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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Variable Payoffs Add a Twist to Table Play

3 August 1998

In traditional casino table games - blackjack, craps, roulette, and baccarat - payoffs are, by and large, fixed multiples of the original bet. For instance, blackjack wins normally pay 1-to-1, successfully placing the four at craps always yields 9-to-5, roulette hits on three-number rows pay a set 11-to-1, and so on.

New and modified table games are now appearing which pay varying amounts, including high multiples of the initial bet, depending on the result of a round. Caribbean Stud offers an example. The "Ante" returns 1-to-1; however, money in the "Bet Box" pays from 1-to-1 for scoring on a pair or less, up to 100-to-1 for a royal. Another illustration involves Let It Ride. Winners may get from 1-to-1 for a pair of 10s or better, up to 1000-to-1 for a royal.

Jackpot-class returns are one reason some solid citizens savor result-dependent payoffs. The best you can do with a longshot at craps is 30-to-1 on two or 12; $10 gets $300 - nice, but it's hardly gonna enhance your lifestyle. In contrast, starting with three $10 bets at Let It Ride, a single round can yield $30,000.

Variable payoffs are also appealing because they don't impose proportionate risk of total loss on tries at rich returns. Consider $10 on a number at single-zero roulette; it's do-or-die - you can win $350 but the odds are 36-to-1 you'll lose your $10. At Let It Ride, the chance of those three $10 spots winning $30,000 is one in 649,740, but intermediate and small wins are also available, and odds of losing $10 are only about 3-to-1.

A reasonable chance at collecting something, combined with the potential for big bucks, kindle the hopes and calm the fears of gamblers galore. Players muse over bets sized to modest bankrolls that can put them at the portals of plenty. And they stoically stomach cold streaks, figuring that one win can save the day.

Table games featuring variable payoffs may suit your wants and needs. But similar effects, with even more diversity, are possible using appropriate strategies in traditional games.

Here's what I mean. Say you're playing single-zero roulette - a game with about the same house edge as Let It Ride. You bet $10 on a number and it wins, paying $350. You parlay the entire $360 on the number and win a second time, netting $12,600. Assuming the casino will book this much, you parlay the whole $12,960 and win again. You now have $453,600. The probability this will occur is one in 50,653. At Let It Ride, you had a one in 649,740 shot at winning $30,000 with $10 in each of three spots. The roulette parlay gave you 13 times more chance to win nine times as much. Of course, if you're not exceptionally lucky with this roulette scheme, you can go broke in short order. At Let It Ride, you're more apt to last for a long session and earn a small profit.

Or, maybe the casino has an upper limit of $1,000 on inside bets at roulette. So your system is to pocket $11,960 after the second win, and bet $1,000 the third time. Now, in three rounds, you have one chance out of 1,407 to convert $10 into $11,960 and one in 50,653 to walk with $361,960. Additional opportunities abound. For instance, bet $10 on a four-number corner - paying 8-to-1 with odds of 8.25-to-1 of losing; this has one chance in 7,321 of growing to $65,610 by parlaying four successive wins. Alternately, make multiple bets at various payoff levels to create almost any conceivable variable payoff schedule.

Which approach is best? It's a matter of personal passion. You may want a potent prospect of a passable day's pay. You may prefer to pare the probability of a modest take for a hint at a heavy haul. Maybe you'd rather devise your own strategy than play a game where it's all essentially inherent in the rules. Your choice may be along many other lines as well. For some, a major part of the fascination is in tailoring the attributes of the games to their own tastes. As Sumner A Ingmark, whose poems prove his penchant for personal proclivity, pointedly penned:


Gambling's not just this or that,
Instead it's most plethoric,
Knowing what to bet whereat,
Can lead to wins historic.

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.