Diversification - The Games to Play when Craps Turns to Crap

Let’s face it.  It happens to all of us.  For one reason or another, skills we’ve developed practicing our plays at home don’t make the transition to the casino.  Blame it on variance, bad luck, or something you ate for dinner – sometimes the correct craps play is no craps play.  So what do you do if you’re in the casino and it’s one of “those” days?  Here are my personal picks for the games you should play.

1.  Sports Book.  Benny Binion was once quoted as saying “Never bet on anything that eats or shits.”  Try betting sports and you’ll understand why.  Whether your betting football, basketball, or even betting on the ponies – sports betting is an extremely tough way to grind out a small profit.  Nevertheless, nationwide there are plenty of players making big bucks moving money through books.  The downside?  You have to do your homework.  Unless, of course, you want to shell out money for a handicapping service.  From an advantage players point of view that just adds to the vig.  My suggestion?  Invest the time to learn how to do your own handicapping.  Limit play to the games where you believe you have an edge.  And remember, just because you’re a Chicago fan doesn’t mean “Da Bears” are going to win Monday night.  Bet with your head – not your heart.

2.  Poker.  Poker is a close second to sports betting in my book.  Personally, I’m not much of a player.  Mostly because I’m not a fan of card games – period.  Add to that the fact that poker players are completely different kinds of gamblers. Yeah, they have their superstitions just like craps players.  I know of one Vegas poker pro who refuses to play with anything but green chips, for example.  But at the end of the day poker is a game of skill.  Players compete against each other – not against the house.  The only “vig” is a small “rake” the house takes on each pot.  Learn to play properly and it’s fairly easy to play with an edge. Invest in some decent poker training software and start out playing on-line for free.  Put in your time and by the time you hit the poker rooms you’ll good to go.  But remember – if you don’t know who the sucker is at the table – it’s you.

3.  Blackjack.  Learn to play perfect strategy and count cards and you can play with an edge.  You can learn a simple strategy like the KO count system with a couple of days practice.  Or you can learn the EZ Opt system in a matter of hours.  It’s not as powerful as the KO system, but it will still let you play with a small advantage.  My personal play is sort of an amalgam of the two.  I use elements of each.  Whatever you decide to do on a count technique, choose the best games around.  Learn to count under the radar, mask your skills, and take advantage of the volatility of the game.  It’s not that difficult to walk away with a win.  Some advantage players will argue with me on the next part of the equation.  The key is to walk away with that win – not to continue playing and give it back.  Employ a loss limit and win objective and focus on ending every session on a win.

4.  Video poker.  Video poker is another game of skill you can play profitably.  Pick the correct game and play correctly and you’ll be battling a very small house edge.  There are still a few games out there that offer over 100 percent payback to players utilizing perfect mathematical strategy – particularly if you take advantage of the comps and free play you can earn. Unfortunately, those machines are usually monopolized by locals who camp out on them 24/7.  Still, you may occasionally get a chance to get on a great machine.  But before you do, learn to play perfect strategy and pick the correct machine by utilizing computerized training program’s such as Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for Winners.

5.  Pai Gow Poker.  Pai Gow Poker is a card game derived from the Chinese game of Pai Gow, which is played with tiles and dice.  The Americanized version is a game that carries a relatively low house edge – particularly if you elect to serve as “banker” of the game. When you bank the game you pay a five percent commission to the house. You win the bet of any player you beat. The game also has a lot of “ties” where nobody wins – or loses.  Of course, while all this is going on the comp clock is running and you’re still earning perks.  Pai Gow Poker requires skill in setting of the hands but the dealer will help you out if you’re new to the game.  A skilled player can gain the advantage over a less knowledgeable player, so you’ll want to learn the game as quickly as possible.  There are many good books and videos on the subject.  John Patrick’s Pai Gow Poker DVD ranks right up there in my book.

6.  Baccarat.  Both Baccarat and Mini-Baccarat are played by the same rules.  The major difference is the table minimum and the fact that the croupier deals the cards in Mini-Bac.  In traditional Baccarat the players deal the cards.  Both games give you the option of betting Player or Bank.  The player bet is a good bet with a house edge of only 1.24 percent. The Baccarat bet a player wants to avoid is the tie bet which is one of the worst bets you can make.  The banker bet in Baccarat has a smaller house edge than the player bet but it requires you to pay a commission when you win. The house edge is 1.06 percent for the Banker bet.  Some players believe they can count cards or shuffle track at Baccarat and play with an edge.  As far as I’m concerned the jury is out on that one.  But because of the low house edge, the ability to flat bet, and a tendency to get streaky – system players enjoy testing their strategies against the game.

7.  Roulette.  Yeah, I’ll probably get some arguments on this one.  For years Roulette was my sit-down game of choice.  In a couple of cases I tracked wheels for months looking for bias toward particular numbers. I also tracked individual dealer results looking for signatures.  Bottom line – I fared very well against certain properties.  On the other hand, I’ve seen a few dealers that I felt were simply too good at steering the ball.  If you want to play roulette search out a single zero wheel.  Odds are they’ll be in the high limit area so be prepared to play larger bets than you would on a double zero wheel.  You should also be prepared for a different level of companionship than you find at the craps game.  Roulette is the game where many of the loveliest ladies in the casino hang out, and the game’s slow pace give you plenty of time to enjoy the view.

Of course, it’s hard to find a cheaper way to play than to utilize the slot “free play” the casino awards you.  If your free play is for a relatively small amount – say $10 – then head to the penny or nickel slots and look for a lightning strike.  If you win $25 or more take it to the quarter slots and continue to play.  Can you work it up to $100?  If so then move on to the $1 slots – then the $5 machines.  But don’t play your balance down to zero.  Cash out for at least the initial $10 the casino gave you.  It’s free money and it’s all yours.

Has the casino gone over the top and issued you a larger free play chit?  I recently had $300 in free play to use at one property.  I took it directly to the $10 machines and cashed out $450.  What’s more, the casino’s tracking system gave me credit for playing the $300 through the machine, resulting in an additional breakfast comp the next morning.  You can’t beat free on top of free.

Bottom line – if the casino is beating you one way there are always other games to play.  Take the time to learn them and you may find yourself dollars ahead at the end of the day.