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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Here Are Bets where Players and Casinos Both Have an Edge

18 July 1995

asinos have a hidden edge on the bets they book. Some solid citizens exaggerate its impact, others underestimate it, a few think their "systems" circumvent it, nobody denies it's there.

Granted, odds on line or come bets at craps give the house no leverage. Double or nothing, when offered in video poker, is also a no-edge option. And, certain blackjack splits and doubles favor the player. Great tactics, edgewise. But none stands alone; they all complement wagers on which the house already has a hammer.

At least two situations give both the casino and the bettor an edge simultaneously. This seeming paradox occurs because the wagers have been "bought" from the players who first made them. The original players paid the house's "juice." The amounts for which the bets were subsequently "bought" are acceptable to the "sellers," yet offer mathematical advantage to the "buyers."

Some craps players bet Don't Pass or Don't Come then "take down" the wagers if the points are six or eight. This isn't especially wise, since odds favor winning by 6-to-5 yet payoff is 1-to-1. Players do it hoping the next bets will land their money on four or 10 with 2-to-1 odds they'll win, or on five or nine with 3-to-2 odds on their side, paying 1-to-1 in all cases.

Your move is to "buy" the bet at face value from the player before it's taken down. The house earned its commission on the come-out roll. The player gets just what the dealer would return. You have the benefit of "even-money" action more apt to win than lose.

A blackjack opportunity arises in casinos offering "surrender," when players misuse this option. Surrender loses if the dealer has blackjack and returns half the bet otherwise. With no knowledge of cards still in a shoe, this play is optimum for "hard" starting hands of 15 vs dealer 10, and of 16 (except eight-eight) vs dealer nine, 10, or ace.

Make your move when a player wants to surrender 15 or less against dealer nine, or 16 or less against dealer seven or eight. "Buy" the bet from the player at half its face value, which is what the person would get from the dealer, then draw to 17 or more. The house earns its normal profit. The original player gets just what he or she deserved. You have a proposition paying 3-to-1 if it wins and 1-to-1 if it ties. Here's the rundown when you pay $5 for a "surrendered" $10.

On losers, you're out the $5 you paid the initial player.

On winners, the dealer gives you $10 and you pick up the $10 on the table, for $15 net profit on the $5 you paid out.

On ties, the dealer gives you nothing but you pick up the $10 on the table, for $5 net profit on the $5 you paid out.

Imagine 100 plays of 15 against dealer nine. Expect to lose 70.33 at $5 for $351.65 outgo, win 23.26 at $15 for $349.90 income, and tie 6.41 at $5 for $32.05 gain. Net expected profit is $29.30. On 15 against dealer eight, expected profit after 100 hands is $85; on 16 against dealer eight, it's $42.

Buying the wrong surrenders is detrimental. For instance, 15 and 16 against dealer ace can be expected to cost you $140 and $166, respectively, in 100 hands.

Buying another player's bet is easiest when you're in a game, not on the sidelines. And it's smoothest to ask in advance, something like "next time you wanna take down your Don't bet, can I buy it from you so I can play it?" Is this legal? You can't bet against other players except at poker and when you "bank" pai-gow poker. But nothing on the books prevents your buying and playing-out someone else's bet. As Sumner A Ingmark, the risker's rhymer, wryly wrote:

When giving-up, an individual,
May leave behind some worth residual.
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.