Casino Scene: Knowledge is power when you gamble

2013-05-17T00:00:00Z Casino Scene: Knowledge is power when you gambleJohn G. Brokopp Times Correspondent
May 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Whenever you go on a casino gambling venture, you should bring along more than money. You should arm yourself with the proper know-how, self-control, and the ability to play the games intelligently. If you don't do it, the casinos are not going to do it for you.

Sure, casinos teach you the rules, but it's up to the players to take it upon themselves to read all they can about the games, pick up strategy, and separate the good bets from the bad bets. You should be aware of exactly what you're up against when you risk your money, because casinos give some information but not all of it.

For example, casinos love to make a big deal about the average return on slot machines. You see the figures 94 and 95 percent tossed around. It seems like a lot, and it is, but the figures DON'T mean you'll win 94 or 95 percent of the time you play those machines, nor do they mean you will get 94 or 95 percent of your money back when you play them. They represent the average amount of the money they pay back to patrons over the LONG HAUL, not the short term.

Another fact about advertised average return on slot machines is that not all of the slot machines are created equal. To make up the "average" there has to be high end, mid-range, and low end percentage payers on every casino floor. That means it's possible that you could be playing a 99 percent average payer, or more likely, an 83 percent average payer. There's no way to find out which machines are which. Only the high ranking casino executives know for sure, and they're not telling.

How about the casino "sucker game" known as the "Big Wheel"? You’ll find them at some casinos in Illinois and Indiana. They're very common in Las Vegas. To say that the Big Wheel is an insult to a gaming fan's intelligence is putting it very mildly!

The Big Wheel stands upright. It has 54 "stops" that are separated by pegs. The dealer gives the wheel a spin, and where the leather "clapper" stops is the winner. The stops are designated in terms of currency ($1, $2, $5, $10, and $20). There’s also one Joker, and one "house" symbol.

Players wager on a board in front of the wheel by placing chips (one dollar is usually the minimum) on spots that correspond to the stops on the wheel. It's a fun premise, especially if you're a real casino novice, but the rub is the obscene edge the house takes at the expense of the unsuspecting player.

For example, there is one "joker" symbol on the wheel and one "house" symbol on the wheel, yet each pays only 45 to 1 if you're lucky enough to hit it when the true mathematical odds should be 53 to 1! A similar house edge exists for the other payoffs.

Why do the casinos take such huge advantage of players at the Big Wheel? Worse yet, there's no way to know about it unless you take the time to figure it out.

If you're inclined to bet on the spin of a wheel, roulette should be your game of choice. When you see a Big Wheel, just look and continue on. Maybe someday they'll go away, or the odds will be made a bit more favorable.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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