Table Games: Play This, Avoid That

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playing Blackjack

On the surface, table games can look similar from one casino to the next. But the reality is the rules can make the table games at one casino much better than another location nearby.

So, let’s look at some table game types, and what to play and avoid on each.

Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games – it’s easy to see when you see the volume of Blackjack tables vs. other table types at casinos. It’s also a game where your strategy, and the ability to execute it successfully, has an influence on how well you’ll do playing the game over time.

Of course, so do the rules. And one rule has an outsized outcome of how you’ll do over time.

Play This: 3:2 Blackjack Payouts

With a Blackjack payout of 3:2, that means you’ll get 3 units for every 2 you bet when you get Blackjack. So if your bet was $10, you’ll get $15 as your payout if you achieve Blackjack. If your bet was $50, you’ll get $75, and so on.

It’s expected players will get a few Blackjacks an hour (depending on how many people are at the table, and therefore how quick the table is moving), so that can add up quickly over time.

Avoid That: 6:5 Blackjack Payouts

By comparison, 6:5 means that you’ll get 6 units for every 5 you bet when you get a Blackjack. So using that same $10 example, you’ll only get $12 as your payout if you achieve Blackjack. If your bet was $50, you’d only get $60.

On the surface, that might not sound like a big difference. But the difference in house advantage between 3:2 and 6:5 Blackjack is more than 1 percent of your overall payback over time. Given 3:2 Blackjack has a less than 1 percent advantage for the casino, that’s a significant shift in favor of the house and means you’ll lose your money faster over time.

Given the choice between the two, it’s always worth playing 3:2 with one major exception – if you have a low budget, and 3:2 requires a much higher bankroll (say, $25 minimum vs. $5 minimum on 6:5 Blackjack), you may lose less per hour on those $5 bets vs. $25, even with the difference in house advantage, and it may simply be more appropriate for your bankroll size. 

But even in markets like Las Vegas, you can find 3:2 Blackjack at accessible minimums, including downtown and at locals casinos, so it helps to do your homework.

Roulette

Roulette as a table game has one of the higher house advantages, particularly on American Roulette, which features the 0 and 00 green spaces on the wheel. Casinos, particularly in Vegas have begun implementing 000 wheels, which add a third green space, and make the odds even worse. So, what to play?

Play This: Single Zero Roulette

It’s not going to be the easiest to find, but in high limit rooms and in certain casinos, you can still sometimes find single zero roulette. Downtown, the Plaza Hotel & Casino has a single zero roulette table among its offerings, generally at an accessible table minimum.

Why is single zero roulette so helpful? It effectively halves the house advantage. While it remains above games like Blackjack and some of the lower edge bets on craps, it certainly improves your expected return over time and makes it worthwhile.


Similar to Blackjack, if you’ve got a lower budget and single zero roulette minimums are out of your reach (oftentimes in high limit rooms it could require a $50, $100 or more minimum), you’ll lose less per hour on $10 minimums on American Roulette by comparison. But if your bankroll allows it, single zero roulette is the way to go!

Avoid This: Triple Zero Roulette

This version was originally known as Sands Roulette, named after the company that introduced the idea. This version of Roulette has a house advantage that exceeds 7 percent, a far higher house advantage than standard bets at nearly any other table game. 

With three green spaces, it expands the house edge to a point where it’s even worse expected returns than high limit slots. We’ve even seen this version pop up on electronic table games – it’s not worth it if you see it when there will be plenty of better options around.

Craps

Craps has a lot of bets, and if you’re new to the game it can feel overwhelming. There are basic bets that offer decent opportunities, while others are very high house edge bets. Here’s a couple of each type to play and avoid.

Play This: Pass/Don’t Pass (Even Better With Odds)

The basic pass/don’t pass bets are the starting point for any new Craps better, as you’re betting for or against the number that gets rolled to happen or not. The edge on these bets are around 1.4 percent.

Casinos also let you buy additional odds once a number is established, which pays at true odds – no house edge at all. 

When played with the pass/don’t pass, it reduces the overall house edge (although in the process, by raising your bet, it will increase the swings in both directions). Having 2x odds on either of these bets reduces the edge from around 1.4 percent to around .85 percent – a significant reduction over time.

It’s worth noting that the Come/Don’t Come have the same odds as the Pass/Don’t Pass equivalents as the bets work similarly, just during the middle of a roll vs. at the beginning of one, so those are equally good.

Avoid That: Any 7/Big Red

The any 7 bet tends to pay 4 to 1, but because a 7 is expected on average 1 in 6 rolls, it creates a house advantage of about 17 percent, a massive house edge that will drain your bankroll pretty quickly over time.

It’s an easy bet to understand, but it comes with a very high edge for the casino, so it’s not worth chasing after.

Play This: Place 6/8

You can bet on specific numbers being rolled. When it comes to doing so, Placing the 6 and 8 is the best bet on the table. For every $6 you wager on either the 6 or the 8, you’re paid $7 each time that number is rolled before a seven ends the round.

The house edge on placing the 6 or the 8 is about 1.52 percent – not much higher than a pass/don’t pass or come/don’t come without any odds.

Avoid That: Betting On the 2/12

You can make single roll wagers on many of the harder numbers to hit. The two hardest to hit are the 2 and the 12, as only one combination out of 36 dice rolls can make it happen: 1 and 1 (for the 2) or 6 and 6 (for the 12). 

But although it’s 1/36 of the time it will come out, the payouts are only 30 to 1, creating a roughly 13.90 percent edge for the house – another massive edge that rivals the worst paying penny slots.

It certainly offers a higher payout, but at the cost of a much higher likelihood of losing your money faster.


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