John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. My brother-in-law told me that having options in games favors players, as long as the player know the best way to use them.

What I want to know is how the option to bet on 00 in roulette favors the player. Doesn’t it favor the player if the option to bet on 00 is removed and you have a single-zero game instead?

A. When I’ve written about game options favoring players who know how to use them, it has been specifically about blackjack. It’s better for players to have the option of doubling on any first two cards instead of having double downs restricted to hard 10 or 11, as some casinos do. It’s better for the player to have the option to surrender, or the option of splitting pairs up to three times for a total of four hands instead of fewer splits allowed.

If you don’t know basic strategy for using those options, then they don’t work in your favor.

For example, in a typical six-deck, dealer hits soft 17 game, it’s to your advantage to double down on Ace-4 — soft 15 — if the dealer’s up card is a 6. If you double, your average profit per dollar of your original wager is 20 cents, while if you just hit, the profit per dollar is only 12.6 cents.

However, if you have Ace-4 and the dealer has 7, the better play is to hit, with an average profit of 36.4 cents per dollar vs. 17.7 cents for doubling.

A player who knows how to use the option is better off by judicially doubling Ace-4 vs. 6 but not against 7. A player who doesn’t know how to use the option can cost himself or herself money by doubling at the wrong time.

That does not apply to games where adding options simply means offering bad bets. The house edge on single-zero roulette is 2.7 percent. Adding 00, as on most American wheels, raises that to 5.26 percent on most bets and 7.89 percent on the 0-00-1-2-3 combo. The option to bet on 00, as you put it, helps no one.

Likewise, in craps, the house edge on any 7 is 16.67 percent. The best option is to avoid it.

That’s fundamentally different from blackjack, where added options don’t mean adding high house-edge bets. In that specific game, the options help players who know the best ways to use them.

Q. I have a beginners luck story for you. My husband and I had never gambled before, not even at card games at home. Not even on the lottery. But someone finally convinced us to go with them.

”You’ll see, it’s fun,” the wife said. “There’s a good steakhouse, we can have a nice dinner, and you don’t have to know anything to play the slots.”

We just followed them around, and I stopped at a Monopoly game. Monopoly I’d played before, and that board on top drew me in. It wasn’t even five minutes, and there was this fanfare and the board lit up. These dice started rolling and moving me around the board, and I kept winning properties. At the end, I even won Boardwalk!

It was almost the first bet I’d made in my life, and I’d won more than $500! Exciting!

We started going with them more often, and probably play once a month now. We’re careful and never lose very much, but we always have a good time.

A. Thanks for the story, and congratulations. The losses will come, too, but I hope there are many big wins in your future.

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