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Blackjack versus Let-it-Ride

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark:

I read your column every week in the Detroit Free Press. My friends and I visit both Detroit and Las Vegas casinos. I like to play table games that have a lower house advantage such as blackjack or craps, but my friends insist on playing Let-It-Ride, which drives me crazy.

While I've watched them win quite regularly, I do try to teach them about the high casino edge and that over the long run they are going to take a beating, but, they just don't want to hear it.

I am wondering what the house edge is for these games, and if it makes any sense to join my friends in playing Let-it-Ride. I am also interested in the side bets on Let-it-Ride where you add a $5 chip in an effort to hit one of the big jackpots for a royal flush, etc. D. Y.

It seems your friends want to believe that “It’s all just luck,” right? Of course when gambling, it isn’t. Anyone can have a short-term slice of fortune, but over hundreds of thousands of hands, mathematics and skill always reign supreme.

Now, basing my answer on your using skill versus luck when playing your preferred table games, in the long run, your game and bet selections definitely trump theirs.

With blackjack, the house has a 0.5% edge against the basic strategy player; that is if said player is skillfully playing each hand correctly.

In contrast, with craps skill isn’t needed as much, but correct bet selection is. Placing the 6 or 8 carries a house edge of 1.5% and a Pass line bet is a bit better at 1.4%; the edge is even lower if your taking odds.

As for your friends being in love with Let-it-Ride, I will be the first to agree that the game is fun to play, slow enough for a gambling novice, and does allow you to pull back two of your three bets. Also, since it’s played at a slower pace than blackjack or craps, it won’t gobble up your bankroll as quickly.

That said, my problem with Let-It-Ride is that, even with perfect play, the casino's edge is 3.51%, making it nearly six times higher than it is in blackjack when using perfect basic strategy. Since you read my column regularly, you have probably heard me say that players should “Never make a wager that has higher than a 2% house edge” and this game clearly does not meet that standard.

As for the side bets in Let-It-Ride you asked about, where for $5 – or even as little as $1 – you are presented with an additional payoff when dealt certain paying hands; these bets have a house edge in the double-digits which makes them, “too good to be true." In general, for most table games, side bets should always be labeled for what they are: sucker bets.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Even though I had a lucrative contract with MGM, I had a husband who was drinking and gambling our money away faster than I could make it.” – Esther Williams