Off to the races via a satellite wagering facility

Dear Mark,
I find horse racing one of the most enjoyable forms of casino gambling. For just $2 I can sit in an air conditioned race book and watch simulcast races from all across America. Wow! Any advice for a newbie horse player? Robert A.

I'm with you, Robert. A splash of stimulation and a $2 wager on a long-shot equine overdue for the glue factory can be an inexpensive diversion from a $25 minimum blackjack game. At $2 that is. But with Nevada's race books offering only pari-mutuel wagering, Robert, the house does hold an 18-22% edge on any straight bet you make at the sports book window.

That said, pony players in the know-not me, I go by the horse's biorhythms-believe the following factors are essential to your chances of picking winners.

1. knowledge of breeding
2. physical specifications of the race track (length, turns, surface, drainage, etc.)
3. track bias in the horse's previous starts
4. jockey skills
5. trainer skills
6. current form of the horse
7. how the horse likes track conditions
8. horse's ability at today's distance
9. predicted pace of the race
10. how to read a program or a Daily Racing Form
11. etc., etc., etc.

It was our beloved first president, George Washington, himself a racehorse owner who once said, "Horse racing is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief."

Gitty up!

Dear Mark,
I like to plunk down bets on the "Big 6," that carnival type wheel you will find in most casinos. What are the house odds on that game? Gary R.

You do realize, Gary, that you plunk and the dealer snatches. All six wagers on the Big 6 carry a steep house edge. That casino advantage is as follows: 11.1 percent on the $1 spot, 16.6% on the $2, 22.2% on the $5, 18.5% on the $10, 22.2% on the $20, and 24% on either joker.
By betting a steady diet of Big 6 wagers, Gary, you will run out of air speed and altitude quickly.

Dear Mark,
If, like you say, the house has only a 1.4% advantage on a pass line bet, how can the casino make any money by offering that wager? Jordan P.

It doesn't matter who wins this one bet but who ends up with all the money. The casino realizes few players are sophisticated enough to restrict their craps betting to just smart wagers.
But let's look at the bet in question, Jordan: a pass line wager. If you were to play 100 bets on the pass line, you can expect to win about 49 times and lose the other 51. The casino will gladly take this itty-bitty 49/51 ratio and multiply it by thousands of decisions daily, weekly and yearly, and guarantee themselves a generous long-term profit.

Dear Mark,
Does the Megabucks machine pay back the same as regular $1 slot machines? Mary K.

Notta chance, Mary. By offering the player a shot at slot immortality, Megabucks shakes you down on the smaller payoffs. It is Megabuck's progressive bonus that allows you to fantasize champagne wishes and caviar dreams. On average, Megabucks returns slightly less than a 90% payback while the typical $1 machine in Nevada averages more than 95%.

Dear Mark,
When I hear cheering coming from a crap game, does that mean it's a hot game ready for me to dive right in? Bruce T.

Not necessarily, Bruce. The dice might have been sizzling before you come aboard, but that doesn't mean they will stay heated because you're now there. The reason is that your dice timeline-the period you're on the game-is different from the earlier players. Understand, Bruce, when you join a game in progress, you initiate your own personal sequence of rolls, with the dice possibly going cold from that moment on.