Best Casino Bets
Many casino games have a house edge that runs into double figures if not played correctly while others offer punters a genuine even-money chance of making rather than losing money. InsideEdge's Casino Editor Glyn Thomas tells you which are the best games and bets to play and which you should pass.
Some people say casinos are a place to have fun, others that they're where frivolous types go to lose their wad, while for professional card-counters playing high stakes blackjack in Vegas, they are places of work.
No matter what you think a casino is, keep in mind that they are big business. Dwell for a second on the words of Bob Stupak, former owner of the Vegas World Casino: 'It's our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can and send them home with a smile on their face.'
So, how do casinos go about extracting money from you? They don't have to cheat because, except for blackjack and video poker, every casino game has a built-in profit (known as the house edge or advantage) on every bet. But some games offer more attractive odds than others, so it pays to take heed of the following rules.
Roulette is simple to learn and play and is therefore one of the most popular games - you don't have to think about odds, you can't affect the final outcome and if you win you're just lucky and not a tactical genius. As the game offers a wide range of bets, from single number (paying out at 35/1) to straight even bets such as odd/even, black /red high/low (which pay out Evens), you do have to manage your money.
Never forget that the longer you play, the more the certainty of you gradually reducing your play money - albeit at a small amount per spin. So, if you put all of your gaming money on a single number on the first spin of the roulette wheel, you statistically have a better chance of winning than if you eke it all out over an hour. No-one actually does this in practice as it makes for rather a short evening's entertainment if you lose. You pays your money and you takes your choice - are you there for fun or to win?
Generally the house advantage is 2.7% for UK roulette and 5.26% for its US counterpart, which has an extra zero. So, if you want to increase your odds and have the choice, always play with a single zero wheel. If playing American roulette, avoid the single bet covering 00, 0, 1, 2 and 3 (known as a five bet) which pays out 6/1 - effectively giving the house a big 7.9% advantage.
Finally, don't try to predict the numbers based on those that have come up before. If the last six numbers were all red, the chance of it being black the next time is still 50-50. Those pop-ups on your PC offering foolproof roulette systems are scams.
This sounds moronic but works. Whenever you win, pocket the larger denomination chips and forget them. Bet freely with your remaining chips and you should at least be able to cash something out at the end of your session. Leave chips in front of you and they have a habit of evaporating.
In an ideal world we would be playing blackjack with a single deck, the dealer would stand on soft 17 and doubling would be allowed on any first two cards. We would also see the Beatles banging out I Want to Hold Your Hand and some bleak northern film about rugby players getting their girlfriends up the junction would be the talk of the town… for this ideal world would be the Sixties.
Nowadays, we are used to playing with two decks (house advantage increases by 0.3%), four decks (increases to 0.5%) and even six decks (another 0.6%). If we then consider that doubling down is restricted to 9, 10 and 11, the house has gained another 0.1%. As a dealer's blackjack beats yours, we're now down a further 0.1%. Add no re-splitting and you've lost another 0.1% advantage to the house. Hardly seems worth playing?
Well, yes and no. If you play tight and follow a few golden rules you should be able to level up the game. But remember - quit while you are winning or you'll plough it all back in.
Learn the rules and proper strategy first, as this is one of the few casino games where rules can vary between casinos. Check our website for our blackjack masterclass.
Number of decks
The more decks that are used, the greater the house advantage. Look for low-deck games.
You have an edge when the dealer stands with a soft 17 (for example an Ace with a 6), which is common in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Limitations on what combinations a player can double-down on increase the house advantage. In some games players can only double-down on a 10 or 11, or they aren't allowed to double-down after splitting.
In some games players are not allowed to re-split cards (splitting after a split) or re-split Aces.
In most US games the dealer will check for blackjack when the upcard is an Ace or a 10 that is to your advantage. 'No peek' rules are advantageous to the house because a player may lose more than his original bet (through splitting or doubling down) against a dealer's blackjack.
However, back here in the UK it's usually different, with the dealer neither checking for a blackjack when the upcard is a 10 nor when it's an Ace which acts against you.
Avoid the blackjack insurance bet (where, with an Ace showing, you can bet the dealer will hit a blackjack at 2/1) like those nice comfortable slipper boots in the back of the Sunday papers as there is a house advantage of 5-8%.
Craps is like cricket - try explaining the rules to someone and you'll soon find it easier to grab a bat and show them. It's one of those games that you need to watch and then throw yourself in. Like the rest of the games in the casino, craps is all about pure chance.
But there are some bets that are better than others - you just need to know when to hit them. Because there are so many different craps bets, we will just look at the main ones.
A pass-line bet can only be placed on a 'come-out roll' (the first roll in every 'hand' of craps) and is also known as betting with the shooter. This type of bet wins on an initial roll of 7 or 11 and loses on an initial roll of 2, 3 or 12. On a come-out roll of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10:
YOU WIN: If the initial number is matched later in the roll.
YOU LOSE: If the initial number is followed by a 7.
The shooter continues to roll until one of the two above scenarios occurs.
This type of bet pays even money and has a house advantage of 1.41%.
A don't-pass-line bet can only be placed on a come-out roll and is also known as betting against the shooter.
This type of bet loses on an initial roll of 7 or 11 and wins on an initial roll of 2 or 3. If the initial roll is 12, the bet's a push or tie (you get your stake back).
On a come-out roll of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10:
YOU WIN: If a 7 follows the initial roll.
YOU LOSE: If the initial number is matched later in the roll.
The shooter keeps rolling until one of the two above scenarios occurs. This type of bet pays even money and has a house advantage of 1.36%.
A come bet can only be placed after a point has been established (a come-out roll of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) and is similar to a pass-line bet. Once this bet has been placed, the next roll of the dice is a winner if a 7 or 11 is thrown and a loser if a 2, 3 or 12 is thrown.
If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 is rolled, the come bet stays on the table. If the initial roll is matched before a 7 is thrown, the bet is a winner. If a 7 is thrown before the initial come bet roll is matched the bet is a loser. A come bet can be placed on each roll after a come-out roll. This bet pays even money and has the same house advantage as a pass-line bet (1.41%).
A don't-come bet can only be placed after a point has been established and is similar to a don't-pass-line bet. Once this bet has been placed, the next roll of the dice is a loser if a 7 or 11 is thrown, and a winner if a 2, 3 or 12 is thrown.
If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 is rolled, the don't-come bet stays on the table. If the initial roll is matched before a 7 is thrown, the bet is a loser. If a 7 is thrown before the initial don't-come bet roll is matched, the bet is a winner. A don't-come bet can be placed on each roll after a come-out roll. This bet pays even money and has the same house edge as a don't-pass-line bet (1.36%).
Taking odds is a bet that is placed in conjunction with a pass-line, don't-pass-line, come or don't-come bet. If one of those bets has been placed and a point is established on the next roll, an odds bet can be placed. This is the best bet in the casino because the payout is Evens.
The house edge is 0% so it's to your advantage to make the maximum odds bet, subject to your bankroll. For this very reason you will not see any mention of an odds bet on the table layout. Funny that.
The maximum amount of an odds bet is a multiple of the original bet placed and varies from casino to casino - '1x odds' means the maximum is equal to your original bet, '2x odds' means the maximum is equal to double your original bet, etc. If there isn't a sign at the table listing the maximum odds bet, ask one of the table crew.
A place bet is placed after a point is made (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) and can be put on any of these numbers to win or lose. Multiple place bets can be made and a place bet can be taken off the table after a roll.
If you make a place bet for a number to win, the bet wins if that number is rolled before a 7. If you make a place bet for a number to lose, the bet will win if a 7 is rolled before that number.
The payout and house advantage varies per number but in general you are better off betting the number to lose. Place betting 4 or 10 to win pays out at 9:5 with a house advantage of 6.7%, whereas betting the same numbers to lose pays out 5:11 with a house advantage of 3%.
Buy / lay bets
A buy or lay bet is similar to a place bet but you have to pay a commission - usually 5% - to get true odds on a number. The house advantage on these bets is 4.76%.
A field bet is only good for the next roll of the dice and pays even on a roll of 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11 and 2:1 on a roll of 2 or 12. The house advantage is 5.56%.
Big 6 and big 8
These are bets that a 6 or 8 will be rolled before a 7 and pay even money. The house advantage for each of these bets is an astronomic 9.09%. So, if you are at the table and feel either of those numbers is going to come up next, avoid this bet like the plague and put your money on a place bet which pays out at 7:6. The 6 or 8 place bet will cut the house edge to only 1.5%.
A hardway bet is one that a certain hard combination will be rolled before a 7 or the same soft combination is rolled. For example, a hard 6 occurs when two 3s are rolled while a soft 6 occurs when a 1 and 5 or a 2 and 4 are rolled. Generally the house advantage on these type of bets is between 9-11%, so be wary.
One-roll (proposition) bets
Any Craps Next roll of the dice is a 2, 3 or 12. Pays 7:1 and has a house advantage of 11.11%.
Any Seven: Next roll of the dice is a 7. Pays 4:1 and has a house advantage of 16.67%.
Two: Next roll will be a 2. This bet pays 30:1 and has a house advantage of 13.89%.
Three: Next roll will be a 3. This bet pays 15:1 and has a house advantage of 11.11%.
Eleven: Next roll will be an 11. This bet pays 15:1 and has a house advantage of 11.11%.
Twelve: Next roll will be a 12. This bet pays 30:1 and has a house advantage of 13.89%.
Horn bet: Next roll will be a 2, 3, 11 or 12. A horn bet is made in multiples of 4, with a quarter of each bet placed on each number. This pays out at the same odds as any individual number and the overall house edge is 12.5%.
Avoid the following bets like the strawberry creams in an old box of chocolates (we've put the house advantage in brackets):
Big 6 and 8 (9.1%)
Hardway 6 or 8 (9.1%)
Hardway 4 or 10 (11.1%)
Any craps (11.1%)
3 or 11 proposition (11.1%)
2 or 12 proposition (13.9%)
Any 7 (16.6%)
You could check out our website at inside-edge-mag.co.uk for a more detailed guide to the basics of punto banco, but in essence there are three bets - player (punto), bank (banco) and draw (égalité).
The cards are all dealt out for you and, despite being able to hold the shoe occasionally, the chance of winning is down to destiny - you cannot affect the game.
Proof of this is clearly evident in the fact that casinos kindly give you a tracking sheet so that you can write down how play develops and make assumptions as to how the next hand will fall. This is as helpful as noting down the roulette numbers and predicting the next one. The next time you are offered one, ask why they don't also provide one for blackjack!
Punto: Play with the player and the house edge is 1.36%.
Banco: Play with the bank and the house advantage is 1.17%.
Egalité: Play for a draw and the house advantage is a stonking great 14%! This is because the true odds are 9.5/1 but the casino only pays out 8/1.
You don't really need us to tell you that it makes sense to avoid égalité.
We are grateful for this article to Inside Poker Magazine.