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Playing it safe is good

By Frank Scoblete


If given a choice between a high house-edge bet that brings in a large amount of money should it win or a low house edge bet that brings in a comparative trickle, which choice would you make? Take the craps bet of Yo-Eleven, which is a single-roll bet that the next number will be an 11. If it wins, you are paid 15 to one. Bet $10 on that and you can win $150. That is some big win.

Of course, the house edge on the Yo-Eleven is a coincidental and an un-coincidentally large 11.11 percent (now that is symmetry). You are paying for the large possible payout.

Put in financial terms, for every $10 you bet on the Yo-Eleven, your expectation over some period of time will be to lose $1.11. Make that $100 wagered and the loss is $11.1 1. You see the Yo-Eleven pays off at 15 to one but its real probability is one in 18 or odds of 17 to one. The casino is not paying the proper amount in terms of real odds; if it did then the win would be $170 for a $10 bet, not $150.

Casinos would have a difficult time staying in business if they paid off every bet based on their true odds and casinos are in the money-making business which is not odd at all. I hope you are not surprised by this. There are some players (I know you won’t believe this) that think the casinos win money because they are luckier than the players.

Now what would be a good bet, as in a relatively safe bet, where the payoff is not so great but the house edge is quite low? Let us take the Pass Line bet at craps. Bet $10 on the Pass Line with its 1.41 percent edge and your expectation will be to lose 14 cents – yes, 14 cents! – over a period of time. Use $1 O0 as the wager, the expected loss is a (mere) $1.41.

In short, the Pass Line in any given session gives the player a decent chance to come home with some money. In the casino scheme of things, a 1.41 percent edge is quite, quite low. But – and this “but” is the BIG “but” – the payoff for the bet is merely even-money. Bet $10, you win $10.

The house will win 251 decisions; the player will win 244 decisions – that seven-decision difference creates the house edge of 1 .41 percent. That is not a bad game. In fact, the Pass Line is a safe bet.

In the above case, the house is not paying you based on false percentages; instead it is just winning more decisions. Can you live with the idea that you are somewhat close to a 50/50 decision (a 25.1 to a 24.4 decision)? I can happily live with that. Over time – and the time is not as long as most players think — losing $1.41 per $1 O0 wagered is not so bad.

Why don’t most craps players want to do this? Why do they prefer to make those longshot bets? Craps is a game of passion, perhaps more so than any other game in the casino, and when passions are exploding after a few good rolls by the same shooter, and the screams, clapping hands and howls enter the heads of players, there is a tendency to go (how shall I put this?) berserk. People who used to be “safe” players will go “aII-out” to make a huge profit and to do that calls for those overarching big profit high house-edge bets.

The good times at craps can train – yes, literally train – players to go in for the big action, the large house-edge action, in the hopes that big wins are in the offing. And what else does that do? It makes those bets a staple for players, even when shooter after shooter sevens- out time and again before any inkling of a long roll.

Just watch a craps game and let me know if I am right. (Of course I am right. My wife the Beautiful AP says l judge the intelligence of people based on whether they agree with me. Well, am I right or not?) Why else would players make such difficult bets to win and to make their playing careers such big losers instead of making bets that make a game pretty darn close? Maybe it is the hope of heaven on earth; the hope the gods will shine on the player and give him or her a victory from above.

Safe is a close game; unsafe is not a close game. That is fact. Close is best because close gives you the real shot at beating the casinos, maybe not in the long run, but more often than those who let it all “hang out.” I agree that huge wins can be delightful but the cost for those delights can be steep indeed.

Visit Frank’s web site at . Frank’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.


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