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Daddy needs a new game of choice...
August 22, 2009 9:45 PM   Subscribe

On a single round of betting at a casino what is the best odds? (One that doesn't require skill such as BJ or Poker. Something where I can just walk up and put a chip(s) somewhere like Roulette or Craps.)

I know nothing about gambling but I was recently in Vegas for the first time and I thought I had better not come all this way and not gamble. So I bet on red/black which pays 1:1, and I figured it ought to be close to 50/50 odds minus the 2 zeros which gives the house a slight edge. Then my friend told me that if I bet on 1-12 and 13-24 at the same time I've got 24 out of 38 numbers covered and the total payout will still be 1:1 if I win on one of them and lose on the other.
Anyway, what's the best bet I can make?
posted by who else to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am also curious about games where a single bet may have lousy odds but the payout is higher so it may be better overall if I play for long enough. I know nothing about math and have no choice but to take a pseudo-mathematical shamanistic superstitious approach to this. Yay!
posted by who else at 9:49 PM on August 22, 2009


Craps offers the best overall odds in certain situations. Black Jack is second. These are the only two games (main games) that offer the adept player an edge over the house. Either you learn them well or you lose money. That's about it.
posted by sanka at 10:01 PM on August 22, 2009


the only way the house is losing money over time is people regularly rolling through with w.m.d. Otherwise they've got it in the bag. Certain video poker/slot machines will advertise negative house odds, but it sounds like you're a fan of live action gamblinating. If that's the case sanka's entirely correct.

Whatever you do don't start pachinko.
posted by kickback at 10:09 PM on August 22, 2009


The pass line in Craps is generally considered to be the best odds in the house. It's still odds-against, mind, but not by much.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:47 PM on August 22, 2009


Banker bet in baccarat, or pass line with full odds.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:52 PM on August 22, 2009


Craps offers the best overall odds in certain situations. Black Jack is second. These are the only two games (main games) that offer the adept player an edge over the house.
I don't think that any bet in craps is advantageous to the player, ever. Could you please describe one?
Then my friend told me that if I bet on 1-12 and 13-24 at the same time I've got 24 out of 38 numbers covered and the total payout will still be 1:1 if I win on one of them and lose on the other.
If you bet $1 on this, i.e. 50 cents on 1-12 and 50 cents on 13-24, then you have a 24 in 38 chance of winning one of the two, for a net gain of 50 cents, and a 14 in 38 chance of losing both, for a net loss of a dollar. This means you stand to lose, on average, a little over a nickel.

This is exactly the same average payout as a dollar on red, or on black, or on any particular number, or on virtually every other roulette bet that the casino will let you make. On average, no matter what you do, you will lose a little over a nickel for every $1 roulette bet you make. Imagine pretty much any wacky way of splitting up your $1 into different individual bets - "what if I bet 55 cents on red, and 23 cents on black, and 10 cents on 5, and 8 cents on the corners, and two cents each on 0 and 00" - and you will, on average, lose slightly over a nickel.

There are a few exceptions, but they're worse for you - i.e. they will make you average a loss of more than a nickel on each dollar bet.
posted by Flunkie at 11:06 PM on August 22, 2009


Flunkie, I believe you are right about craps. The best you can hope for is doubling your pass line bet with free odds. The free odds bet gets you true odds on that part of the bet - no edge at all for the house. But you can't place that bet without a pass line bet, where the house already starts with a small (but of course, significant) edge. The free odds just lowers the house's overall edge.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:15 PM on August 22, 2009


Blackjack may seem more accessible, but in order to get those odds that are only slightly against you, you need to play perfectly. By the time you've memorized every situation and know exactly what to do, a lot of the fun is sucked out of the game.

Craps offers comparably small house odds, as long as you stay away from the sucker bets. IMO, craps is a lot more fun because it's something of a team sport. Everyone at the table is rooting for the guy with the dice to do well, and if you get on a hot table, it can be a hell of a good time - perfect strangers hugging, many toasts being made and drinks being bought, etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:16 PM on August 22, 2009


Craps offers comparably small house odds, as long as you stay away from the sucker bets. IMO, craps is a lot more fun because it's something of a team sport. Everyone at the table is rooting for the guy with the dice to do well, and if you get on a hot table, it can be a hell of a good time - perfect strangers hugging, many toasts being made and drinks being bought, etc.

Conversely, you can play odds behind a Don't Pass bet and get paid true odds. Only thing is, you're betting that everyone will lose. Mathematically, one of the best spots to put money in the house; in practice, kind of a dick move. If you've got the stones, by all means.

I was once at a craps table where the big roller next to me put down a grand on Don't Pass. He did it after the dice came back to a shooter who had crapped out in a more exposed moment for the high roller. The high roller actually encouraged the whole table to join him in betting against the shooter. And when he did crap out, and the high roller pulled his money back, he started mouthing off about how some people just have no luck. It was a pretty intense moment
posted by JimmyJames at 11:48 PM on August 22, 2009


When I was 13 or so, I found myself in the casino of a cruise ship sailing the Aegean Sea. It was a pathetic little casino. There were a couple rows of slot machines flashing and dinging to no one in particular, a tiny bar, and a few game tables like islands of green felt and wood-grain vinyl floating in the red shag carpet. The cashier, sitting behind iron bars that reminded me of a prison dispensary, was asleep. The bartender had the same idea, but was periodically interrupted by his duties. At the blackjack table was a grizzled old guy, alone with the dealer. The poker table was covered up and the craps table was simply ignored.

The only source of life was at the roulette table. The croupier was lively, making jokes and calling the action in a variety of styles; horse racing announcer, auctioneer, strip club DJ. The players --a classic Jewish grandmother type, a young Australian couple, a few middle-aged Brits -- were enjoying themselves, too.

Too young to play anything but the slots, where I had dutifully lost a couple Euros, I took an empty seat by the croupier and watched. Without gambling any money myself it was a pretty boring show. No one hit their number, and most of the money was focused on outside bets.

About ten minutes in, sufficiently bored with playing along in my head, the ball landed on 23 red twice in a row. This caused the players to reevaluate their strategies: What are the chances of the same number three times in a row? Most were cautious, and only two people put down a Euro on 23 red for the next spin, but most put down some money on the row or column containing 23. One of the Brits who was consistently betting black and even decided to change his mind for just one spin. Of course -- this wouldn't be a story otherwise -- 23 red comes up again! Amazing! Three times in a row! You could almost hear the sigh from the bartender as more drinks were ordered in celebration.

With everyone else away at the bar or proclaiming their amazement, the croupier, who had been giving me some side commentary through the round, leaned toward me and whispered, "Watch carefully."

Drinks in hand, proclamations thoroughly voiced, the players settled down and resumed their normal betting strategies. Black and even for the one Brit, two Euros on zero for the Australians, and a random assortment for the rest. The croupier called all bets final and, with a bit of a wink at me, sent the ball spinning around the wheel. When the ball was finally trapped by one of the pockets, the grandmotherly type who had been so polite and friendly through the game yelled out, "You're fucking kidding me!", downed her gin and tonic, and stormed out. The other players were dumbstruck, the croupier was looking smug, and I decided to never, ever, play roulette.

For the fourth time in a row, the ball landed in 23 red.
posted by clorox at 12:13 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you have one chip to play at a casino table, and you're looking for the very best odds, the answer is Bacarat, in which a banker's bet gives the casino about a 1% edge. But, that's not usually a game where people play for a single round.

I'm with the rest of the crowd that says Craps has the best odds of any common casino game. If you've got one chip, put it on Pass and enjoy the ride.

Don't Pass is marginally less favorable for the house (1.36% vs. 1.4%), but as mentioned upthread, Craps is sort of a team sport. Betting Don't (often called "betting wrong") means you'll win when most of the table is losing. That may be mathematically better, but it's a lot less fun.

There is a bet on the craps table that has no house advantage. It's the "odds" bet that's placed after the come out roll. You must have a pass or don't pass bet on the table to be allowed to place an odds bet... the casino has an edge on the (don't) pass line bet, but not on the odds.
posted by toxic at 12:46 AM on August 23, 2009


Back in the 90s, I used to get coupons for free bets when I'd stay at particular casinos. Often, I'd be traveling with someone who got the same offers. For quite some time, when we checked into our $25 room, we would each get a voucher good for a $50 bet that could be placed as any even money bet (including pass/don't pass).

We would do this: One $50 voucher on pass, One $50 voucher on don't pass, and two dollars on the boxcars (12). If the shooter rolled a 12 on their first roll, our $2 became $68 ($66 payout, plus $2 returned). Any other set of rolls would net us $48 ($50 payout - $2 boxcar), because one voucher would win, the other would lose.
posted by toxic at 1:11 AM on August 23, 2009


On a single round of betting at a casino what is the best odds?

I don't think this is asking the same question as this:

Anyway, what's the best bet I can make?

Now, everyone here seems to be answering the first question. Which is fine if you actually intend on playing, but if you're not a player and just plan to walk into a casino, walk up to a table completely cold, and place one single bet before you leave town, for example, then the best bet you can make will be the one with the largest payout.

In general, the worse your odds, the better the payout (to a point where it no longer becomes fun… i.e., you could always spend your single bet on lottery tickets). But in keeping with the spirit of the question, the single biggest payout (and thus, best single bet) is with a straight bet on the Roulette table, which pays 35 to 1.

Technically, slot machines would be even better bets, but I didn't include them because I feel that one-armed bandits lack a certain human element.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:20 AM on August 23, 2009


i enjoy playing craps. i nearly always play the don't pass side, although there's mathematically no difference between pass/don'tpass. when you're playing from the pass, you win bit by bit but lose all at once. on the don't pass, you lose bit by bit but win all at once. i find the latter much more enjoyable.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:49 AM on August 23, 2009


If you bet $1 on this, i.e. 50 cents on 1-12 and 50 cents on 13-24, then you have a 24 in 38 chance of winning one of the two, for a net gain of 50 cents, and a 14 in 38 chance of losing both, for a net loss of a dollar. This means you stand to lose, on average, a little over a nickel.

OK, I want to discuss this. Just so everyone knows, in Roulette betting that 1-12 will come up or 13-24 or 25-36 pays 2:1. That is, 50 cents gets you 1 dollar for a total of $1.50. Your explanation makes sense if you are playing multiple rounds. Eventually you will have a net loss. But for placing one single bet in this instance, your odds are almost 2 in 3 of winning, right? That is a hell of a lot better than just less than 50/50 odds, and I didn't think that was possible in a single bet.
posted by who else at 8:25 AM on August 23, 2009


The bets with the lowest edge are the dullest ones, as others have said. If it's a fun bet, a heart-flutterer, you're basically paying for the privilege of giving the house a bigger advantage. And the Law of Large Numbers applies.

For roulette, I remember reading a suggestion to split your stake and betting half on one column (1,4,7...34, etc.) and the other half on one of 1-12, 13-24, 25-36. That covers 18 numbers in total, four of which can get paid off twice. But if you're willing to pay for an experience, then you bet on the numbers. Or you combine decent strategy with a bit of fun in craps by playing the pass line with odds with the occasional place bet on 5 and/or 8.
posted by holgate at 8:51 AM on August 23, 2009


Something where I can just walk up and put a chip(s) somewhere

Forget the tables!

Hit the sports book and throw something down for your favorite sport or team.

* You'll have fun following the game.
* The handicapped odds are intended to be as close to 50/50 as you can get.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:25 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, let's walk through this:

I walk up to the roulette table and place 1 dollar on 1-12, and another dollar on 13-24. I have a 31.58% chance of hitting each one, or a 61.16% chance of hitting either.

Let's say I hit 15. I lose the bet on 1-12 and win the bet on 13-24. All together, that nets me one dollar, so that's great! (I put two dollars down on the table, and the dealer hands me three back)

But, if the dealer hits 0, 00, or 15-36, I lose TWO dollars. This happens with probability 38.84%

So my expected winnings are:

(chance of a win * amount of a win) - (chance of a loss - amount of a loss)

In this example, where I bet one dollar on each, that works out to

(0.6116 * 1) - (0.3884 * 2)
= 0.6116 - 0.7768
= -0.1652

So the house will, on average, win 16 cents of every dollar that I bet using this strategy.

Your mistake is ignoring the fact that you're risking one can only win one dollar, but you can lose two dollars. This skews the odds significantly in favor of the house.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2009


Gah, that last sentence is mangled:

"Your mistake is ignoring the fact that you can only win one dollar, but you can lose two dollars. This skews the odds significantly in favor of the house."

posted by chrisamiller at 9:28 AM on August 23, 2009


"Your mistake is ignoring the fact that you can only win one dollar, but you can lose two dollars. This skews the odds significantly in favor of the house."

Ah well I still think that if I only intend to make 1 bet, most likely lose everything that I bet, it doesn't matter how much I stand to lose vs how much I stand to win unless I am playing for multiple rounds. 1 bet in this case gets me 61.16% odds of coming away with more money than I had, but those odds still suck.
posted by who else at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2009


A busy craps table is the most fun and potentially profitable way to go. The decent pass line odds aren't actually that relevant. If you observe for a while, you'll notice that craps dice are passed from each bettor around the table in a (usually) clockwise fashion. One person continues to roll until they lose. Don't actually stand up at the table and bet until it will be your turn to throw. Plunk down a minimum bet on the pass line.

If you're lucky and roll well, the kicker isn't your modest bet but the love from fellow players who profited by your success. A good tosser is often thrown chips by a high roller or two on a table raking it in. If you were a mommy (and not daddy) looking for a new game, this is almost a sure thing with the right table. There's an old school mythology about a "virgin female" roller being good luck.
posted by Izner Myletze at 1:24 PM on August 23, 2009


1 bet in this case gets me 61.16% odds of coming away with more money than I had, but those odds still suck.

Right. If it helps, take this to an extreme. We'll make a bet in which your odds of winning are 66%. If you win, I pay you a dollar, but if I win, you pay me a million dollars.

Clearly, this is not a good bet. The expected return absolutely matters.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2009


There are two types of game, skilled and non-skilled. If you are placing a single bet, there are no even bets unless you are aware of some skew in the deal during black jack, and even then you'd need extra money to take advantage of doubling or splitting.

However, if you are willing to wait it out, the non-skilled game with the best odds is a craps bet on the pass line, and then maximizing the bets on the individual line bets (ask the dealer/croupier what the max is, it depends on how much you placed on the pass line). The line bets are placed by tossing them chips and declaring your amount for the last number rolled: you are betting it will be rolled again before the shooter rolls a seven. The croupier will usually tell you how much you can bet total in relation to the ration paid, because they have distinct ratios. Regardless, the house still holds the advantage here, but it is the safest non-skilled bet in the casino, quoted at .8% with proper play.

Wikipedia: Pass odds: If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 is thrown on the come-out roll (i.e., if a point is set), most casinos allow pass line bettors to take odds by placing from one to five times (and at some casinos, up to 100 times) the pass line bet behind the pass line. This additional bet wins if the point is rolled again before a 7 is rolled (the point is made) and pays at the true odds of 2-to-1 if 4 or 10 is the point, 3-to-2 if 5 or 9 is the point, and 6-to-5 if 6 or 8 is the point.

posted by Brian B. at 1:49 PM on August 23, 2009


(ask the dealer/croupier what the max is, it depends on how much you placed on the pass line)

Don't try this on a busy table. You'll take abuse from your fellow players, particularly during a successful run.
posted by Izner Myletze at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2009


However, if you are willing to wait it out, the non-skilled game with the best odds is a craps bet on the pass line, and then maximizing the bets on the individual line bets

I should also explicitly point out that after you have established the point, you can continue with come bets, and these act like line bets when they fail on 4,5,6,8,9. You are now betting that the number rolled will appear again before seven. The interesting part is taking odds on these bets, same as the point odds bet, sometimes having odds bets on all the line numbers during a hot shooter and getting paid those odds on each hit until seven.

Wikipedia: If instead the roll is 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 then the come bet will be moved by the base dealer onto a box representing the number the shooter threw. This number becomes the come bet point and the player is allowed to add odds to the bet. The dealer will place the odds on top of the come bet, but slightly off center in order to differentiate between the original bet and the odds. The second round wins if the shooter rolls the come bet before a seven.
posted by Brian B. at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2009


From the Wizard of Odds:

There is a story today about a British man who will bet his life savings on one roulette roll. My friend and I have been debating about what the best casino bet is for this type of wager. If you can only place one bet, and you wish to maximize your odds, what is the best game to play and what is the best bet?

First, let me say this guy was a fool. He bet $138,000 on a normal American roulette wheel with two zeros and a house edge of 5.26%. This amounted to an expected loss of $7263. However had he taken a 10 minute ride to the Bellagio, Mirage, or Aladdin he could have made the bet on a single zero wheel which follows the European rule of giving half an even money bet back if the ball lands in zero. He planned to make an even money bet anyway. So at these wheels with full European rules his house edge would have been only 1.35%, for an expected loss of only $1865.

To answer your question, if forced to make just one even money type bet I would have chosen the banker bet in baccarat with a house edge of 1.06%. May 5, 2004

posted by herrdoktor at 5:37 PM on August 23, 2009


One more note: you can get lower house odds in craps, by laying free odds. See, again, the Wizard of Odds. See the table posted in the link.

Best bet would be to place a pass line bet, and back it with full odds. Most strip casinos use the 3-4-5x system, where you can lay 3x your pass line bed for free odds for the 4 and 10, 4x for the 5 and 9, and 5x for the 6 and 8. The payout will be 7x your pass line bet in any case, should you hit the point.

Oh, yeah, and you'd get slightly better odds playing the don't pass line, with full odds, slightly. But as I've been told by wise old degenerate gamblers: never bet against yourself.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:43 PM on August 23, 2009


A busy craps table is the most fun and potentially profitable way to go. The decent pass line odds aren't actually that relevant. If you observe for a while, you'll notice that craps dice are passed from each bettor around the table in a (usually) clockwise fashion. One person continues to roll until they lose. Don't actually stand up at the table and bet until it will be your turn to throw. Plunk down a minimum bet on the pass line....

If you're lucky and roll well, the kicker isn't your modest bet but the love from fellow players who profited by your success. A good tosser is often thrown chips by a high roller or two on a table raking it in. If you were a mommy (and not daddy) looking for a new game, this is almost a sure thing with the right table. There's an old school mythology about a "virgin female" roller being good luck.


and

(ask the dealer/croupier what the max is, it depends on how much you placed on the pass line)

Don't try this on a busy table. You'll take abuse from your fellow players, particularly during a successful run.
posted by Izner Myletze at 2:04 PM


I'm not sure where you've played craps, but you're giving really bad advice.

a) Someone on a great roll will likely get cheers and encouragement from other players, yes. But you're telling the potential craps player to COUNT ON receiving money from other players? That's ridiculous. And I say that as someone who looks like your "virgin female" shooter.

b) The dealers are ALWAYS willing to answer polite questions from players, regardless of how busy the table is. Wait until they're done stacking or raking chips and ask your question nicely. That's part of their job. Call them by name. And it doesn't hurt if you're making a $1 side bet for them. They become really eager to help you out when you do that.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:04 AM on August 24, 2009


I'm not sure where you've played craps, but you're giving really bad advice.

Former craps dealer. The side bet is a good idea. Calling dealers by name, etc. not so much.
posted by Izner Myletze at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2009


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