Last month night, I went over to the Red Rock to place my bets on the Super Bowl. Apparently me and everybody else in Las Vegas. I figured I would beat the rush by going in on Saturday night. I was wrong. The sportsbook was about as crowded as I had ever seen it (admittedly, I don't watch the game from a sportsbook!). I think I had read that over $100 million dollars was wagered on the game here in town. I think I discovered the secret to why so much is wagered. Apparently, no matter what, you have to put some money down on the game.
Over the years, I've watched the Super Bowl with some people who knew absolutely nothing about football. One year, one of our guests screamed that it was 'no fair' that the team she wasn't rooting for was 'allowed' to kick an extra point. HUH? I'm an avid football fan, but I can't really say that I knew who was going to win the game. I made a small wager or two to create a little extra excitement for a game in which my favorite team hasn't played in for 14 years (remember the greatest show on turf?) For the record, I bet on Denver and over. So, I went 1 for 2 and more or less, broke even.
While I won't claim to be an expert at picking football winners, I at least know what I'm wagering on. While I was at Red Rock, I witnessed a most remarkable conversation. A man came back to the sportsbook cashier with a PAID TICKET (meaning he had made a wager) and now wanted to know what the "-2.5" meant. The sportsbook employee explained to the patron that this meant that the Broncos had to win by at least 3 points in order for him to win the wager. If they win by 2 or less, or lose, then he loses the wager. I was rather shocked. This person made a wager not really knowing what he wagered on. He went on to ask what did the "-110" mean. Again, the employee explained that this meant that for every $11 he would win $10. This is the standard 'vig', or house advantage for a sportbook wager.
So, to summarize, this person made a wager not knowing exactly HOW MUCH he would win if he wins the wager and not knowing WHAT needed to happen in order to win! Really? Really?!?! Kind of like buying a car not knowing if has an automatic transmission or a stick!? Who would do this? Why would anyone do this?
I'd like to say that I've never seen anything like this in a casino, but I really can't. I've never seen this in a sportsbook, but I have seen this on the main floor. I've seen people stick on a Soft 16 while playing blackjack. I have no idea what they are thinking when they do this. Clearly they don't understand the rules of the game. There is NO card that they can draw that would make the hand worse than sticking on a 16 (or technically a 6). Sticking on a 13 is no different. Players who do this give up the 5/13 chance of improving the hand to something that might help them win.
Players also sit down to play blackjack completely oblivious to whether a blackjack pays 3 to 2 or 6 to 5. I wonder how low the casinos could go before Players walked away. In the case of the sports wager, if the Player had never asked the question, then he would've found out when he won (or thought he had won if Denver won by 1 or 2) to find out he didn't win even money. Of course, in that case, the casino was paying out the normal amount. But, since he was clueless, why not pay out $10 on a $12 wager, or even $5 on a $10 wager.
We've all heard the expression "well, that's how they build these billion dollar casinos", which tells us that in the long run the casinos win far more often than they lose. There are very few exceptions to this. Yes, there are still some video poker machines that pay more than 100%, albeit it is getting harder and harder to find. Blackjack pays just slightly below 100%, so your loss rate should be minimal, but the casinos will win in the long run (barring counting). But, do Players have to make it SO easy for the casinos? Do they really need to make wagers not knowing what it takes to win and/or how much they will win when they do?
More than 20 years ago, my father created the concept of Expert Strategy. He likened the strategy to a three-legged stool. Each leg was equally important as we know what happens if one leg of a stool is just slightly shorter than the rest. The legs were: know what games to play, know the right strategy and know what to expect. This is really not a difficult concept to comprehend and should be considered almost common sense. As I alluded to earlier, we use these concepts in many other aspects of our lives. You go to buy a car, you decide what type of vehicle you want, what options it has, the price and the color choices. You will look up the dealer price on sites like Edmunds.com. You might read about strategies to get the best price.
Some people go through similar steps when deciding what $20 hair dryer to buy! So, why would people go into a casino with hundreds if not thousands of dollars and not go into as prepared as they do to buy a small appliance?
I make no false promises by telling you that you can beat the casino in my column. I simply tell you that by playing the right games and using the right strategy you can minimize your losses, give yourself a chance to win in the short run and have some fun entertainment at a reasonable price. But, you have to do your part and learn the right way to go about it.