These numbers are the percentages of defeat built into every casino game, sports game, or horse race you bet. They are the odds stacked against players. If you're betting $100 an hour on roulette, you will, in the long run, lose an average of $5.26 an hour.
Craps is extremely complicated-- but much of its fascination lies in its complexity. In the game, one player-- the shooter-- throws a pair of dice and bets, along with other players at the table, on specific numbers turning up.
On the shooter's first roll, the wager-- called a pass line bet-- is on whether he'll throw either 7 or 11 (a win) or 2, 3, or 12 (a loss). If he hits 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, that number becomes his point; your original wager is then on whether he'll roll that number again before he throws a 7.
After making a pass line bet, when a point has been established, you can make an odds bet. You do this by placing another bet-- equal to one, two...up to ten times the original bet-- on the point number. The casino will pay true odds on this second bet, based n the probability of the point number coming up.
These true odds bets reduce the house's edge in craps to less that 1 percent. Next to blackjack played with extreme discipline, this is the best bet you'll have in casino.
The odds on slot machines are terrible. Casinos make two thirds of their profits from slots. But smart gamblers avoid slots as surely as they do Lotto machines.
Roulette, in which you're betting on whether a ball spinning above a wheel will land on a certain number, group of numbers, or color, has a simplicity that makes it a perfect game for anyone wishing to meet destiny face-to-face.
In addition to the numbers 1 through 36, the roulette wheel has the numbers 0 and 00, which gives the house a 5.26 percent advantage on all bets-- a significant edge.
Most people believe that Blackjack, the casino version of the card game 21, is the easiest and best game to play in a casino. Depending on how you play, this can be true.
The object of the game is to take card that bring you close to a total of 21 without going over. Face cards count as 10. Aces count as either 11 or 1.
Each player at a blackjack table plays only against the dealer-- not other players. If a player takes too many cards and goes over 21, he or she loses. If the dealer takes too many cards, the players all win. Otherwise, if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer's, you win.
You bet your money before you see any cards. In some situations, you can raise your bet after seeing your first two cards. When you win, you are paid 2 to 1. If you get a Blackjack-- an ace and any card worth ten-- you win a slightly higher multiple of your bet.
The most popular way to play Blackjack is the so-called "perfect strategy." Based on the law of large numbers, which states that averages and tendencies gain strength over time , the perfect strategy was derived by computers simulating millions of twenty-one hands. It results in some counter-intuitive rules. Two examples:
You have sixteen, the dealer is showing a ten. The chart says hit. You'll lose 75% of the time. If you don't hit, you'll lose 77% of the time. Twice in one hundred-- in a game in which the dealer shouldn't beat you more than 51 hands per hundred-- is a huge margin.
You have a pair of aces or 8's, and the dealer is showing a ten. The chart says split-- despite the impulse to keep one bad hand rather than making two.
Played correctly, this system assures you of being at no more than a 2 percent disadvantage against the casino. In practice, the house wins at a rate ten times higher-- because few players follow the perfect strategy...perfectly.
For example, the perfect strategy demands that you always split second pairs and "double down" (double your original wager by placing a second bet next to your original on the table) when you're supposed to. Most players prefer to follow their instincts.
Some players prefer to count cards as they are played at the Black jack table, adjusting their bets according to how many tens and aces are left to be played in a given hand.
In the more complicated card-counting system:
7's and 8's are considered neutral and aren't counted;
2 through 6 are counted as negative 1;
9's, 10's, and Aces are counted as 1.
A simpler version counts 9's and 10's in one column, aces in another, and hands played on your fingers.
A high (or minus) deck-- with a good half of the deck dealt and a large number of aces still unplayed-- favors the player. When the count is high, you should increase your bets.
[Excerpt from James Walsh's 1996 book True Odds Merritt Publishing, 1996,
Santa Monica, CA. 1-800-638-7597. Reprinted with permission of Merritt Publishing.
All rights reserved.]