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Bad Ways to Play Good Casino Games

4 April 2003

By Frank Scoblete

You've met this guy before. He's cantankerous, witless, and loud. He knows everything about everything when it comes to casino games. He's a self-made expert who knows more than all writers and mathematicians combined, and as he doubles on his thirteen against the dealer's ten upcard, he scowls: "I know how to play from experience!" His face looks as if he's recently stormed a beach in Normandy. His ATM card looks even worse. It's battered and bruised with very little life left in it.

Casinos are filled with his type, losers who make the worst choices in the games they play and the strategies they employ. They are soldiers of Dame Fortune who are, unfortunately, their own worst enemies; snipers with twisted rifles who shoot themselves in the feet every time they pull the trigger. There isn't a table game where they aren't. They can secure defeat out of the jaws of victory every time. On the machines they'll put back all their wins and chalk it up to: "You can't win on slots anyway so what's the use?"

Now, it's no secret to readers that casinos offer good games and bad games. Certainly baccarat is a good game. Certainly, the Big Wheel isn't. However, there are some games where the player's choices decide what's good and bad. For example, craps offers good bets and bad bets and it's up to the players to distinguish which is which and bet accordingly. Played properly, blackjack is one of the very best casino games; played stupidly, it is one of the deadliest. Even the much maligned slots have better and worse ways to approach them.

This article is dedicated to the "don't" of gambling -- as in "Please don't do this!" It is a war manual for those who are sick of being taken prisoner or dying ingloriously on the plains of chance.

BLACKJACK

The very best way to play blackjack is to memorize the basic strategy and play it with no variation whatsoever. Most casinos will have an approximately one-half percent edge on you in multiple-deck games if you do. The very worst plays in blackjack are often plays that seem right such as standing on your 16 when the dealer has a 7 up; splitting your 10s when the dealer shows a six; not splitting your two 8s when the dealer has a nine or ten up, and not splitting a pair of aces when the dealer shows an ace. The insurance bet is a bad bet that many players make in the mistaken belief that they are helping themselves protect their good hands of 20 or their blackjacks.

And don't listen to players who tell you not to hit your 12 against the dealer's two or three. Hit it. Finally, some players mimic the dealer's rules for hitting and standing in the mistaken notion that, since the casino invariably wins at blackjack, mimicking the dealer will assure them of winning as well. Well, this is one case where what is good for the goose is deadly for the gander. Imitate the dealer's rules for hitting and standing and you'll get flattened. Why? Because you have to make your decisions before the dealer and if you bust and the dealer busts -- you still lose! That gives the house over a six percent edge!

CRAPS

Here is a game that has some of the very best bets in the casino and some of the very worst. If you make a steady diet of the bad bets, your bankroll will become anorexic. What are the no-no bets? Avoid the all one-roll Crazy Crapper bets such as the 2, 3, 11, 12, Any Craps, C&E, Any Seven, whirl, world, hops, horn and the Field; stay away from the hardways, too, because if you don't it will go hard with your wallet. Don't place your faith in the place bets of 4 or 10 and 5 or 9 as they come in with edges of 6.67 percent and four percent, respectively. Stick to the humdrum of playing the pass/don't pass; come/don't come with the maximum in odds that you can afford. In Tunica casinos, you can place the six or eight in multiples of $6 and you can buy the four or ten for $25 and only pay the commission if you win. These are all good bets.

ROULETTE

Most casinos have double-zero roulette wheels as a staple on the gaming menu. The worst possible bet at double-zero roulette is the Five Number Bet (0, 00, 1, 2, 3), also known as the "Beast with Five Numbers," which comes in with an edge over seven percent. What is the house edge on all other bets at double zero roulette? An unhealthy 5.26 percent. However, if you can find a single-zero wheel, then this is the wheel to play as the house edge is only 2.7 percent. That's not great but it is almost twice as good as the double-zero wheel.

BACCARAT

Great game...if you stick to making Bank or Player bets only. These come in with edges slightly over one percent. But there's an ugly duckling among those two swans -- the Tie bet, which comes in with a house edge of 14 percent! Awful. If you can find it, try to play the full-blown baccarat and not the mini version. Why? Because the mini version is so fast that its speed makes the tiny edges on Bank and Player as sharp as a serpent's tooth and almost as deadly.

CARIBBEAN STUD AND LET IT RIDE

Like blackjack, these two new games allow players to make choices that actually affect the house edge. There are very simple basic strategies for both games that must be utilized in order to cut the house edges down to somewhat manageable proportions. If you don't use the correct strategies at these games, you can be giving the house edges that scratch at double digits, and I don't think any sane person is itching to do that. But what should you avoid at both games? That dollar side bet! It has a house edge around 25 percent -- and will cost you about $15 per hour in the long run.

SLOTS

Do you want the best chance to come home with some money this afternoon or tonight? If you do, the very worst machines to play are the giant progressives as the casinos will have edges of 10-15 percent on them. We know that the idea of a life-changing event is very powerful but, really, only around 150 people have actually won Megabucks in the past 16 years because they face odds of over 49 million to one against them. Stick to slot machines that don't have progressive meters and you'll be better off.

VIDEO POKER

If you know what you are doing, video poker can be one of the best bets in the casino. If you don't know what you're doing, you might be better off playing the progressive slot machines! Each video poker paytable requires a different strategy. These strategies can be found in any good book on video poker, including my own Victory at Video Poker.

The bottom line of smart casino play is actually the bottom line -- money. Play the best games and utilize the best strategies and you'll have an excellent shot at the casino's money; play stupidly and you'll have an excellent shot at shooting yourself in the foot!

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

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