A word that should not be in any slot player’s vocabulary is “due.” No machine is ever “due.” The RNG constantly cycles and conceivably could pay out two top awards in the space of two pulls, and then not pay another for years.
The only way to even get an idea about individual machines is to “scout” them over an extended period of time. Keep mental (or even written) notes about which machines you and other players seem to win on again and again. Those machines that pay out consistently will be the ones on which to concentrate your play. No, it’s not an exact science, but even a little information can go a long way.
Betting on sports is one of the casinos’ greatest entertainment values, and it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you might think
Want a bargain? I mean a real, honest-to-goodness, bona fide betting bargain? There aren’t many of them, but one activity in the casino qualifies absolutely.
It’s sports betting.
Casinos ligaz888 prosper because they provide what most consider an equitable exchange of entertainment for expectation, a fair balance between fun and fee. But a true bargain for the recreational gambler? That’s asking a lot. If a game is going a little too easy on the gamblers, the casinos will attempt to nudge up the take. This can be done by changing the odds, changing the payoffs, or raising the limits. But in most cases they’ll opt, instead, to increase the speed of playautomatic blackjack shufflers, multi-race keno, and horror or horrors video Caribbean Stud are prime examples. But this doesn’t work against sports bettors. How do you speed up the Packers/Giants game?
In 1991, I wrote a guest column for USA Today. The premise of my article was that gambling is a form of entertainment and that nowhere is this more apparent than in sports betting. I wrote:
Even the smallest bet can turn an otherwise dull sporting contest into a riveting energy-charged experience that’s guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. Has your spouse been complaining about your game-day preoccupation? Try going partners on a $10 bet and see if you perceive a change in attitude.
I wasn’t kidding. Sports betting is a blast. But it’s more than just excitingit really is a legitimate bargain. Your expected loss on a typical $11 football wager is about 50 cents. Divide that by the three hours it takes to play a game and you wind up with an expected loss of 17 cents per hour. You’ll pay 25 times that rate just to go to a movie, 50 times if there are two of you. And when’s the last time you came out of a movie theater with more money than you had when you went in? I’d go so far as to say that sports betting is one of the best entertainment values in the world.
The basic sports wagers come in two forms: ãpoint spreadsä (for football and basketball) and ãmoney linesä (for baseball and boxing). But first, let’s take a look at how you’ll go about ãgetting down,ä as they say in the sports betting biz.
Betting and Collecting
ãWhoa, what does all that mean?ä might be the thought that flashes through your mind when you first set eyes on one of the NASA-esque betting boards in the bigger books. Don’t panic. Sports betting is a little like craps, somewhat confusing and intimidating at first, but actually quite simple when you stick to the basic wagers. In sports, this means the ãstraightä bets on ãsidesä (teams) or ãtotalsä (scores). Not only are these the easiest wagers to understand, they’re also the best from an odds standpoint. Let’s walk through the mechanics of making these bets. Here are the preliminaries:
When you’re ready to place a bet, walk up to a sports book window manned by a sports book writer. Tell the writer what you want to bet (you’ll use numbers, as you’ll see below), and give him the amount of the wager. He’ll give you a ticket with your bet printed on it. Check the ticket for accuracy, then put it in a safe place; it’s your receipt to collect if your bet wins. Understand that a betting ticket is a ãbearer instrument,ä meaning that if you misplace it, it’s cashable by anyone who finds it.
If your bet loses, you can throw the ticket away or add it to your collection (I know players who’ve wallpapered their bedrooms with losing tickets). If it wins, you’ll be paid the amount of your winnings (which depends on the wager, if there are odds involved, etc.), plus the amount of your original bet. An $11 football winner, for example, returns $21the $10 you win plus the $11 you bet. Don’t go back to the writer to collect. During regular sports book hours, a cashier window is open to pay winners. If it’s after hours, you can usually cash your ticket at the regular casino cage.
You usually have 60 days to cash winning tickets, after which time they become void. Read the back of the ticket to be suresome specify 30 or 90 days. You can also redeem winners by mail (instructions for doing so are also printed on the back of the ticket).
Football and basketball straight bets are made against the point spread. Wagers are made in increments of $11 to win $10, and most casinos will accept bets of $5.50 to win $5. Always take care to bet in units of $11 ($11, $22, $110, etc.). Casinos will accept any wager and usually pay to the nickel, but you’ll look like a goob if you bet an amount that results in an uneven payoff.
All that’s left for you to learn now is how to decipher the information on the betting board. The quick primer that follows will show you how it’s done.
1003 St. Louis Rams 41-1/2
1004 Chicago Bears -5
This ãlineä provides all the information you need to place a wager. The team listed second is the home team. An easy way to remember this is to think, top city at bottom city. In the football example, St. Louis is playing at Chicago.
Chicago is the favorite, listed at minus 5 points. This means that you give up (ãlayä) 5 points when you bet on the Bears. For you to win this bet, the Bears must not only beat the Rams, they must beat them by more than 5 points.
Often, there’s no number after the underdog, but the relationship is symmetrical. When you bet the Rams, you get (ãtakeä) 5 points. You win your bet when the Rams win the game or if they lose by less than five. With a final score of Bears 30 – Rams 28, a wager on the Rams would win because the Bears did not ãcoverä the 5-point ãspread.ä
The ãtotalä is the number on the right (41-1/2). This is a separate bet on whether the combined points scored by both teams will go over or under the posted number. In the case of a 30-28 score, a bet that the total would be over 41-1/2 points would win.
Use the numbers preceding the team names to make your bet. Tell the ticket writer the number of the team you want to bet, and the amount you are betting. Example: ãNumber 1004 for $11ä means you’re betting $11 on St. Louis +5 (taking five points). If you bet a total, give him the number of either team and specify either ãoverä or ãunderä the total. If you don’t see a number in front of the team name, check the time (the sports book is about the only place in the casino that you’ll see a clock in plain view). The game has probably already begun and it’s too late to wager.
If the score were to end Bears 33 – Rams 28, the bet would be a tie (ãpushä). A tie is a tie; all money is refunded.
Points scored in overtime always apply to the final outcome.
If you see the designation PK instead of a number (-5 in our example), there’s no favorite, and therefore no point spread. The game is called a ãpick.ä If your team wins, you win your bet regardless of the margin of victory. You still must bet $11 to win $10 on the team of your choice.
The minus symbol is sometimes dropped. If you see a line posted with a number and no minus sign, mentally insert the minus symbol in front of the number. The team with the number beside it is always the favorite.
The whole point-spread process is the same for basketball.
If you’re betting for the first time, walk into any sports book and try it out mentally. Scan the teams on the board; you should be able to figure out the terms for betting any team up there. When you feel comfortable, walk up with your money and you’re in business.
If you don’t quite get your courage up by game time, or are just late getting there, you’ll have a second chance if you wait until halftime (of football games). All the books now put up halftime lines on sides and totals.
Baseball and boxing are bet differently than football and basketball. For these sports, a money line is used and a point spread doesn’t apply. The money line handicaps the chances of either team (or fighter) winning the contest outright. You simply have to choose the winning team to win your bet.
In money-line betting, you don’t put up $11 to win $10 as you do in point spreads. The amount you bet is determined by whether you take the underdog or the favorite and by the odds on the favorite.
A money line for a baseball game might look like this.
409 Minnesota Twins Radke +120
410 Baltimore Orioles Musina -130
The Twins are the underdog, denoted by the ã+ä sign. You wager $100 to win $120 (since the underdog is not expected to win, you get paid more when it does). You can bet more or less than $100 and you’ll be paid at the same ratio, e.g., $10 to win $12. Again, it’s convenient (and it’s considered slick) to size your bets so that payoffs will be in round numbers. To do this, just remember to bet in increments of $10 when betting the underdog. If you want to calculate the payoffs on winners, you’ll have to compare your wager to the ratio designated by the line. In this example, $10 returns $12, $20 returns $24, $450 returns $540, etc.
You say you want an easy formula? (I knew you’d say that.) Move the decimal point in the line two places to the left (+120 becomes +1.20) and multiply by the amount of the wager. Example: $450 X 1.20 = $540. Your original wager will also be returned with your winnings when you cash your ticket.
The Orioles are the favorite, denoted by the ã-ä sign. You must wager $130 to win $100 (since the favorite is expected to win, you wager more than you get back). Again, you can bet more or less than $130. To size bets for even payoffs on favorites, divide the line by 10 (if it ends in zero, just drop the zero), and make your wager a multiple of that number-in this case, $13, $26, $221, etc. Winning bets win $10 times the multiple that you chose$13 wins $10, $26 wins $20, $221 wins $170. To calculate the amount you win for any bet on a favorite, move the decimal point in the line two places to the left again, but instead of multiplying, as you did for the underdog, here you divide the amount of the wager by that number. Example: $221/1.3 = $170. Your original wager will be returned with your winnings when you cash your ticket.
Again, the team listed second (Orioles) is the home team.
Pitchers are so important in baseball that each team’s scheduled starting pitcher is listed.
The numbers preceding the team names should be used to make your bet.
An over/under (runs scored) line is also posted here. It’s connected to its own money line.
Unless you specify otherwise, you’ll have ãteam action,ä meaning that your bet stands even if one or both starting pitchers is changed before game time.
You might see a money line for almost any contest, including football and basketball. In the football example we used above, the money line might appear as:
The same information applies. If you take St. Louis, you bet $10 to win $18. If you take Chicago, you put up $20 to win $10.
Boxing lines work essentially the same way, though they tend to look different due to greater disparities between the abilities of fighters. A boxing line might look something like this:
The formulas I gave you above still work. You can bet $10 on Holyfield to win $60, or $70 on Tyson to win $10.
So this guy calls his bookie on Saturday and bets 12 college football games. At day’s end, he wins 1 and loses 11. On Sunday he calls again, bets the full slate of pro football games, and goes 2 and 12. Monday comes and he calls again. ãGimme the Raiders and over.ä The game comes Jets and under. Finally on Tuesday he calls his bookie and says ãI need action. Whatcha got today?ä The bookie responds, ãWell, football’s over until next weekend, but there’s a hockey game tonight.ä The gambler thinks for a minute and says, ãHockey? I don’t know anything about hockey.ä
For a long time, no one seemed to know anything about hockey. But now the game is gaining in popularity and you’re much more likely to find a line. Hockey lines are strange because they often combine a money line and a point spread (goals scored). Here’s an example:
Rangers +1-1/2 +110
Calgary -1-1/2 -150
Here, you can take the Rangers with 1-1/2 goals and get $110 for every $100 you bet. Or you can lay Calgary giving up 1-1/2 goals and betting $150 to win $100. If you really want to bet hockey, find a writer who’s sitting idle and ask him to go over it with you.
The standard bet-$11-to-win-$10 football betting proposition gives the casino a 4.5 percent advantage. Casino sports books sometimes run promotions that allow you to bet less than this standard -110 price. The Las Vegas Hilton, Flamingo Hilton and Las Vegas Club offered -105 during restricted periods this year, which reduced the edge to -2.4 percent.
The casino advantage on money lines is a function of the spread between the prices. In the -130/+120 example, the spread is 10. This difference is referred to as 10 cents, and this is known as a ãdime line.ä The casino advantage with this dime line hovers around 2 percent. Some sports books post wider spreads like -130/+115 (15 cent line) or -130/+110 (20 cent line). The casino edge goes up as the difference widens. From time to time, you might find a casino that deals a nickel line, i.e., -120/+115. The casino’s edge on a nickel line is only about 1 percent. This is one of the best gambles you’ll find anywhere. A $10 wager buys you three hours of action for a total expected loss of about 10 cents.
There are other bets you can make in a sports book. Among them are parlays, teasers, propositions and futures. All offer worse odds for the casual better than the straight bets we’ve already discussed.
Parlays A parlay is a linking of more than one bet on a single wager. Any number of different teams from two to five (sometimes as many as seven) can be combined. The more teams you combine, the higher the payoff when they win. For example, a typical two-team parlay pays 13-5, while a three-teamer pays 6-1. All teams in the parlay must win for the ticket to pay. Gamblers like parlays because they can win a lot for a little, but you’re almost always better off mathematically betting the teams you like individually.
Teasers Teasers are parlays in which you’re allowed to add or subtract points in the line. This increases the probability of winning, but there’s a corresponding decrease in payoffs. A typical two-team, 6-point teaser pays 10-11; a three-teamer pays 8-5. Note that both parlays and teasers can be made ãoff the board,ä which means combining teams that are listed in the manner discussed throughout this article. Alternatively, you can bet them from a list of games on pre-printed ãcards.ä Parlay and teaser cards tend to be even worse bets for players than parlays off the board.
Futures A future bet is a bet made far in advance, usually on the eventual champion in a sport, such as the winner of the Super Bowl or the World Series. Futures have a high house edge, but they’re decent when you factor in the entertainment value; a small wager provides months of action.
Propositions ãPropsä are the wild bets you see listed in abundance during events like the Super Bowl. Which team scores first? Which quarterback with throw the most TDs? Props are usually bet in a money-line format and, as such, aren’t too bad if the spread between the favorite and underdog price isn’t too great.
Remember what I said about the bookies not being able to raise their take on sports? Well, that wasn’t altogether accurate. A movement is afoot to convert sports betting to a pari-mutuel activity. In a pari-mutuel, all the money bet on a particular contest goes into a pool. The bookie then cuts out a percentage and the remainder is divvied up among the bettors. Pari-mutuel sports betting would almost certainly result in a house advantage greater than the current 4.5 percent. The market will ultimately decide the fate of this idea.
Is one book better than another for making your bets? Usually. But I can’t tell you which right now. The book that’s best for you will be the one that offers the best line on the game you want to bet. If you like the Packers, and the Horseshoe has Green Bay -9 while the Fremont has them -10, you’d do better to place your bet at the Horseshoe where you have to lay one point less. This is called line shopping, by the way, and it’s about the most powerful strategy a casual sports bettor can implement.
Once you’ve made your bet, you’ll want to watch the game for maximum enjoyment, and watching in a Las Vegas sports book enhances the overall experience.
Three casinos boast facilities referred to as ãsuper booksä: The Mirage, Caesars Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton. These places attract the biggest action and offer the most amenities (multiple viewing screens, plenty of seats, speedy cocktail service). Several casinos offer ãbig booksä (a step below super). They include: Stardust, MGM Grand, Imperial Palace, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Golden Nugget, Horseshoe, Bally’s, Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe, Fiesta, Sam’s Town, Rio, Orleans and Gold Coast. The latter nine have a distinctly local flavor. Dozens of other casinos have smaller sports books, many of them part of the far-flung Leroy’s chain.
Sports books are great places to hang out. They run promotions, sell hot dogs and beer, and generally do whatever it takes to make their venue as exciting as possible. As I mentioned earlier, sports books are the only places in the casinos with clocks. When I need to know what time it is, I head for the casino’s book. They also have something else I like: Pens. Sports books always have free pens. The next time you’re in a casino and find yourself in immediate need of a writing utensil, you’ll know where to go.