John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

Some casino questions have no answers, at least none that the askers want to hear.

Take the novice roulette player who asked recently, "Which is better, red or black?"

I explained that neither is better, that both give you the same chance to win. There are 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers. On a double-zero wheel, there's an 18 in 38 chance red will win, an 18 in 38 chance black will win and a 2 in 38 chance one of the zeroes will turn up to make losers of both red and black.

The player responded, "But you didn't tell me which one to bet."

No, I didn't. I can explain the odds, but you have to make the choice.

I've been asked other "which is better?"-type questions. They almost always lead to a short explanation before leaving it up to the player to make a choice.

Here are a few I've been asked multiple times.

"Which is better, table games or slots?"

My answer to this one has evolved. When I began writing about gaming, I'd point out that table games give you a better shot to win and leave it at that.

The house edges of about half a percent against a basic strategy player in blackjack, 1.41 percent on the pass line in craps or 2.01 percent on the ante-bet combo in Three Card Poker are much lower than the 10-to-15 percent on penny slots or even the 5-to-7 percent on dollar slots.

However, player budgets and the entertainment factor on slot machines now lead me to hedge my answer. If you have fun on the slots and value that more than the lower house edge on tables, then for you, slots may provide the better experience.

"Which is better, blackjack or craps?"

There's not a lot to separate them in house edge. Modern six-deck blackjack games in which blackjack pays 3-2 hover around 0.6 or 0.7 percent. A few favorable wrinkles can bring that down a bit. Near my home, there are a couple of casinos that allow resplitting of Aces, bringing the edge down to 0.34 percent, and one with late surrender, leaving a 0.33 percent edge.

Compare that to pass or come in craps, where double odds bring the edge to 0.6 percent and 3x, 4x, 5x odds leave it at 0.4 percent.

The "which is better" separation comes down to player personality and preferences. Craps is a more social game, ideal for those who love the we're-in-this-together. More laid-back sorts may be more comfortable at blackjack.

"Which is better, winning early or winning late?"

Several readers told their win early/win late stories a few weeks ago. I've experienced both sides, too.

One memorable early win tale started at Las Vegas' Vacation Village. It closed in early 2002, so we're doing a little time traveling here. On a free spin of a wheel, I won reimbursement of airfare for $300. I took $20 of that to a 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker machine and drew four Aces for $200.

I was $500 ahead and hadn't even touched my own money. That took all the pressure off for the next few days.

A few years later, I was down several hundred dollars on the last day of the trip. One deal on a Triple Play Deuces machine made it all better. Four 2s on the initial deal meant a $250 payoff three times, and I was coming home with bankroll intact.

To me the correct answer is that winning anytime is great.

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