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It's the little things

30 January 2014

Sometimes little things can make a big difference in your day in the casino. With that in mind, every so often I like to focus on short tips, with a few little tidbits to help you get the most out of your gambling dollar.

For this edition of short tips, let’s focus on a few for roulette, video keno, baccarat and blackjack.

• A roulette player e-mailed to say he likes to stay with a hot number -- if a number is on the board three or more times in recent spins, he’ll keep betting it.

“I’ll bet the surrounding numbers, too,” he said. “If my number is 17, I’ll also bet 16 and 18.”

Problem: 16 and 18 surround 17 on the table layout, but not on the wheel. In fact, 17 and 18 are almost directly opposite each other on an American roulette wheel.

Here’s the tip: If the wheel is properly balanced, there is no tendency for hot numbers to stay hot. But if you still want to play near misses, look to the wheel, not the table felt. Surrounding 17 on a double-zero wheel are 32 and 5, not 16 and 18.

• A roulette playing-friend insisted she had a system for beating the game. "I only play the even-money bets," she said. "Red/black, odd/even, 1st 18/last 18. After two wins in a row, I double my bet. After my fourth in a row, I double again."

Five wins in a row gives a \$5 base player \$50 in wins instead of \$25 for a flat \$5 a spin. On the downside, two wins followed by a double-up loss leaves you at zero, instead of with a \$5 profit.

Here's the tip: In the long run, such betting progressions make no difference. They can lead to large winning sessions, but they also yield more frequent losing sessions than just betting the same amount on each spin.

• A man told a woman playing video keno it didn’t matter what numbers she picked. “It’s like a slot machine. When the machine’s ready to pay off, it’ll pay off. You just have to be in the right place in the right time.”

Now, keno odds are the same no matter what numbers you pick, but that’s not what he meant. He meant that regardless of what numbers she picked, if it was time for her to win, she’d win, and if it was time for her to lose she’d lose.

Here's the tip: The random number generator on video keno just generates the 20 numbers to be drawn. If the numbers you pick match the RNGs, you win. Your selections determine the outcome -- though there is no way to know in advance which you should pick.

• Baccarat is a game with a low house edge -- 1.17 percent if you’re betting on banker, 1.36 percent if you’re betting on player. Some casinos try to augment that a bit by adding a side bet, with the most popular being the Dragon Bonus.

You can bet the Dragon Bonus on either banker or player. You’re wagering that your side will either win with a natural -- 8 or 9 -- or that your side will win by four or more points. The widest margin 9-0, brings a 30-1 payoff.

Here's the tip: Though the player hand wins less often than banker, it wins by WIDE MARGINS more often. House edge on the Dragon Bonus is 2.7 percent on player, but 9.4 percent on Banker. If you’re riding the Dragon, avoid the banker side bet.

• A blackjack player I know told me about a puzzling experience. Sitting at third base, the last position to play before the dealer, he doubled down with ace-7 -- soft 18 -- with the dealer showing a 6.

"A guy at the other end of the table said, 'You're not a team player.' And the woman next to him said, 'If you're going to make plays like that, we don't want to play with you.' And they picked up their chips and left."

They apparently wanted him to stand, thinking he was taking the dealer’s bust card.
Here's the tip: Unless the other players are funding your bets, there’s no reason for you to make a bad play on the behalf of some mythical team. Make the play that’s best for your hand.

• My e-mail brought a question from a blackjack player. "I saw online that the house edge goes down when they use a continuous shuffling machine. Should I look for continuous shufflers?"

Michael Shackelford, on his wizardofodds.com site, calculates continuous shufflers do reduce the house edge by a tiny, tiny amount -- about two hundredths of a percent on a six-deck game. But the shufflers also speed the game up, giving the house edge more chances per hour to work against you.

Here's the tip: Speed favors whoever has the edge on the game, for most players the edge belongs to the house. Avoid automatic continuous shufflers. Your best deal comes on a hand-shuffled game.

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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.

Books by 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.