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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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You Can Bet Below the Table Minimum, for a Price

13 November 1995

inimum bets at tables are too costly for some casino patrons. One result is that many casual players avoid serious games. Another is that bettors wager too high for their bankrolls and get knocked out of action during normal cold spells. A third is that little boys and girls are swept up in the excitement and risk more than the recess money momma stuffed in their fanny packs.

You can skirt the lower limits on bets at baccarat, roulette, and craps. Some dealers might find it annoying because you're making extra work for them. Certain know-it-all players may sneer at you because your bets are unconventional. But it's your money. And, casino bosses who understand their own math will gladly let you do it 'though therein lies the rub.

At baccarat you can sneak under table minima by betting different amounts on Player and Banker at the same time. The net of the wagers will be what you actually venture.

As an example, say you'd like to risk $5 on Banker but the table minimum is $25. Put $30 on Banker and $25 on Player. Only three outcomes are possible. (1) Banker wins: collect $28.50 and lose $25 for $3.50 profit, (2) Player wins: $30 goes south but pick up $25 for $5 net loss, (3) the hands Tie: no action. Here's the hitch. Picture betting $5 directly on Banker. Losses on Player are still $5 but winnings on Banker are $4.75 rather than $3.50. The disparity occurs because the house rakes 5 percent from wins on Banker; 5 percent of $5 is $0.25 but 5 percent of $30 is $1.50.

Several approaches let you undercut roulette limits. For instance, maybe you're comfortable chancing $5 on even-money wagers like red but can't find a table with a minimum below $10. Bet $15 on red and $10 on black. If red hits, pick up $15 and drop $10 for $5 net gain. If black wins, drop $15 and pick up $10 for $5 net loss. The fly hits the ointment when the ball lands on 0 or 00. In these cases, which you can expect about 5.25 percent (2/38) of the time, red and black each lose half so you're out $7.50 plus $5 or $12.50. Betting $5 directly on red, 0 or 00 would've cost a mere $2.50.

At craps, you can undercut the limit by adjusting Pass and Don't Pass bets. For instance, bet $11 on Pass and $10 on Don't Pass. When a shooter makes a point, you win $11 and lose $10 for $1 net return. When a shooter sevens out, you grab $10 and drop $11 for $1 net outlay. The wicket gets sticky during the come-out. Then, a two or three will cost $11 and pay $10; a seven or eleven will cost $10 and pay $11; but a 12, which you can expect on about 2.8 percent (1/36) of all come-outs, will set you back a full $11.

You can also sit astride any of the numbers. One way might be to place a $25 nine and lay a $31 no-nine. If nine rolls, the $25 gets you $35 but you lose the $31 for $4 net gain. If seven rolls, the $31 yields $19 but you forfeit the $25 for a $6 net loss. To see problem, imagine placing the number directly for $5. You'd be down $5 rather than $6 on a SEVEN, and up $7 rather than $4 on a nine.

In games with opposing bets, juggling both sides lets solid citizens play at comfortable levels which won't sap moderate stakes during ordinary downswings. But "effective" house edge escalates, ultimately placing players at the heights of redemption where it's possible to lose but not win a bet. Picture these predicaments. Baccarat: $25 on each side pushes on Player and Tie but loses $1.75 on Banker. Roulette: $25 on each color pushes on red and black but loses $25 on 0 and 00. Craps: $10 on Pass and Don't Pass pushes unless the come-out roll is 12, when it loses $10.

Sumner A Ingmark, lyricist lovingly lauded by legions of creative casino customers, captured the quintessence concisely:

Though players may dream of strategies new,
Their intrigues turn out too good to be true,
And house edge still gives the devil its due.
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.