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14 November 2006

"I love it, but it doesn't love me," he said. "I know how to lose at every bet on the table. I'm a seven magnet. If I cover all the numbers (with place bets on 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10), up comes the loser 7. If I bet the hard ways, next roll is a loser 7. If I bet any craps or yo-leven, it doesn't take a 7 to beat me, but that's what comes up nonetheless."

I suggested to Jim that he forget most of what he knew. Regardless of how often the 7s were coming up --- probably no more than would be normal by random chance --- he was making too many bad bets.

Of all the wagers he was making, the only ones that looked viable to me were placing the 6 and 8, with house edges of 1.52 percent. House edges on the others ranged from 4 to 11.11 percent.

Ugh.

I asked Jim why he would make such bets, when much better ones are available. I like to stick to a pass line bet, backed with as much free odds as I can afford, followed by two come bets, also backed with free odds, so I have three numbers working. I keep the pass and come bets to the table minimum, so most of my wagers are invested in the free odds, which have no house edge. House edge on the pass-odds and come-odds combinations starts at 0.8 percent with single odds --- the odds bet is the same size as your pass or come wager --- and declines to 0.326 percent with 5x odds, 0.184 percent with 10x odds and 0.021 percent at 100x odds.

If I'm short bankrolled and can't afford the odds that day, I'll stick to the pass line, along with place bets on 6 and 8, the most frequently rolled place numbers, and the ones with the lowest house edge.

That's how Jim has been playing for the last three years.

"I win much more often than I used to," he told me. "I have my share of losers, of course, but you tell me that's normal because there's still a house edge.

"My bankroll and I are much happier, but sometimes I miss a little spark. Is there anything I can do to spice up my game without going back to the bad old bets?"

I find cutting the house edge to the bone spice enough for myself, but Jim needed more. I outlined a few possibilities:

**Buying the 4 or 10 can be a viable bet if the house takes a commission only on winning wagers. When you "buy" a number instead of placing it, you pay the house a 5 percent commission. In return the house pays winners at true odds. Instead of winning wagers on 4 or 10 being paid at 9-5 odds, they're paid at the true odds of 2-1.

Usually, buying 4 or 10 cuts the house edge only from 6.67 percent to 4.67 percent. But if the house takes its commission only on winners, the house edge drops to 1.67 percent, almost as good as placing 6 or 8.

**Sample the Dark Side. If you can stand the heat from other players who take it personally when you bet the other side, betting don't pass or don't come, and laying the odds cuts the house edge to as low as it can go. At single odds, the house edge on don't pass-odds or don't come-odds is 0.68 percent, and drops to 0.23 percent at 5x odds, 0.12 percent at 10x odds and 0.014 percent at 100x odds.

**Put bets on 6 or 8 can be better than placing 6 or 8, if you have sufficient bankroll and are betting large enough. A put bet is a pass line bet made after the shooter has already established a point. Normally, that's a bad move --- it means you've passed up the comeout roll with eight ways to win and only four ways to lose. But you can back that put bet with free odds, and that can bring the house edge down below the 1.52 percent on placing 6 or 8.

The breakeven point is 5x odds, where the house edge on a put bet on 6 or 8 backed by odds drops is that familiar 1.52 percent. The house edge drops to 0.83 percent with 10x odds, and 0.09 percent with 100x odds.

If you're going to make a \$30 place bet on 6, the house edge is the same as if you made it a \$5 put bet backed with \$25 in odds. If you can take more than \$25 in odds, then the house edge is lower on the put-odds combination.

"Of all that, what would you do?" Jim asked.

Stick with my original plan, I told him.

Jim laughed. "Maybe I'll try some of the others. I'll let you know how it goes."

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

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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.