Little risk, big reward logic is not sane gambling

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I play craps exclusively and tend to stick with your recommendations, that being Pass line bets, odds and a Place bet on either the Six or Eight. I also like to bet the “snake eyes” or “box cars” as a fun way to invest a little for a decent payoff. You’ve called them “sucker” bets, whereas I see it only as a buck with little chance of financial ruin. They do hit occasionally, so I’m asking if there any flaw in my logic? Dave C.

Your question, Dave, reminded me of a bright new freshly paved road I once happened onto in nowhere Nevada one very, very hot summer day. It was smooth, the concrete was new, bright, swift. We just tooled along, until coming over a slight rise we saw that the road ended. No signs, no warning, no fence, no gate, and no gas – just sand, cactus, and some sleepy lizards. They could have named that road Snake-eyes because I was bitten.

Yes, Dave, I hear it all the time: “It’s such a small investment for the potential of a decent payoff,”  or, “I hit the two (snake eyes) and twelve (box cars) enough that it pays to bet a $1.”

What encourages most players to make this bet is that it can hit, on any given gambling session. Those “ups” you may be currently having just shows the volatile nature of  gambling. The rollercoaster “ups” and “downs” of gambling happen to everyone, but getting an oversized payout of $30 for your $1 wager will camouflage the long-term ruin that this “sucker” bet will eventually bring to your wallet.

What doesn’t change with a snake eyes or a box cars wager is the built-in house edge. It’s a whopping 13.88 percent, meaning for every $100 you bet on the two or twelve, the casino pockets $13.88. Ka-ching! Can you hear me now?

Chicken scratch it’s not, and if you’re bellied-up to a crap table continually betting $1 on the two, and participate in 140 rolls of the dice every hour, your $140 investment should have an expected loss of $19.43 per hour. Hang around the game for four hours, plan on $77.72 in losses on that one wager.

Sound gambling? I think not. Neither is driving in the desert without a full tank of gas.

I have heard that some states offer slot machines that are based on skill. How can that be? Don’t you just yank a handle and win? Jenny G.

You meant lose, Jenny, didn’t you?

“Skill” slots are slightly different in that you have two opportunities to spin the reels. After you see the results of your first spin, supposedly  the “skill” factor comes into play in the bonus round when you decide to keep none, one, two or all three symbols on each reel before you spin them again.

Naturally, you keep the sure things like cherries, treasure chests, and doubles and trips of everything, but I’ve tried these “skill” machines once in North Carolina and I’m still not quite sure what proficiency you need outside a flair for guessing and loads of luck.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:  “He was about to gamble his life on that table, and the insanity of that risk filled him with a kind of awe.” –Paul Auster, The Music of Chance

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