watch. Neither of these premises is true. The fact of that matter is that card counting has been around since the 1960’s when mathematician Ed Thorpe devised the first accurate card counting system. During the past 50 years, card counting has evolved. The problem isn’t counting, it’s trying to do so in the noise-filled casinos. If you want to see an example of a simply yet effective card counting system, click on the link below.
As for the game of baccarat, even though it is a card game, it is a game where the player makes no decisions. The total of the first two cards dealt determines whether any additional cards are dealt. Unfortunately, that means you can’t build a better baccarat player. That means if you want to win in the casinos, you need to learn how to count cards or hone your poker skills.
Carl Van Eton is a professional blackjack player with more than 20 years of professional playing experience. If you want to play better blackjack, check out his Big Game Blackjack website,