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Deal Me In


‘Buy’er Beware

Dear Mark: I have heard, although not seen, that certain casinos offer different commissions on a 4 and 10 Buy bet. Of three casinos near where I live, they all offer a buy bet with a 5% commission. Was I misinformed? Nick F.   


Essentially, Nick, A Buy bet resembles a Place bet except that you pay a 5% commission on the amount of your wager. When you win, you are paid at the true odds, minus, of course, the 5%.

For those buying the 4 or 10, it is advised that you wager at least $20, since the minimum commission the casino will charge you for making a Buy wager is a dollar (5% of $20).

The casino edge on any Buy bet for $20 works out to 4.76%, with smaller sized wagers increasingly higher.

Since a Buy bet does nothing more than give the house a 5% commission for paying you correct odds on a winning bet, I recommend sticking with wagers that only give the house less than a two percent edge, such as a Place bet, but only on the 6 or 8. Stay away, Nick, from placing the 4 or 10, as the house edge is 6.67%.

Not only does placing the 6 or 8 have a smaller house edge, 1.5%, than buying the 4 or 10, but it is also plenty cheap. A Place bet can be made for as little as $6.

My point here, Nick, is that there are other wagers on a crap game that are far superior to buying the 4, 10, or any number for that matter. But for the exception below, I generally cannot affirm the ‘Buy’ wager as recommended play.

As to your question, Nick, yes, there are certain casinos that offer a different commission structure on a 4 and 10 Buy bet. Although all casinos charge the commission, some only do if you win. When your 4 or 10 are losers, you don’t have to pay the commission, and the house edge drops all the way down to 1.67%, making for a terrific wager.

Longtime readers of this column know the drill and only make wagers on a crap table, or any bet in the casino, that has less than 2% house edge. A Buy bet on the 4 or 10, one that is commission-free if you lose, is one that I would recommend adding to your betting repertoire


Dear Mark: On a bike trip across France, I stopped in a casino and happened upon a game very similar to roulette, but much smaller. Do you know anything about it? The game was closed, and there was no one around to explain what it was. Jerome P.


I believe what you are referring to is Boule (La Boule), which is a simplified version of Roulette.

Boule is analogous to roulette in that it features a table and a spinning wheel, but it only has nine numbers and three different colors on which you can bet. Boule is played with a large wooden wheel and a rubber ball a tad bit smaller than a tennis ball.

The game is quite simple, but a very fast way of losing a whole lot of money. Every bet offered has a house edge of 11.11%, which is far, far worse than roulette (5.26%), or a true European single-zero wheel that offers a rule called “en prison” (1.35%).

La Boule, Jérôme, est un pari terrible.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I'm down to my last buck, pal. Wanna split a bet with me? "On which horse?" "I don't care." – Brendan Boyd, Racing Days (1987)


Is free slot play rigged?

Dear Mark: When a casino gives free slot play, does the slot machine “know” you are playing with the casinos free given “money?” It seems that spins on the slot machine change when I put my money in the machine. Say, for instance, I get $5 free play. With ten spins at $.50 each, I don’t seem to win anything. As soon I put my money in, the machine seems to change and starts to pay with some credits. Gerry L.


More and more casinos are rewarding slot players with free slot play, giving slots players a chance to win without having to drop a dime into a machine. Slot aficionados see it as getting something for nothing.

Then there are other casinos that offer something less called matching play, whereby you are rewarded with $10 in free play after playing through $10 of your money. Obviously, this offer is not as good a deal as a "something for nothing" promotion.

Your $5 free play offering is a cash reward for your play. Sad to say, that compensation must be used within the casino. That, Gerry, is the drawback of free play; you can’t take the money and skedaddle. In contrast, with cash backs for your action, there is no requirement that you play your cash reimbursement. Like winnings, it is your money, not the “house’s,” and you can always pocket it to use as you please.

All things being equal, Gerry, I would rather have cash-in-hand that I can spend as I wish. Moreover, with free play, most players do get something, but end up with nothing because they tend to play back their free play allowance before they cash out. 

The biggest challenge any casino has is getting you to walk through the front door. Free slot play – something for nothing – is one such Pavlovian offering that triggers saliva amongst slot jockeys.

I have always been amazed at how just $10 in free slot play brings in the slot masses. Unfortunately, once forward-facing a slot machine, you can easily run through that $10 in but a few spins if you’re playing max coins and max lines. Now the casino has you captured within their friendly confines for a total outlay of $10.

The up and up, Gerry, is that the random number generator doesn’t care one iota if you are playing the free play or with your hard-earned money. What might be happening is that you are the victim of your own selective memory along with a shortened gambling timeline.

Your assumption is that the machines hit less frequently when you are playing free play versus when you're playing with your money. Consequently, you tend to remember the times that you don't hit on the free play and forget the times that you did. I would suggest, Gerry, that you keep track of your play and not rely on discriminatory impressions.


So, Gerry, in the future as you play free slot play promotions, humor me and keep track of the number of spins and the number of hits that you get from free play. Then, actively track the same number of spins with your money. As your gambling timeline extends, your returns should be relatively close.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Gambling heats the mind like an oven.” – Henry Ward Beecher, Gamblers and Gambling (1896)