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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

12 July 2012

Q. My husband and I just starting going to the casino, once a month or so. My question is, why aren't there more roulette tables in casinos? We think it's fun, and it seems like it gives you as good a chance to win as anything, especially when you bet on red or black. One's going to win and one's going to lose, so that's pretty even, right?

A. Each casino sets its game mix to optimize its profits and keep players coming back. If there was a bigger demand for roulette at a high enough betting level, there would be more wheels.

The high enough betting level is a key. Roulette moves more slowly than most table games. It takes time for that wheel to spin and players to get their bets down, and it takes time for the dealer to clear away losing chips and pay the winners. Since each player at a roulette wheel gets his or her own color chips, the chips have to be sorted and stacked.

The result is that there are more rolls of the dice per hour in craps and more hands per hour in blackjack than there are spins of the roulette wheel. Roulette earns its place on the floor because most players make multiple bets per spin, and the house edge is higher than it is on blackjack or on the best bets at craps. To expand its space, though, roulette would need more demand from players willing make those multiple bets.

As for the house edge, roulette isn't really a pretty even bet. When you bet red or black, one's going to win and one's going to lose -- except when the ball lands in 0 or 00. Then both red and black lose.

That doesn't make for a game that's pretty even. It makes for a game that has one of the highest house edges at the tables. Payoffs are such that this would be an even game if there were 36 numbers on the wheel. But there aren't. There are 38 -- 1 through 36, plus 0 and 00. The house has a 5.26% edge -- it'll keep \$5.26 of every \$100 you wager in the long run. There is one exception. On the five-number combination bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, the house edge soars to 7.89%.

The house edge is lower -- 2.7% -- on wheels with a single 0, but those are not common in the United States.

Q. I like to play craps, but I don't have the money to take the odds all the time. I'm no fool, so I don't get caught up in the propositions or the hard ways. I usually just make a pass line bet, then place the 6 and the 8. I know I'd probably be better off if I just made the pass bet and used the money I put on 6 and 8 for odds instead, but I play for fun and it's more exciting to have three numbers working at once.

I got to talking with another player, and he said that I should make a pass bet and follow it with two come bets to get three numbers working, instead of placing 6 and 8. That's the way I'd play if I could afford to take odds on everything, but since I can't, isn't it pretty much a wash to play pass-6-8 versus pass plus two comes?

A. Both are good, solid methods for playing when you can't afford to take the free odds. You'll get a slightly lower house edge with the pass plus two comes. House edges are 1.41% on pass, the same 1.41% on come, and 1.52% on placing either 6 or 8. Despite the higher house edge, some players like the place bets simply because 6 and 8 are the most frequently rolled numbers other than 7, and the players like to have those numbers working.

There is one more factor weighing in favor of the pass-come method: It takes more rolls to decide a come bet than a place bet, giving the house edge fewer chances per hour to work against you.

The place bets essentially skip the come-out portion of a come bet, establishing the 6 and 8 as your points. With no come-out equivalent, place bets are decided in fewer rolls, increasing your exposure to the house edge.

Your expected average loss per hour is lower with your friend's method, but it's really up to what you want out of the playing experience.

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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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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.