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What’s In A Name?

The worst bets in the casino often have the most appealing names

By Frank Scoblete

 Players love these bets partially because they sound like so much fun. They make it sound like you’ve got a shot at winning some darn good money, even though the odds are very much stacked against you.


For some odd reason, the best bets in the casino often have the dullest-sounding names. If it sounds like a boring bet, chances are it’s got a low house edge. Let me give some examples.

In baccarat, you have the boring-sounding Bank bet (1.17 percent house edge) and the drab Player bet (1.36 percent house edge). At craps, there’s the Pass Line bet (1.41 percent house edge), the Don’t Pass bet (1.40 percent house edge), the Come bet (1.41 percent house edge), the Don’t Come bet (1.4 percent house edge) and the truly lackluster-sounding Odds bet (no house edge). The two best wagers at Sic Bo are the Big and the Small, which both having a 2.8 percent house edge.

Check out blackjack. The breakthrough in this game came when a computer was used to come up with “basic strategy,” which is a set of rules that tells you the mathematically correct play to make in every situation. Unfortunately, those two words combine to create a very unexciting phrase. The idea of using “basic strategy holds no allure for players; the sounds are as bland as can be. Meanwhile, the most exciting strategy discovery of all time for blackjack players was “card counting,” which sounds like a total snooze. The other words used in blackjack are equally dull: stand, split, hit and double down.

Yet using basic strategy at blackjack and standing, splitting, hitting and doubling down correctly makes blackjack a very close game between the players and the casinos. In most cases, the house edge hovers around one-half percent, give or take, depending on the rules. But the game just doesn’t sound that interesting if we base our opinion on its vocabulary.

Now, compare the above words with these ones.

From craps: Yo, yo-eleven, snake eyes, post holes, hardways, horn, horn-high-yo, Big Red, world, whirl, C&E, hop, box cars, Big 6, Big 8, uptown, downtown, and across the board.

These are exciting names used to describe bad bets. All of these bets come with edges between 9 percent and 17 percent. That means your expectation is to lose between $9 and $17 per $100 wagered. The good bets come in with expected losses of between 50 cents and $2.80 per $100 wagered. That’s a huge difference.

The newest and best sounding craps bet is the Fire Bet—but it will burn through your bankroll in short order. Why? Because the Fire Bet comes in with a deadly house edge of between 20 and 25 percent, depending on the payouts. Just think: craps players are making a bet where their expected loss is between $20 and $25 per $100 wagered. The Fire Bet is probably worse than the worst slot machine you could ever find inside a casino. It’s a rotten bet, but a great name—and that could be part of the reason why it’s catching on. This terrible bet is now offered at craps tables across the country.

Here are some truly exciting names for new bets at the game of blackjack: Royal match, triple sevens, multiple action, and blackjack switch. However, all of these bets (and all of the new blackjack side bets) are bad for players. But that doesn’t diminish their popularity. Players love these bets partially because they sound like so much fun. They make it sound like you’ve got a shot at winning some darn good money, even though the odds are very much stacked against you.

In roulette, we get the straight up, the street, and the corner. They all have the same house edge on their individual components, which is 5.26 percent on the American wheel and 2.7 percent on the European wheel. One bet has a particularly cunning and dangerous sounding name: the Five Number Bet. But it’s certainly the worst bet on the American roulette wheel. The house edge is 7.89 percent. That’s an expected loss of $7.89 per $100 wagered.

Many of the carnival games with high house edges sound the most exciting: Caribbean Stud (va-va-voom!), Let It Ride (hot), Casino War (chilling), Russian Roulette (deadly), Red Dog (frisky). Compare those with: craps (disgusting), 21 (yawn), and blackjack (a hard stick cops used in the old days).

So why do the games, strategies and bets with the highest house edges have the most alluring monikers in the casinos? Obviously, the substance of the carnival games can bang hard on your bankroll with their speed and edges, and the strategies and bets with all those catchy names leave something to be desired. The name becomes the primary reason for playing the game, or using the strategy, or making the bets.

If you’ve played craps, you know that many players make a big show of throwing out wonderfully named bad bets, and they make these bets with their own personal flourish. They spin the chip and flip it up into the air, and as it descends they bellow out: “I’ll take a yo!” or “Give me a horn!” or “Hard eight, my man!” Somehow they must get a feeling of massive power when making these bets, despite the fact that their bankroll is being eroded.

But at the end of the day, casino players are looking for excitement, and if the executives believe that players will be lured into making foolish bets with catchy, exciting names, then you can expect just that. Savvy players, however, are not fooled by the names of bets. They study the games and make the best bets possible. The names might be dull, but winning never gets boring.


Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines, which features advantage-play slots; and Casino Craps: Shoot to Win, which comes with a DVD showing unedited controlled throws. Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players and Beat Blackjack Now are all available from, at your favorite bookstore, or by mail-order by calling 1-800-944-0406. You can also call that number for a free brochure.  

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