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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Have Fun with a Simple Betting Strategy Based on Longshots

17 December 2002

Longshots are bets with large payoff ratios but small chances of winning. Lotteries, slot machines, and some table games with "side bets" carry the idea to the limits. Such extreme longshots only work for the repetitive wagering typical at casinos because they're generally structured as the highest rungs on payout ladders. Small and moderate returns occur often enough to keep the games riveting, prolong sessions without sending solid citizens to the cash or credit card terminals for fresh funds, and let players quit with modest profits if they so choose.

Single spots at roulette, or either the two or 12 at craps, are far less radical yet still longshots. These bets are normally made in conjunction with other wagers, to achieve a net effect like that of a graduated payoff schedule. However, they're also reasonable as stand-alone gambles for casual players who'd rather try the tables than the machines. The edge is usurious in both cases; still, they lend themselves to simple strategies affording a decent chance at a profit and a lengthy enough session to have some fun and excitement on a recreational bankroll.

Say you go to a double-zero roulette table on which you can bet as little as $5 per round. You buy-in for $100. You bet $5 on a single spot per spin. It can be the same number every time, or different numbers according to your hunches. You play until you win once or lose the $100. You have 2.63 percent chance of winning 35-to-1, $175 for the $5 at risk, on any spin.

A win on the first round would give you a $175 profit. If you lose the first but bet again and win on the second, your gain would be $175 minus $5 or $170. And, although the second spin is an independent event in which your likelihood of winning is also 2.63 percent, the combined chance of winning once with this strategy in up to two spins is 5.19 percent. Carry the idea to as many as 10 spins and the probability of success is 23.41 percent. This would earn you between $175 - the payoff if it happened on the first round, and $175 minus $45 or $130 on the tenth. The $100 bankroll will let you go for 20 spins at $5 each. Pushing the game this far gives you a 41.34 percent chance of winning, and pocketing between $175 and $80. The good news is offset by the complementary 58.66 percent chance of losing $100.

The numbers would be different but the effect similar making $5 bets on the 12 at craps, again quitting as soon as you win or when your $100 is gone. Here, you have 2.78 percent chance to win 30-to-1, or $150 for your $5 at risk, on any throw.

Analogously to roulette, a win on the first roll would give you $150 profit. The net would be $145 on the second, $140 on the third, and so on. Taking your bankroll to the bottom gives you 43.07 percent chance of winning between $55 and $150, versus the complementary 57.93 percent chance of losing $100.

One variation on this strategy is to start with $175 at roulette and $150 at craps. Now you can go 35 spins at roulette, having 60.68 percent chance of earning from $5 to $175 in contrast with 29.32 percent prospects of going broke. At craps, the probability is 57.05 percent of garnering from $5 to $150 as opposed to 42.95 percent likelihood of losing it all.

Another twist on the idea is to play enough rounds to go through your entire bankroll once, setting aside and not recycling any profits. A $100 stake gives you 20 cycles on either game. The worst fate that can befall you is still to lose 20 in a row and end up with nothing. The downside compared with quitting after a single win is that if you hit once, say on the third roll at craps, then never again, instead of walking with $150 minus $10 or $140, you'll net $150 minus $95 or $55. The upside is that you can score multiple hits and finish with over $175 at roulette or $150 at craps. And, you'll get more action, although not enough to merit a freebie at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Unless, of course, the pit boss is feeling unusually charitable or espouses the precepts preached by the parsimonious poet, Sumner A Ingmark:

Prestige helps losers' pains allay,
If comps will do it, why say nay?
'Cause for this boon they dearly pay.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.