A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I read one of your old articles that explained betting opposites and trying to get your comps for free doesn’t work. You, or you and a partner, can’t bet both pass and don’t pass in craps or player and banker in baccarat, have them offset and get free comps because the bets aren’t really exact opposites.
That got me to wondering. Is that why the bets are set up that way? Would they be exact opposites if no comps were involved?
A. No, the bets are set up that way to give the house an edge.
In baccarat, the hit/stand rules lead to player to lose more often than it wins, and that’s enough to give the house its 1.24 percent edge on wagers that pay even money.
Banker wins whenever player loses and loses whenever player wins. In that respect, the banker bet is the exact opposite of the player bet.
If banker bets also paid even money, bettors would have the same 1.24 percent edge the house has on player.
Any casino offering that deal would find itself in the hole in big hurry. So the house charges a 5 percent commission on winning banker bets, giving the house a 1.06 percent edge. Banker bettors don’t bet the same deal the house gets against player even though their wins and losses come on the same hands.
Craps is a little different in that it tinkers with the frequency of winning rolls instead of charging a commission.
The even-money payoffs and the odds of winning combine to give the house a 1.41 percent edge against pass players. If don’t pass won whenever pass lost and lost whenever it won, then don’t pass players also would have that 1.41 percent edge.
One small change flips that. On the comeout, pass players win on 7 or 11 and lose on 2, 3 and 12. Don’t pass players lose on 7 or 11 and win on 2 or 3, but just push on 12. That’s enough to give the house its 1.36 percent edge.
It’s a benefit to the house that the ways in which those bets are not opposites combat any “free comps” system, but that’s not why the bets were set up that way. The differences are there because without them, players would have an edge on banker and don’t pass and casinos would lose money.
Q. When my wife and I go to the local casino, I earmark $100 for video poker play. The one we go to have 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker both on dollars and on quarters. It’s the best deal near me.
I’ve always heard that dollar machines pay more than quarters, but $100 is only 20 hands on dollars. Should I player dollars or quarters?
A. Let’s clear up a misconception first. Higher denomination slot machines usually return a higher percentage than lower denominations, but that’s not necessarily true in video poker. In video poker, the pay table determines the long-term payback percentage. A 9-6 Double Double Bonus machine returns the same percentage regardless of its coin denomination.
Your quarter and dollar machines all have a theoretical return of 98.98 percent with expert play.
Given your $100 bankroll, gambler’s ruin is a far bigger potential problem than payback percentage. On dollar machines, you’re starting with enough for only 20 hands. A cold streak doesn’t have to be very long to wipe you out. If it were my money, I’d be betting it on the quarter games and pretending the dollars didn’t even exist.