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# Even-money bets at roulette and back betting blackjack

22 August 2019

QUESTION: I know roulette doesn’t have the lowest house edge, but don’t the even-money bets like red or black and odd or even have the highest percentage of winners? You win almost half the time. It’s almost a coin flip.

ANSWER: I wouldn’t go so far as to call roulette almost a coin flip, and there are several games with higher percentages of winners for players.

If the roulette wheel had only numbers 1 through 36, with 18 red and 18 black, then red or black would be a coin flip with 50 percent winners on either side.

But a standard American double-zero wheel has 38 numbers. If you bet black, there aren’t 18 winners and 18 losers, there are 18 winners and 20 losers. The same goes for red.

Your share of winners on either side comes to 47.37%.

Should you find yourself a single-zero wheel, then even-money bets win on 48.65% of spins.

Compare that to baccarat, where banker bets wins 50.68% of decisions. The house had an edge because bettors have to pay a 5% commission on winning banker bets, but the bets win more than half the time.

The player bet in baccarat, with no commission, wins 49.32% of decisions.

In craps, pass bettors win 49.29% of decisions. Moving to the dark side, if you assume pushes on the comeout are left on the table and played to a decision, don’t pass bettors win 49.31% of decisions. And place bets on 6 or 8 are winners 49.24% of the time.

Precise numbers are variable in blackjack because of differences in the number of decks and whether the dealer hits soft 17, but basic strategy players win about 48% of hands.

So the short answer is no, roulette even-money bets don’t have the highest percentage of winners.

QUESTION: I had something happen I’d never seen in 30 years of playing blackjack. There were four players, including me, so there were empty spaces. But this guy came up and just stood there, watching the game.

After a few hands, he told the dealer he wanted to buy in and bet on my hand. The dealer asked me if that was OK, so apparently this was fine with the casino. It seemed strange to me, but I went along with it.

We got in six more hands before the shuffle and won three, including a blackjack, pushed once and lost two. So I guess everyone was happy.

He talked the whole time, but never tried to tell me to hit or stand.

ANSWER: What you experienced is called “back betting,” and it’s a lot more common overseas than in the United States. Some blackjack tables overseas even have back bet areas on the felt.

Seated players control the hands, though back bettors have options when the seated player doubles down or splits pair. On a double, back bettors can either double their bets, too, or opt out of the original bet. On split pairs, back bettors can bet on the slot or just let their original bet ride on the first hand.

Those rules aside, I have heard from readers who have played in Europe about vocal back bettors who insisted that the player with the biggest bet should control the strategy. I have no idea if that is common – I have no first-hand knowledge of this.

I have encountered a back bettor only once in the U.S., and I was not comfortable with it at all. I did not like the feeling of being responsible for somebody else’s wins and losses.
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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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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.