Casino bets: the good, bad and apocalyptic

Feb 3, 2009 5:01 PM
by Dale S. Yeazel, Special to GT |

As we sludge through this economic recession, the old adage, "The numbers don’t lie," has never been truer, especially in the casino. And for casino players, the key numbers are the house percentages – the casino’s edge (expressed as a percentage) on all the myriad of bets.

While even the most naïve bettor can get lucky and hit it big while playing the casino’s worst game, logic demands making bets that have the smallest house edge – these bets pay as close as possible to their true odds.

The games that offer the best bets are craps, roulette and baccarat. Blackjack and pai gow also offer the possibility of limiting the house edge, but these are variable percentage games in which a player’s skill will determine the eventual edge.

The craps table is unique in that it offers some of the casino’s best bets as well as some of the worst. You’ll see some of them in the section below that lists the casino’s 10 worst bets.

But first the good news: Here are the casino’s 10 best bets.

The Best

1. Taking the odds on craps’ pass line or come bet and laying odds on a don’t pass or don’t come bet. The house edge here is zero! That’s why they call them "free odds" or "true odds."

2. The banker bet in baccarat with a house edge of 1.190%. If you had to make one bet to double your money, this would be your choice since the bettor is favored to win. Of course the 5% commission makes up for the slight winning advantage.

3. The player bet in baccarat at 1.340%.

4. Even-money bets on single-zero roulette when the house takes only half of the bet when the zero appears. Don’t ask me where to find a single-zero roulette wheel (a few casinos in Las Vegas have them), but when you do the house edge is only 1.351%.

5. The don’t pass or don’t come in craps. Whether or not the house bars the two or the twelve on the come-out roll, the house edge is 1.403%.

6. The pass line bet in craps at 1.414%.

7. Place bets on the six or eight in craps at 1.515%.

8. The buy bets or lay bets on the four or ten in craps when the 5% juice (commission) is only charged for winning bets, resulting in a house edge of 1.667%.

9. The buy bets or lay bets on the five or nine in craps when the 5% juice is only charged for winning bets, at which the edge is 2%.

10. All bets on a single-zero roulette table have a house edge of 2.703%.

The Worst

1. One-roll bets on the 2 and 12 on the craps tables that pay only 30-for-1 (same as 29-to-1), and the one roll bets on the 3 and 11 that pay only 15-for-1 (14-to-1) both have a house edge of a whopping 16.667%. Bets on the under/over 7 and one-roll bets on the 7 (big red) are equally bad at 16.667%.

2. The "tie" bet in baccarat has a house edge of 14.050%.

3. One-roll bets on the 2 and 12 in casinos that pay 31-for-1 (same as 30-to-1) have an edge of 13.889%.

4. One-roll bets on the 3 and 11 in casinos that pay 16-for-1 (same as 15-to-1) have an edge of 11.111%. An equal tariff is levied on the hard 4 and 10, and one-roll bets for any craps.

5. Did you know that a bet on the hard 6 or 8 is no better than a bet on the big 6 or 8 in craps? The house edge on either is 9.091%.

6. The "top section" bets in double-zero roulette games (0, 00, 1, 2 and 3) have a house edge of 7.895%.

7. A place bet on the 4 and 10 in craps has an edge of 6.667%, unless of course, you fail to bet in the correct five-dollar units. A three-dollar place bet on the 4 or 10 nets the house an 11.111% advantage, unless they use quarters or halves so they can pay you more than $5.

8. All bets on a standard double-zero roulette table (except the top section) grind away at a 5.263% clip. Coincidentally, this is the same edge as the field bets on a craps table, which only pay 2-to-1 for a roll of 12.

9. The buy bets on any number on the craps table that charge the bettor the juice in advance cost the player 4.762%.

10. Place bets on the 5 or 9 and lay bets against the 6 or 8 (whether or not the juice is collected when the bet is made) both have a house edge of 4%.

Caveat Emptor

"Let the buyer beware" is the best advice anyone can give you concerning the choices to make in a casino.

Hedging systems, money management betting systems and tracking systems will do nothing for the gambler in the long run. The house percentage on the bets you make is the only true test to the soundness of your play.

(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" (this article is a partial excerpt from it’s glossary) and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." They are E-books on CD-Rom available at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers General Store in Las Vegas.)