A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. How often do you actually win on the pass line? You're the underdog no matter what the point is, and when it's 4 or 10, you're a heavy underdog, right? Why does everyone insist it's such a good bet?
A. The house edge on pass is 1.41 percent. Payoffs are even money, so that tells us the house wins 1.41 percent more often than players.
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We can take that 1.41, divide by two to get 0.705, add the result to 50 percent to get house wins and subtract by 50 percent to get player wins. The house wins about 50.705 percent of decisions, and players win about 49.295 percent.
It is true that players are heavier underdogs once a point is established. If the point is 6 or 8, the house wins 54.5 percent of decisions and players win 45.5 percent. The house wins 60 percent to the players' 40 percent with 5 or 9 as the point, and the house wins 66.7 percent to 33.3 percent for players.
However, one-third of all pass bets are decided on the comeout, and there players have a huge advantage. Players win on the six ways to roll 6 and the two ways to roll 11, while the house wins on the one way to roll 12, one way to roll 2 and two ways to roll 3.
That's eight potential player wins vs. four possible house wins. When the bet is decided on the comeout, players win 66.7 percent of comeout decisions vs. 33.3 percent for the house. Percentages are the opposite of those on point 4 or 10, but weigh more heavily in the overall average because comeout decisions come twice as often as point 4 and 10 combined.
When all possible results are factored, players win just a tad less than 49.3 percent of pass line decisions.
Q. About players not knowing what to do with soft hands, dealers are part of this sometimes, you know. There are some who know the game, there are some who just keep quiet, and there are some who give really bad advice.
One dealer I had didn't exactly hand out advice on every hand, but he did like to talk. I had a soft 18 against his 10, and I signaled to hit. He kid of did a double take, didn't say anything, then gave me a 3 for a 21 that beat his 20.
He said, "You got me that time, but I don't know about hitting 18. Could lose a lot of money, giving up 18."
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I just shrugged it off, but a little later, another player had soft 18 against 10, and this time the player asked. "You didn't like his play before. You're saying I should stand on this?"
The dealer said, "I see a lot of hands, but I don't see a lot of players win by hitting 18." I put in my 2 cents: "I bet you do see a lot of players stand on soft 18 and lose to your 20."
Most of the table laughed, but the player who asked took the dealer's advice and stood, and lost the hand.
A. I've had astute dealers who give players good advice and dealers who were weak on strategy and gave advice anyway. Most of all, though, I've had dealers who don't offer advice at all. The house doesn't need to have players blame losses on bad advice from dealers.
Anyone who plays very often should learn basic strategy and not rely on help from the dealer or other players.