Bonus bets (or side bets) are never a friend to players

Jun 4, 2013 3:00 AM


Nothing in a casino is absolute. On one visit you may have a great time and on your next it’s bad. Similar effects can occur if you’re just having a long session at the blackjack table or video poker machine where your bankroll will rise and fall slowly because of the small house advantage.

Even the games that have the smallest house edge in the casino don’t always have that great of an advantage. Every casino game has bad bets any smart gambler should avoid.

Bonus bets (or side bets) are never your friend. No matter how big the jackpot or returns are with side bets, they rarely pay out anywhere near actual odds. That said, these side bets can be a fun way to spend some singles.

If I sit down at a table and the dealer gives me a few singles to use on a side bet I’ll usually play once or twice and save the rest for tips. That satiates both the gambler and smart guy inside me. If I were a strict frugal gambler I’d always save the two dollars on the side bets but I enjoy the spice in my gambling…only just a little.

Craps is my favorite game in the casino with the ability to have one of the smallest house advantages and giving the best odds to gamble longer and, hopefully, win. Main Street Station in downtown Las Vegas offers 20x odds, which allows you to have less than .001 house advantage on pass line or come bets. Unfortunately, the casinos balance out the great potential odds for the gambler by littering the craps felt with bets that carry a much larger house advantage.

When playing craps it’s best to avoid the bets in the center area of the table, specifically the one roll bets. Yes, it’s fun yelling “lemme get a yo!” but the advantage is not on your side. I think it’s fine to throw down a “yo” bet in hopes an 11 comes up a few times but not very often. This can add a little spice to the game.

Every game in the casino offers some kind of side or bonus bet(s) with large house advantage that we should typically avoid. Baccarat has under a 2% house advantage when playing the banker or player but a tie holds a house advantage over 14%.

Pai Gow Poker generally has a low house advantage but the fortune side bet you’ll see in many casinos has a house advantage between 5% and 9%. There are many variations of blackjack with lots of side betting options. Stick to playing the hand. That should be enough action.

I always say to keep gambling simple. Find the bets you like and stick with them, especially if they carry a low house advantage compared to the fancy bets offered. If you need a little spice in your gambling just do it in moderation because, like French fries, too much is a bad thing.

Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at [email protected].

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