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Casinos' best bets for 2009 -- Take it to the 9's

Dec 30, 2008 5:05 PM
by GT Staff |

The advent of a new year usually brings a wave of resolutions, and casino players might be prudent to consider one on how they spend their money.

For instance, some games, such as the penny slots might be fun and entertaining, but the house edge has skyrocketed in recent years, eclipsing 10 percent for many games.

The house edge can be defined as the percentage of every wager that is lost to the casino. Conversely, the payback is the return paid to the player on every wager.

For instance, if a bet had even money odds (chances are 1-to-1), the house edge would be zero if the player won $1 for every $1 bet. Similarly, the payback would be 100 percent.

Simply put, the house edge determines how fast the game will take your money, and if you’re interested in stretching your bankroll rather than simply fretting over it, consider playing among the Top 9 Casino Bets for 2009.

Blackjack: The most popular table game still offers the lowest house edge, even with the lower 6-5 payoff for a natural. But players need to be disciplined and practice basic strategy. Nevada revenue reports indicate casinos hold about 10 percent at the blackjack tables, which means most players are either recreational players or simply uneducated as to how to play correctly.

For those who know when to hit, stand, double and split, the house edge in blackjack is slightly less than 1 percent. Certain side or proposition bets, such as Gaming Entertainment’s Double Draw Blackjack, reduce the house edge even further.

Baccarat: The casino’s least understood game is one of its best bets, which is probably why it is the game of choice for many high rollers. The game is simple to learn and doesn’t involve any strategy. In fact, it doesn’t involve any decision making, except for choosing either the "player" or "bank" bet. The bank bet has a slightly lower house edge, about 1.06 percent, than the player bet at 1.24 percent. In either case, at about 1.20 percent, the baccarat bet makes sense, even if you aren’t betting purple chips.

Craps: Despite the complicated table layout, craps is easy if you stick to the basic (and best) bets on the pass/don’t pass line. (See craps story on page 1.) The pass and don’t pass bets have a house edge of around 1.35 percent, which can be reduced when the player takes the "odds bet."

Video poker: Like blackjack, video poker contains an element of skill in order to get the best return. It also requires playing the "best" machines, which include Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker, all of which must have a full-pay schedule. Under these circumstances, the house edge can be as low as 2 percent.

Pai Gow and Pai Gow Poker: These are favorites among Asian gamblers, so it’s no surprise that they offer nice opportunities for winning. The house edge Pai Gow is slightly better than Pai Gow Poker, but each has a house edge under 2 percent.

Roulette: Don’t fall out of your recliner on this one. American roulette, with its double zero wheel has a stingy house edge of 5.26 percent. But you cut the edge in half to 2.59 percent when playing a single-zero roulette wheel, which are available at many casinos in Las Vegas.

Sports bets: Obviously, picking games requires handicapping skills, and the 10 percent "vigorish" charged by Nevada sports books is a tough house edge to overcome. But all sports books held only 6 percent last year. And the amount held on football and baseball bets was even less, so there is a margin to win if you can come up with educated selections.

Poker: Once again, skill is the driver of this game, even though luck plays a part. Skilled poker players only deal with their opponents; the casino or poker room administers a 3 percent "rake" of the pot for its troubles. If you’ve ever watched players in a poker room, you’ll notice they can sit virtually all day with a single stack of chips. That’s a testament to their ability to play wisely, and the "slow-burn" nature of the game.

Bingo: Don’t laugh. Admittedly, this is nothing more than a lottery-style game, but there is always a winner (even though it may not be you), and the casino often returns 100 percent and more of the bets to the players. That alone, can be worth the price of admission.