Load up on odds, but leave breathing room

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When playing craps, should a player on a limited budget play a pass line bet with odds or a pass line bet and a few come bets? Gary D.

On a pass line bet, Gary, the house has an edge of 1.4%, whereas it has none on an odds bet. Except for counting cards in blackjack, odds are the absolute best wager in the casino. Therefore, the more action that goes into odds bets, the lower the house edge (as a percentage of your action). By this reasoning, you should always take the full amount of odds allowed. However, if you’re on a really limited budget, or if you are a college student whose dominant purpose is to park on the rail hoping to be served free beers, you may not want to take full odds because the increase in wager size might wipe out your meager bankroll.

If either of those piteous conditions is the case, you might try this: When not taking full odds, make the minimal line bet allowed, establishing one point at a time. Then use the additional money as odds on your single line bet. If the gaming gods look favorably on your play, increase your odds until you reach the table maximum. Only when you are taking full odds should you start to establish even more points by making additional come bets.

When you are dealt more than one face card (for example, an ace, a king, and a jack), should you hold only one of them or all three on a 9/6 jacks or better machine? Mary Anne G.

Great question, Mary Anne. The video poker strategy discussed here is for the 9/6 or 8/5 machine (called 9/6 because of the 9 for 1 payoff for a full house and 6 for 1 payoff for a flush).

The smart play is to hold all three, unless two of the cards are of the same suit, in which case you would drop the unsuited high card and go for video poker immortality, the royal flush.

I just read an answer in which you stated that you should never buy a number. Dealers have told me before that you are better off buying the 4 and 10. Is this true, and what is the difference in expected return? Jeff K.

Recommendations made in this column, Jeff, are based solely on my high preference for wagers that give the house less than a 2% advantage. Occasionally, when a bet falls pretty close to the casino tree, like a wager on a single zero roulette table, I’ll also include it.

A buy bet does nothing more than give the house a 5% commission for paying you correct odds on a winning place bet. True, the buy bet on the 4 and 10 allows the player to reduce the house edge to 4%, but that’s not within shouting distance of my fancy for a 2% or under house edge. As long as there are other wagers on a crap game far superior to buying the 4 and 10, I cannot pen the buy as a recommended play.

Gambling thought of the week: “Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly.” William Shakespeare, King Lear (1606)

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