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Cards still a better bet for low rollers

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

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Updated: September 25, 2012 10:39AM



In both of the two most popular casino table games, players in the know can reduce the house edge to less than 1 percent. A blackjack player has to know basic strategy to get there, and a craps player has to back pass/don’t pass or come/don’t come bets with odds, but the opportunity is there.

A reader emailed me asking for a bottom-line judgment. “My brother and I have argued for years over which casino game is best for players — I say it’s blackjack, he says it’s craps,” he wrote, asking me to weigh in.

There is no cut-and-dried answer. To focus strictly on shot to win and the house edge, it depends on the size of your bankroll. Getting the best deal at craps takes money to back line bets with odds, and getting the best at blackjack takes skill in learning basic strategy.

If you have a large enough bankroll, you can get a pretty good blackjack game for a basic strategy player. If you’re betting $50 a hand and up, you can find games where house edges are as low as 0.34 percent in the Chicago area.

You can do better than that on some craps tables if you can afford enough free odds. If what’s available is 3x-4x-5x odds, the house edge on the pass-odds combination is 0.37 percent, and on the don’t side it’s 0.28 percent.

When the odds available increase, the overall house edge drops. On the pass side, we see 0.18 percent at 10x odds, 0.10 percent at 20x, and 0.02 percent if you’re one of the moneyed few who can afford 100x odds. Bet the don’t, and those edges are a bit lower, at 0.13 at 10x odds, 0.07 at 20x and 0.01 at 100x.

What if you’re a low roller who wants to stick to $10 a hand? When you can find a $10 table at blackjack in the Chicago area, you’ll be spotting the house 0.6 percent-plus at tables where the dealer hits soft 17. At craps, a $10 minimum bet means the true low roller can’t afford any free odds. Without the free odds, the best deals are the 1.41 percent house edge on pass or come or the 1.36 percent on don’t pass or don’t come.

The bottom line is a dual answer. With enough bankroll, you can get a lower house edge rolling the dice than a non-card counter can get at blackjack. But with limited funds, I’d stick to the cards.

John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.



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