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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

24 February 2009

Q. In craps, I never play bets with high house edges because I read it in books. But I do not understand how it works. Can you explain how the percentage eats your bankroll in easy to understand examples?

A. I'm going to try not to get too math-y here, but casino games are all built on math, so a little number play is going to be necessary.

Let's take a couple of extreme examples. The house edge on any 7 is 16.67%, while the house edge on the place bet on 6 is only 1.52%.

What that means is that per \$100 wagered, on the average the house will keep 16.67% of your money when you bet on any 7, but only \$1.52 if you place 6.

Let's say you bet \$5 on any 7 in each of 36 rolls of the dice in which each possible combination comes up once. You risk a total of \$180. Thirty of those combinations are something other than 7, and you lose your money. On the six winners, you're paid at 4-1 odds. So after our perfect sequence of 36 rolls you have \$150 left — \$20 per winning roll in winnings, plus you get your \$5 wager back on each winner. Subtract the \$150 you have remaining from your original \$180, and you can see the house has kept \$30. Divide \$30 by \$180, then multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and you have your 16.67% house edge.

The place bet on 6 is different. For one thing, you want to bet in multiples of \$6 because it pays at 7-6 odds — on winning bets, for each \$6 you wager, you win \$7. For another, the only numbers that matter are 6s and 7s. You win if the shooter rolls a 6, and lose if the roll is a 7. In the 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice, five combinations are 6s, and six are 7s. So in that perfect sequence of 36 rolls, while betting \$5 on any 7 puts \$180 at risk, on the average someone betting \$6 per decision on 6 will only have \$66 in wagers decided.

On the six 7s, the place bettor loses. On the each of the five 6s, the bettor gets \$7 in winnings and keeps the \$6 wager. So after having \$66 in wagers decided, the player has \$65 remaining. The house profit is \$1. Divide the \$1 by the \$66 in wagers, then multiply to convert to percent, and you get the house edge of 1.52%.

Aside from the percentages, note the bottom line here. Per 36 rolls of the dice, the player betting \$5 on any 7 has lost \$30, and the player placing the 6 for \$6 has lost just a buck. Bucking the higher house edge costs you a bunch of money.

In the short term, anything can happen. The shooter can roll several 7s in a short time, and you can have a winning session on a bad bet, while the good bets lose on all those 7s. Overall, though, the percentages will hold up, and you give yourself a lot better chance to win with less risk of large, fast losses by sticking to the bets with lower house edges.

Q. Do automatic shufflers favor the players, or the house? I see casinos with some tables with shufflers, and others where the dealer shuffle the cards, and I can't decide if the shufflers are a customer service thing or if they change the game.

A. Automatic shufflers mainly change the game by speeding it up. Faster play favors whoever has the mathematical edge on the game, and that's almost always the house. Blackjack card counters good enough to get an edge might find benefit in automatic shufflers as long as they're not of the continuous shuffle variety. Average players are best off with a hand-shuffled game.

Q. I need a definitive answer. Players and dealers all moan at me when I split 10s, but my friend who plays a lot of blackjack says he does it once in a while. Should you split or stand?

A. Ask your friend if he counts cards. When there is an extremely high proportion of high cards left in the deck — a high-low true count of plus 4 or more when the dealer shows a 6 or plus 5 or more when the dealer shows a 5 — the situation favors splitting 10s. Without extreme counts, the best play is to stand on your 20.

One other caveat: In certain tournament sessions when you need to get extra money on the table to play catch-up, it becomes necessary to split 10s.

If you don't count cards and you're not playing in a tournament, you should never split 10s.

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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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Winning Tips for Casino Games
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.