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To buy or not to buy? That is the question
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To buy or not to buy? That is the question

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I have a question about buy bets in craps. This guy I work with says you shouldn't bother with them, that the house edge is too high. He's a strict pass, come and odds guy, maybe placing 6 and 8 sometimes, but he leaves the other numbers alone.

I was talking this over with my brother-in-law. He said he uses buy bets all the time because he can't afford to take odds. He said the house edge on pass and come without odds isn't all that different from the edge on placing 6 and 8 and buying the others. So he'd just as soon choose his own numbers.

Neither one of them had numbers for me, just very strong opinions in opposite directions.

Can you sort it out?

A. Buy bets work the same way as place bets except you pay the house a 5 percent commission in exchange for having winners paid at true odds.

If you place 4 for $20 and win, you're paid at 9-5 odds. You keep your $20 and get $36 in winnings. If you buy 4 for $20, you also pay a $1 commission. If you win, you're paid at 2-1 odds, so you keep the $20 bet, get $40 in winnings, and the house keeps the $1 commission.

Some casinos charge that commission regardless of whether you win or lose. A few charge the commission only if you win.

That's an important difference, one worth checking out if you're inclined to buy numbers.

On 4 or 10, the house edge is 6.67 percent on place bets, 4.67 percent on buy bets if the commission is charged win or lose, and plummets to 1.67 percent if the house collects commissions only on winners.

House edges of 1.41 percent on pass or come and 1.52 on placing 6 or 8 aren't immensely lower than 1.67, although pass and come require more rolls per decision and reduce losses per hour.

On 5 or 9, edges are 4 percent for place bets, rises to 4.67 for buys with commissions on all buts, and drops to 2 percent with commissions only on winners. Never buy 4 or 10 if you're paying commissions on all outcomes.

On 6 or 8, edges are 1.52 percent on place bets, 4.67 for buys with commissions on all bets, and 2.27 percent with commissions only on winners. Never buy 6 or 8. Place them instead.

Q. I've been playing in the same casino for a long time, and was talking with a slot exec about ticket printers. He pointed all around the slots and said, "This would all be different without printers. These games wouldn't be here."

There are slots before printers, right? Why would the games depend on something as ordinary as printers?

A. Think cash handling. Before printers, payoffs were made in coins. The first round of popular video slots were nickel games, and casinos just about managed that with coins. It took thousands and thousands of nickels or tokens to serve each machine. A $100 payoff that required 400 quarters took 2,000 nickels instead.

That put extra demands on slot attendants to keep hoppers filled and unclogged, and extra expense for casinos that had to maintain coin stock.

Pennies would have brought the added problem that they are so small and light that hoppers can't efficiently disburse them. They clog hoppers, cause jams and require extra labor and expense.

The penny slots that are the most popular casino games would never have been added to slot floors if ticket printers hadn't replaced coin hoppers.

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