Which gives best odds — tracks or casinos?
John Grochowski email@example.com May 30, 2012 4:46PM
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Updated: May 31, 2012 7:57AM
A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. My dad is an old horseplayer, and he and I are having an argument. He says the racetracks give you better odds than the casinos. I say mostly the odds are better in the casinos. Can you settle the argument?
Al, Oak Lawn
A. In horse racing, a percentage of every wagering pool is held out for purposes that include prize pools, the track operator, the state and other taxing bodies. The amount that’s held out of the wagering pool before distribution to winning bettors is the equivalent to the house edge at casino games.
That amount varies depending on the type of wager and the jurisdiction. In Illinois, 15.43 percent is held on single-horse wagers, 20.5 percent on two-horse wagers such as exactas, and 25 percent on wagers involving three or more horses. In Indiana, it’s 18 percent on straight wagers and 21.5 percent on exotic bets.
House edges are much lower on most casino games, whether you’re looking at half a percent or so against a blackjack basic strategy player, 5.26 percent against a roulette player or roughly 12 percent against a penny slot player. However, casino players make many more bets per hour than horseplayers. It’s easy to make 500 bets an hour on a slot machine, and at a full, seven-player blackjack table, you’re going to play 50 or 60 hands an hour. I recently spent a day at Arlington, betting every race on a nine-race card. Those bets were spread out over about 3½ hours.
Casinos have much lower house edges than do racetracks but book far, far more bets per hour.
Q. My husband and I are having a discussion regarding the slot machine “Hangover” and others like it. He claims it doesn’t matter which item you pick during a bonus round, the machine will give you the result it is programmed to. I think it does matter what item you choose in whether and what you win! Who is right?
A. You are. Your choices do make a difference. The random number generator on the machine just sets the possibilities. If it puts 160 credits behind the sword and you pick the sword, then you’re going to get 160 credits. If you pick something else, you’re going to get a different outcome. There’s no way to exploit that. The RNG doesn’t set the possible outcomes in any predictable sort of way. But your final result is not pre-determined.
John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.