Casino Gambling Questions and Answers

by John Grochowski
Question: I was playing a Double Bonus Poker on a Multi-Poker machine, and I noticed that on the glass up top it said, “Only highest hand paid.” This wasn’t Triple Play or Ten Play, where you have more than one hand going at a time, and those games pay on all winning hands anyway. On Multi-Poker, you choose among multiple games, but you only play one hand at a time. So why the warning on only the highest hand being paid?

Answer: The disclaimer is about hands that include more than one winning combination. If you have a full house, your had also includes three of a kind, two pair, and sometimes pairs of Jacks or better. If you have a straight flush, your hand also includes a flush and a straight. The machine glass is telling you is that you’ll get paid only on the highest winning combination in your hand.

There used to be a game that paid off on every winning combination in a hand. It was called Multi-Pay Poker, manufactured by WMS Gaming. Once I was playing the game, demonstrating to my brother how it works, and I hit a royal flush. In addition to being paid on the royal, I was paid on a straight flush, flush and straight --- a nice little bonus in addition to the royal jackpot. A while later, a slot supervisor came out and said she’d seen in the morning’s records that I’d been paid this strange-looking jackpot, and wanted to know how it could be such an odd number on a non-progressive machine. Seems she didn’t know how Multi-Pay worked. She sat down at the machine next to me and started to play, and I talked her through it until she hit a couple of hands with multiple payoffs and satisfied herself that I really was entitled to my jackpot.

Such odd payoffs don’t occur on games currently in distribution, that pay only on the highest winning combination contained in a hand.

Question: My buddy and I were playing craps, and a guy across the table looked at his watch and said he had to leave. He was playing don’t pass, and they just took his bets down for him and gave him his money. When I’m playing pass, they won’t let me take my bets down. OK, the odds I can take down, but not the line bets. How come he gets to take his bets down, and I don’t?

Answer. If casinos allowed craps players to take down pass line bets whenever we wanted, we’d be stuffing our pockets with profits --- at least until the casinos changed the rules, eliminated the games or closed their doors.

On the comeout roll, pass line players have eight ways to win --- the six rolls that total 7 and the two ways to make 11 --- and only four ways to lose --- the two rolls that total 3, the one way to make 2 and the one way to make 12. The casinos make their money after a point number is established, when the players become the underdogs. If we could take down our pass bets at will, the smart play would be to bet pass on the comeout, collect our winnings on 7 and 11, accept our losses on 2, 3 or 12, and take down our bets if any other number was rolled, establishing a point. We’d win two-thirds of bets played to a decision.

Obviously, the casinos aren’t going to let that happen. If we want our edge on the comeout roll, we have to accept our place as underdog on subsequent rolls. So why is it different for a don’t pass bettor? Because a don’t pass bettor who takes down his bet after a point is established is passing up the portion of the wager on which he, not the house, has an edge. For a don’t pass bettor, the danger period is the comeout roll, with only three ways to win (one way to make 2 and two ways to make 3) and eight ways to lose (7s and 11s). After that, when a point is established, the don’t pass bettor becomes the favorite. Naturally, the house will allow the player to take down a bet when the players is the favorite.

Question. At the roulette table recently, the dealer told us the house wins because of the zeroes. It seems to me that if that’s where the edge is, that’s where my money can go. Do I get the advantage if I bet on the zeroes?

Answer. When someone tells you the house gets its edge at roulette from the zeroes, it’s a short-hand way of saying, “The house pays off winning bets at odds that would make it an even game if 1 through 36 were the only numbers on the wheel, but since there are also 0 and 00 on most American wheels, those payoffs are short of the true odds on the game.”

Betting the zeroes does not give you an edge. Zero is just another number of the 38 on the wheel, as is double-zero. They are subject to the same house edge that comes from paying winning bets as if there were only 36 numbers on the wheel, when there are really 38.

It is true that adding extra zeroes adds to the house edge. Roulette games with only one zero have a lower house edge than double-zero games, and if someone decided to use a wheel with zero, double-zero and triple-zero, it would have a higher house edge than the others. Payoffs remain constant --- 35-1 on a single-number bet, for instance --- but the true odds change as more numbers are added to the wheel --- on a single-number bet, true odds are 36-1 on a single-zero wheel, 37-1 on a double-zero wheel, 38-1 on a triple-zero wheel and so on.

Does anyone use a triple-zero wheel? I’ve never seen one, but I’ve been told of wheels with three zeroes and special symbols that function as extra zeroes in games outside casino settings.

John Grochowski writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column on gambling,
hosts a casinos radio show on WCKG-FM (105.9) in Chicago and is author of
the "Casino Answer Book" series from Bonus Books.