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Mark Pilarski's Corner



Can you identify a good bet from a bad one? Take this quiz to find out
By Mark Pilarski

Believe it or not, casinos do offer some decent wagers. Some games, like blackjack or video poker, involve skill; others, it's placing the correct bet in the right place on the layout. It's your responsibility to play your favorite game-SMART. So let's see how sharp you are.

1. With perfect basic strategy in blackjack, you can reduce the house edge to under .5%.
a. True
b. False

2. Never play slots, as the house advantage is far too high.
a. True
b. False

3. Craps is too intimidating and not worth the effort of learning.
a. True
b. False

4. Like blackjack, with basic strategy play, the house edge in video poker can be under .5%.
a. True
b. False

5. Baccarat is one of the easiest games to learn, plus, baccarat offers some of the best wagers to make in a casino.
a. True
b. False

6. The bonus bet in Caribbean Stud is a good wager:
a. True
b. False

7. The Big 6 Wheel offers some of the best wagers in the casino.
a. True
b. False

8. Megabucks offers the same paybacks as regular dollar machines.
a. True
b. False

9. A pass line bet on a crap game is a much better wager than the Hard 6.
a. True
b. False

10. The 5% commission charged on the "bank hand" in baccarat makes it an inferior wager compared to a "player hand" bet.
a. True
b. False

11. The worst bet to make on a crap game is the "any seven."
a. True
b. False

12. The don't side on a crap game is a slightly better wager than a pass line bet.
a. True
b. False

13. The game of War is a 50/50 casino wager with no house edge.
a. True
b. False

14. In video poker, you should always play the full number of coins.
a. True
b. False

15. It is better to play on loose Jacks or better 6/5 video poker machines than on a very tight full-pay Jacks or better 9/6 video poker machine.

1. True: Blackjack is a game that many play, but few play well. Solution: Play perfect basic strategy. Basic strategy is nothing more than how you play your hand against the dealer "up card." Playing it correctly will bring the house advantage down to well less than one percent. Start by purchasing a basic strategy card to help your play. Doing so will enable you to knock the house edge down to just less than one percent instead of the 4-5 percent the casino holds over the uneducated player.

2. False: Yes, you are reading it right. Playing slots can be a decent wager. But only "liberal" slot machines. What I mean by liberal slots are those in casinos that advertise a higher payback percentage-like a 98.5% return-on selected machines. Be forewarned, these high payback slots are usually only found where the casino competition is fierce; plus when you do find a casino advertising liberal paybacks, you'll then need to ask someone in slot personnel which machines those are. Yep, there is some skill involved besides pulling a handle when playing slots-it's machine selection.

3. False: I highly recommend, actually implore you, to join the euphoria of this fast-paced game and try craps. No need to be intimidated, as you only need to learn these two wagers. A pass line bet and placing the 6 or 8. Both have a house advantage of less than 1.5 percent. Ask your friendly dealer (the first two hours of his shift) how to make these wagers.
Disregard those proposition bets (hardways, field bets, one number rolls, etc.) the dealer is barking out. Some can have a house advantage as high as 16 percent.

4. True: There is no such thing as a bad video poker machine, only bad paytables. Here is another opportunity where playing perfect basic strategy on a machine with a decent pay schedule can reduce the house advantage to well under one percent. Look for a 9/6 (nine for the full house, six for a flush) non-progressive machine or 8/5 (same as above) with a progressive meter attached that reads at least $440 on a nickel, $2,200 on a quarter and $8,800 on dollar video poker machine.

5. True: Baccarat is one of the easiest casino games to play (you do not even have to know the rules because correct hitting is predetermined), and the stakes are relatively low when you play on a mini-baccarat table. The house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the bank hand or 1.36% with a player hand wager. Skip the tie bet: House advantage 14%.

6. False: Note there are 2,598,960 possible poker hands using a standard 52-card deck. Now divide that figure by four (the different suits) and you will come up with 649,740. Because you do not get to draw any cards in Caribbean Stud, this mathematically is the odds of hitting a royal. One in 649,740 is too big a differential from the amount they plan to pay you for me to endorse this bet. I cannot recommend this wager to anyone, nor the game Caribbean Stud as the house edge is 5.3%.

7. False: All six wagers on the Big 6 carry a steep house edge. That casino advantage is as follows: 11.1 percent on the $1 spot, 16.6% on the $2, 22.2% on the $5, 18.5% on the $10, 22.2% on the $20, and 24% on either joker. By betting a steady diet of Big 6 wagers, you will run out of air speed and altitude quickly.

8. False: By offering the player a shot at slot immortality, Megabucks shakes you down on the smaller payoffs. It is Megabuck's progressive bonus that allows you to fantasize champagne wishes and caviar dreams. On average, Megabucks returns slightly less than a 90% payback while the typical $1 machine in Nevada averages more than 95%.

9. True: A pass line bet, with no odds, has a house advantage of 1.4%. With a $5 wager and 50 playing decisions per hour, your theoretical loss (all bets lose over time) is $5 X 50 X 0.014, or $3.50 per hour. Relatively cheap entertainment. In comparison, the hard six or eight has a house advantage of 9.1%. The damage to your bankroll would be $5 X 50 X 0.091, or $22.75 in the same amount of time.

10. False: Based on the mathematics of baccarat, the player hand should win 44.6% of the time, the bank hand 45.8% and the tie 9.6%. If we discount ties, the player hand statistically will win 49.3% of the time and the bank hand 50.7%.
Because the bank hand wins more than 50% of the time, the casino neutralizes the edge you would have over the house by charging a 5% commission every time you win a bank hand bet. By charging this hidden tax, the casino's advantage is now 1.17% for bank hand and 1.36% for the player hand. But even with the commission added, you can see that the bank hand is still a slightly better bet than the player wager.

11. True: The worst wager on a dice game is the "any seven" bet. This one-roll proposition bet has a house edge of 16.7%.

12. True: You are correct in assuming that the don't pass bet (seven rolling before the point) is a marginally better wager-a 1.4 percent casino advantage versus the pass line's 1.41 percent-BUT, craps is a game of community esprit, everyone in it for the win together. By betting the opposite, you become the adversary, a villain against the majority of players. Why let the casino off the hook?

13. False: War, a variation of the same senseless game you played as a youngster on the kitchen table, is a no-go wager. Both you and the dealer each receive one card, and the high card wins. In the event that both cards are equal, you must double your initial bet, and two more cards are dealt. Again the high card wins; however, you win only your original wager. This is how the casino pickpockets your billfold. The casino advantage from this one rule change: 7.14%.

14. True: If you look at the paytable closely, you will notice a non-symmetrical progression on the royal flush payline. Your typical royal flush payline looks like this; 250, 500, 750, 1000, 4000. Note the jump with the fifth coin inserted. Not playing that fifth coin will cost you 12% over the long haul.

15. False: No such animal exists in the green felt jungle. Because every hand is dealt randomly, tightness and looseness of a video poker machine are strictly based on the machine's paytable. A 6/5 paytable (6 coins returned for a full house, 5 for a flush with one coin inserted) would be considered tight, no, very tight; whereas a 9/6 machine (9 for a full house, 6 for a flush) would be loose.

Ready to take your best shot at the casino? Still need some help? How about a Casino Pocket WIN Card that lists all the "Best Bets" in a casino, plus a list of Money Management techniques used by the pro's. Since you are a regular to this web site, allow me to send you a laminated Casino Best Bets Card-FREE. Yes, those same ones you see in gaming publications and casino gift shops for up to $5 can be yours at no cost. All I ask is that you send a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to: Winners Publishing, ATTN: Best Bets Card, P.O. Box 1234, Traverse City, MI 49685
It is this web site's way of saying thank you for stopping by. Enjoy, Mark
*For overseas mail, please include $2 US Funds to cover postage costs.