Gambling City

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You No Longer Need to Cut Off Both Ends of the Ham

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I learned craps from my father, who learned it from his dad. We play your recommended pass line bet in addition to continual betting on the seven to hedge our line bet. In past columns you haven’t agreed with that logic. Please explain. M. B.

Marvin, before you advance your craps advice to future generations, may I share an anecdotal tale with you?

One day a young girl was watching her mother prepare a ham for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Mom, why do you cut off both ends of the ham?” her daughter asked.
“Because my mother always did,” replied the mother.
“But why?”
“I don’t know—why don’t you call Granny and find out why.”
So the daughter called Granny and asked her. “Granny, when you prepared your hams for baking, why did you always cut off both ends?”
“My mother always did it,” said Granny.
“But why?”
“I don’t know—why don’t you call your Great-grandmother and ask her?”
So the daughter proceeded to telephone Great-grandma to inquire why traditionally her family always removed both ends of a ham before cooking it.
“Great-grandma, when you prepared your ham for baking, you always cut off both ends — why?”
“Well,” Great-grandma said, “the pan was too small.”

It is time, Marvin, to let go of your genealogically inspired gambling theories. Though you feel you are hedging your wager by betting the seven, it still doesn’t change the house advantage of 16.7%. By sticking singularly to a pass line wager, maybe, just maybe, you will be the first in your family to win some real money at the game.

Dear Mark: Does it make sense keeping a kicker in video poker? M. M.

Never, I repeat NEVER, hold a kicker. Holding kickers (K, K, A) to any pair trims your return by more than 5%.

Dear Mark: I like to bet the don’t side on a crap game. Isn’t it a slightly better wager than a pass line bet? K. K.

You are correct in assuming, Kenny, that the don’t pass bet (seven rolling before the point) is a minimally better wager — a 1.4 percent casino advantage versus the pass line’s 1.41 percent — but craps is a game of community esprit de corps, all in it for the win together. By betting the opposite you become the adversary, a scoundrel against the majority of players. Why let the casino off the hook?

Dear Mark: What was the largest amount ever won in roulette? J. C.

In January, 1994, a computer programmer from London, England, wagered $220,000 on a single spin at the Horseshoe Club in Las Vegas. Placing the whole amount on red, he watched as the ball found the red 7. Picking up his one-roll winnings, he quickly deposited $440,000 in the cashier’s cage. The tuxedo-clad gentleman was informed enough to play on the Horseshoe’s single zero roulette tables, cutting the house edge from 5.26 to 2.7%.

Dear Mark: I really enjoy keno. Would you recommend video keno or a live-action game? R. M.

The correct answer, Rosa, would be to politely suggest neither. The medium house advantage on all live keno games is approximately 28%. On a video keno game it is 7.5%. Why lower? Video keno has better paytables. Take the 8-spot ticket: By hitting four of eight on a video keno machine, you will double your money. You’ll never find that on a live keno game.

On paper, it appears that video keno is the better deal. Not so fast my friend. At $1 a pop, the most you could lose on a live game is about $15, as that is the average number of games called per hour. A typical video keno player can burn through $15 in quarters in less than five minutes.

I recommend, Rosa, for those with a keno fixation, video poker instead.