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The right road is smart wagers

Dear Mark,
In your opinion, what is the best "even money" bet in the casino that has no casino edge? Would it be the Bankers hand in baccarat or blackjack? I have purchased several "even money" systems designed for roulette and now I'm looking for better success by applying them to either baccarat or blackjack.
Jon M.

Neither wager has a zero casino edge. The Bank hand in Baccarat faces a 1.17% house advantage, and the blackjack house advantage, assuming perfect basic strategy play on your part, is still approximately 0.5%. In games of skill like blackjack and video poker the player's skillful play can greatly reduce the casino's advantage, but not all the way down to goose egg. For games of chance, which means most casino games, the best a player can to is wager on bets having the lowest casino advantage among all the bets offered.

A rare exception is found in certain video poker machines that return 100-plus percent, but that win is based on playing perfect basic strategy (skill) and eventually hitting the royal flush (luck & lucre). A second exception: by card counting in blackjack, you can make pretty fair predictions of the composition of future hands, based on the knowledge of previously dealt and discarded cards. Here, a keen player can actually create an edge against the house.

We also need to chitchat about money management systems. Money management cannot affect the house advantage on any wager, nor guarantee that you will
win more money. If the house has an advantage before you apply a money management system, it has that same advantage even after you apply money management techniques. Some NMMS (Nincompoop Money Management Schemes), now being hawked by mail order hucksters, seem to promise you casino proprietorship, but ain't so no way can't be.

Bottom line: The two things that good money management principals offer is minimizing your losses and in most cases protecting your winnings. And yes, Jon, stick on the correct path of successful gambling by making smarter

Dear Mark,
Where is the best return for getting comps? The table games or slots. Helen C.

Of course, Helen, we do not gamble just to receive comps, right? Great! I want to make sure we're on the same page.
As to your question, you get the most returns by playing blackjack skillfully. Why? Because the casino assumes they have a two percent edge against the average player. By employing basic strategy, you downsize the casino's edge to only 0.5%. Because they base their comps on that two
percent house advantage, your best return lies in playing smart blackjack.

Dear Mark,
What are your thoughts on the progressive side bet for Caribbean Stud poker?
Tim G.

The progressive side bet in Caribbean Stud is a ghastly wager. A lousy bet, Tim, is always a lousy bet, regardless of the reason for making it. Mathematically, it has a house edge of about 26%, making it one of the worst side bets in the casino. The exact casino advantage depends on what the lesser hands (four-of-a-kind, full house, flush etc.) pay and the exact size of the jackpot.

Dear Mark,
I was told that not all field bets on a crap game are alike. Is there a difference? Lefty H.

I usually don't recommend Field Bet wagering at all in this column, as the house advantage hangs above two percent, but if you must play the field, you can reduce the casino's edge by 50% by finding field bets that pay 3:1 on the 12, and 2:1 on the 2. The bigger payoff on the 12 will take the house edge down from 5.56 to 2.78 percent.

Gambling thought of the week: "He had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces."
Mark Twain

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