Know the Odds

Good gamblers are lucky; great gamblers are smart! It’s that simple. The greatest gamblers either know they have a decisive edge or know how much they can risk in relation to the odds. For the best gamblers it’s not about luck.

Titanic Thompson, an iconic gambling figure of the 1920s, never made a bet he couldn’t win. Legend has it that he bet Arnold Rothstein, financier, gangster, and crook, that he could throw a peanut across Times Square. He did, of course, winning the bet after filling the peanut with lead bird shot. Thompson frequently scammed unsuspecting marks out of their paychecks betting on “license plate poker” after he pre-arranged with an associate to drive by in a car with a plate that had 333 on it. The odds were in his favor because he set them up. Trips were usually plenty to collect on this grift. Luck played no part in Titanic’s wagers!

Casinos these days are businesses and they have a difficult time meeting expenses if they only have the food and entertainment intake to rely upon. For casinos, wagering is an industry with the odds tilted in their favor. Casinos these days, both brick and mortar establishments and online operations, are not run by gangsters and crooks but by college graduates with MBAs and a long print out of statistics and formulas.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from enjoying a day of cards or slots. Everyone can have a lucky roll or a lucky spin. That’s why we play! What I do mean to get across is that good gamblers always know the odds.

The games available to you on a casino floor are all designed to favor the house, but in varying degrees. Smart players gravitate to those games that are the lesser evils – the games where the house has the least edge.

If you believe in this philosophy your playing will be limited to blackjack (provided you know the rules of play), Baccarat (bet the bank) or craps (playing the pass line and taking the maximum odds behind). These games give the casino the least advantage over you – all less than 1.4% (meaning for every $100 you wager the house is expected to win $1.40 and you are expected to leave with $98.60).

Roulette will skin you for more than $5 of every $100 you put at risk; the same for Caribbean Stud. Most of the other “designer” games you’ll find in the casino (Let-It- Ride, Casino War, Spanish 21, etc.) all have better odds IN FAVOR of the casino. Avoid them. Keno, a thought-to-be easy way of turning $1 into thousands, will allow the casino to keep $25 of every $100 you wager. Steer clear of Keno unless you can drink more money in free casino beer than you are betting. All those $1.40s and $5 bills add up over time and that’s how Caesars and all the other casinos pay the rent.

The smartest gamblers of all play poker. If you are even half way competent at Texas Hold ‘em you can overcome the “drop” or whatever surcharge the casino assesses you to play in a tournament. In poker you are playing against other gamblers. Much better odds of winning.

Know the odds and you’ll be a better, saner gambler.

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