It’s every guy’s dream to stroll into a casino with a little bit of change in his pocket and leave a high roller. (Or, at the very least, with a shred of dignity intact.) But as hard as it is to get rich gambling, it’s definitely not impossible. You just need to know what you’re doing. So if you’re off to Vegas soon, allow us to offer some helpful advice: beeline straight for the oldest and most complicated game on the floor, Craps.
“If you make the safest bets in [Craps], the house has only a slightly more than a 1 percent advantage over the player,” explains Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association.
Here’s what that means: if there was a zero percent house advantage, a $100 bet would result in a $100 return. With a 1 percent house advantage, the safest, most long-term cautious play will likely result in a $99 return. And for the safest and most cautious play, emphasize the “passline” bet.
In craps, before any new shooter rolls a pair of dice, bettors place their chips across the table. A “passline” bet is when you place your bet on the passline. Now, if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12—there’s about an 11 percent chance of that happening—then you lose. If they roll a 7 or an 11—a 22.1 percent chance—then you win. But if the shooter rolls any other number—a whopping 66.9 percent chance—the round continues, and that new number becomes something called the “point number.”
The roller now has to roll a 7—itself a 16.6 percent chance—before rolling the new number (which could range anywhere from a 2.8 to 13.9 percent chance, depending on the number). If the 7 is rolled, you lose. But if the shooter rolls the point number, you make even money for your bet. Not bad.
It’s not most exciting tactic, but if you’re going purely by the math, grinding out passline bets represents your best odds of success.
“But there’s an interesting thing about a game of chance: No amount of learning is going to help you get more lucky,” says Wasserstein. In short, unless you want to lose a few bucks, you can forget about all of those games that are purely up to fate—craps, roulette, slots, et cetera. “But that’s okay! The enjoyment of games of chance might be such that, if you have the money to lose, that’s fun. For me? That would be horrifying.”
If you’re a more experienced gambler who truly wants to minimize risk, you’ve got only one option: card games. And that doesn’t mean blackjack, either (which is basically a game of chance). It means poker, where your skills as a player can actually improve your odds.
“If you’re really good—and let me emphasize that you need to be good as opposed to just thinking that you’re good—you do have a much better chance at coming back with more than you left,” says Wasserstein. But if you’re confident—and, more importantly, competent—poker is the absolute best bang for your buck.
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