John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. Craps question here. I can see that placing 6 and 8 is a better bet than the field. The listed house edge is 1.52 percent on 6 and 8 and 2.78 percent when the field pays 3-1 on 12, 2-1 on 2 and even money on the other numbers.

But isn’t the field a better bet than placing 5 or 9? I know guys who place 5 and 9 who wouldn’t even think about the field. The house edge on those place bets is 4 percent, and that’s higher than the field.

A. For starters, I wouldn’t place 5 or 9. There are better bets with lower edges.

But if you’re debating a choice between placing those numbers and playing the field, there’s more than the house edge to consider.

The field is a one-roll bet. You win or lose on every roll. If you want to be in action on every roll, then you must repeatedly replenish wagers.

Place bets are multi-roll bets. You win if your number rolls before a 7 turns up. You lose if the shooter rolls a 7 before your number. If the roll is any other number, it doesn’t affect your bet.

With 5 or 9, it takes an average of 3.6 rolls to decide a place bet. With that in mind, the house edge per roll is 1.11 percent. And since the field is decided on every roll, the house edge per roll is 2.78 percent.

If you had $5 in action on either 5 or 9 and $5 on the field for 360 rolls with average results, you’d be making 360 separate wagers on the field for a total of $1,800. But you’d be making only 100 separate wagers on your field bet, for a total of $500. Your average loss would be $50.04 on the field, but only $20 on the place bets despite the higher house edge.

You don’t have to bet on the field on every roll. If you like it as part of a mix of bets to me made occasionally … well, there are worse options.

I wouldn’t make field bets, and I wouldn’t place 5 or 9 either. I like to stick with pass, come, don’t pass, don’t come, odds, and, when short-bankrolled, place bets on 6 or 8. There are enough available options that I see no need to settle for higher house-edge wagers.

Q. Do you remember the tic-tac-toe chickens? They used to show up at different casinos for short times as promotions. If you beat the chicken, you won a big cash prize.

Of course, the chickens always won or tied. Tic tac toe is an easy game and the player going first should never lose. The chickens went first and had that edge, but are they really smart enough to know the moves? How did the chickens get so good?

A. I played against a chicken at the Tropicana in Las Vegas in the early 2000s and settled for a tie. People were lined up down a sidewalk, waiting for their chance at a $10,000 prize that they weren’t going to win.

It was good fun, though. I played a little game of staredown with the chicken, but to no avail. I asked a handler if he ever lost. She said once, several months before.

My understanding is that the device the chicken pecks has a light flash with the correct move. If the chicken then pecks the right spot, it’s rewarded with a few grains of corn.

Chicken feed can be a powerful incentive. Mistakes are rare.