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Bettor's Rx

The Best (and Worst) Prescriptions for Gambling Fever
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 3)

Often you'll see big baccarat players studying their charts, trying to discern a pattern in the past results, forgetting, of course, that these results have no bearing on the future. You can almost see the epiphany flashing across their minds: "My god, there hasn't been a tie for twelve hands! I should bet the tie." Well, actually they shouldn't. Ever. This bet is 11 times worse than wagering on Player or Bank.

NO. 4--Craps, "Any Seven": --16.7 percent

As good as the "line" and "odds" bets are, that's how rotten the proposition bets are on a dice table. You'll find an array of these come-ons in the middle of the table. The worst of these one-roll wagers is the "Any Seven," in which a gambler bets that the next roll of the bones will produce a total seven.

Anybody with a grade-school aptitude for math should see that this bet only pays 5 for 1, when the true odds should be 6 for 1. But gambling fever tends to affect eyesight as well.

NO. 3--The Big Wheel, Average Bet: --19.1 percent

The Big Wheel, or Big Six as it is often called, looks like a salvage job from a long-shuttered carnival: "Spin the wheel, win a prize!" Casinos frequently employ their peppiest "people" persons at the Big Wheel, where, management hopes, ignorant gamblers will get caught up in the simulated carnival atmosphere.

There's nothing worth gambling on here. If you see anyone parked in front of this spinning money drain, you can be sure he is either very drunk or very stupid. The "best" bet, on the $1 spot, gives the casino an 11.1 percent advantage. The worst, on one of two Jokers that pay 40 to 1 (on a 50-to-1 shot), skims 24 percent. Everything else in between is just as bad, producing an average edge for the House approaching a criminal 20 percent.

NO. 2--Keno: --28 percent

This number may be slightly generous. Some keno games give the casino an advantage of over 30 percent.

The House picks 20 numbered balls out of a bowl of 80. Players attempt to match as few as one of the numbers or as many as all 20. In every configuration of the game--Pick Five; 20-Spot Special, etc.--the casinos skew the payouts so wickedly that you would think the wretchedness of the game would be painfully obvious. (You would be mistaken.)

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