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‘Buy’er Beware

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have heard, but have never seen, that some casinos offer varying commissions on 4 and 10 Buy bets. There are three casinos near my home and all of them offer a Buy bet with a 5% commission. Am I mistaken about what I heard? N. F.

Essentially a Buy bet is a lot like a Place bet, with the exception that on a Buy bet you pay a 5% commission on the amount you wager. Then if you win, you are paid at the true odds, less, of course, the 5%.

When buying the 4 or 10, it is best that you wager at least $20. This is because the minimum commission you will be charged for making a Buy bet is $1 which is 5% of $20. The casino edge on a Buy bet of $20 works out to 4.76%, with smaller wagers that percentage gets increasingly higher.

Since Buy bets do nothing beyond giving the house 5% for paying you true odds on a winning bet, I would recommend, as I always do, sticking with wagers that give the house less than a two percent edge. An example is making a Place bet, but only on the 6 or 8. You should stay away from placing the 4 or 10, because the house edge on those is 6.67%. Placing the 6 or 8 not only has a smaller house edge, 1.5%, it is also comparatively low cost. You can make a Place bet for as little as $6.

My point here is that there are plenty of other wagers on a crap table that are far superior to buying the 4, 10, or any number for that matter. In all situations, except the instance below, I cannot affirm the ‘Buy’ wager as recommended play.

Getting back to your question, yes, there are some casinos that offer a different commission structure on 4 and 10 Buy bets. Even though all casinos charge the commission, there are some that keep it only if you win. If your 4 or 10 are losers, you do not have to pay the commission, and in that case the house edge drops way down to 1.67%, making this an excellent wager.

Of course readers who have read this column for any length of time, know the drill and only place bets on a crap table, or any other game in the casino, that has less than a 2% house edge. Therefore, a Buy bet on the 4 or 10, where the wager is commission-free when you lose, is one that I would recommend adding to your betting arsenal.

Dear Mark: While on a bike tour across France, I stopped in a casino and found a game with a great similarity to roulette, but on a much smaller scale. Do you happen to know anything about this game? While I was there, the game was closed, and I could not find anyone to explain what it was. J. P.

I believe that the game you are referring to is Boule or La Boule, a simplified version of Roulette. Boule is similar to roulette in that there is a table and a spinning wheel. But Boule has only nine numbers and three different colors you can bet on, and it is played with a large wooden wheel and a rubber ball slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

The game is actually pretty simple to play, but a very fast way to lose a whole bunch of money. Every bet you can place has an 11.11% house edge, which is much, much worse than roulette at 5.26%, or a true European single-zero wheel that offers a rule called “en prison” that brings the house edge down to 1.35%.

Jérôme, La Boule est un pari terrible.