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# How Low Rollers Can Play Longshots for Fun and Profit

3 March 1997

Longshots are bets with high payoffs - counterbalanced by correspondingly low probabilities of being won. Seasoned gamblers often smirk at them as "sucker bets." For two reasons. First, solid citizens can be seduced by the thought they're only one wager away from big bucks; they don't realize that's like saying Earth is only one rocket away from the planet Mars. And second, most longshots have mammoth margins for the gregarious guys and gals who run the games; this, because the prize is usually much less than what the laws of probability predict will be bet in winning it over a long time period.

Even so, you can have fun playing the longshots at casino tables. Without pouring vast sums into the abyss. And simultaneously assuring yourself an attractive 60-40 chance of breaking even or earning a profit. Is there a catch? Of course there is... we're discussing gambling joints, not philanthropic foundations. But, let me tell you the good part before explaining the downside.

Say you go to a craps table with \$5 and toss it all on "any seven." If you win, you'll be paid 4-to-1, keeping your original \$5 and collecting an additional \$20. The probability this will happen is a low six out of 36, or 16.67 percent.

Suppose, instead, you bought five \$1 chips and bet them on "any seven," one at a time. Your strategy is to play until you win once, or lose the whole \$5. Scoring on the first bet would net you \$4. Losing the first and winning the second would net you \$3. And so on to the fifth bet, where a win would bring you back to square-one by recovering the \$4 you lost on the first four tries.

Doing this, what's the probability you'll win before your \$5 is gone, breaking even or garnering up to \$4 profit? It turns out to be 59.81 percent.

Here are the comparable figures for some other common longshots at the casino tables with this mode of play.
Craps: Start with \$8 and bet \$1 on "any craps." You have a 61.02 percent probability of breaking even or earning up to \$7.
Craps: Start with \$16 and bet \$1 on three or 11. You have a 59.93 percent chance of breaking even or earning up to \$15.
Craps: Start with \$31 and bet \$1 on two or 12. You have a 58.24 percent chance of breaking even or earning up to \$30.
Roulette: Start with \$36 and bet \$1 on any single number at a "double zero" table. You have a 61.71 percent chance of breaking even or earning up to \$35.
Sic bo: Start with \$61 and bet \$1 on four or 17. You have a 57.39 percent chance of breaking even or earning up to \$60.

This approach offers an exciting casino experience with a good chance at a small profit for a modest buy-in. It won't make you rich, though, if that's your sole goal. Rising profits imply longer odds and therefore larger initial stakes and lengthier sessions. For instance, betting \$1 a round on 1-1-1 at sic bo gives you 56.82 percent chance of breaking even or earning up to \$180, but you have to start with \$181 and be prepared to play 181 rounds - four or five hours.

Even choosing a bet in the practical range, this longshot strategy doesn't represent a fourth dimensional warp where the math governing the usual universe is suspended. And, it certainly isn't some secret the "casino bosses don't want you to know." The catch in the strategy is that you have a 40 percent chance of losing your entire buy-in, versus a 60 percent chance of winning a disproportionately lesser amount.

Still, a series of minimum bets on longshots gives you a way to enjoy the action at the tables with a moderate bankroll, typically less than you might feed into a slot machine. You can play for a reasonable time. You'll often find yourself rubbing elbows with a few real high rollers. And you get a good shot at a profit you'll brag about when you get home. Sumner A Ingmark, the Tennyson of the tables, put it this way:

Frequently making a moderate score,
Beats coming close to, but missing, lots more.

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Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.