The Best Bet in the Casino
About six months ago, “Mr. A,” myself and a couple of other players met up in Atlantic City. As usual, after playing, we headed to our favorite spot before leaving for home: The buffet at Caesar’s.
Anyway, before I got past my salad, “Mr. A” proposed a very interesting question: If you had one bet left, a bet you had to win no matter what, what bet would that be?
My mind immediately started to race: In craps, pass line with ten times odds; in blackjack, after a pure A round; in craps, a lay bet against the four or ten. Understand, the question is a little more tricky than you may think. Another way to put “Mr. A’s” question is: If you needed to win just one bet, a bet that was crucial to your winning and losing in that session, what would that bet be? In other words, what is the best single bet in the casino?
Soon everyone was joining in, more interested in the question and answer than the unlimited salad bar. “Mr. A” just listened and continued eating. I finally voted on Power Numbers in blackjack with a pure A round, another one voted on the pass line in craps with as much odds as you could get, another on the don’t pass.
“Mr. A” finally stopped eating, turned to each of us and said, “Wrong, wrong, wrong. That is, if you use mathematics as your guide.” Well, you could imagine the argument that followed but then “Mr. A” brought forth some facts:
If you are going to make one single bet, and need to win that one single bet, then you have to look for the best mathematical expectation in the casino to find that bet!
If you analyze the casino games you find mathematically:
Pass line or come bet with single odds has a negative .8 expectation. If you increase the odds, the negative expectation decreases, but it is always negative.
Don’t pass or don’t come, laying single odds, has slightly less than a .8 negative expectation.
Basic strategy in blackjack has a negative expectation from .5 to 2-3%, based on the number of decks and how the decks are shuffled.
Red and black in roulette on a double zero wheel has a negative 5.26 expectation, except for the casinos in Atlantic City that return half your money if a “0” or “00” appears.
However, the bank bet in baccarat has a 2.76 POSITIVE expectation. That’s right. It is the only bet in the casino that, by itself, has better than a fifty/fifty chance of winning!
I was quick to point out that there’s a 5% commission on winning bank hands, making it a negative expectation. But “Mr. A” argued that is not the point of his question. True, over many bets the commission makes the bank bet negative. But for this one SINGLE BET, a bet that you had to rely on, wouldn’t you want to bet bank, even paying the commission? We are not worried about what we have to pay back to the house, right now we just want to win that one bet, period!
We all thought about this answer. It made sense. Even in Power Numbers, a pure A round doesn’t always secure and advantage. Remember, a third of the cards are buried in the back of the shoe. And the other bets of pass line and don’t pass are always negative. We finally conceded. The bank bet in baccarat is the SINGLE BEST BET IN THE CASINO!
We then realized it was getting late and ran back to the buffet for dessert.