History will lead you to believe that it was P.T. Barnum that famously quipped, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Well, there’s really no evidence to that, and it’s actually out of character for Barnum, by most accounts.
Regardless of whether it was Barnum or some random con man that made the bold statement, it rings as true today as it did over a hundred years ago.
The casino industry has transformed the quaint desert town of Las Vegas into the world’s entertainment capital based on the premise. Avoid the five sucker bets you should never take and give yourself a chance at the casino.
Know Your Casino Foes
The most important facet of avoiding sucker bets is the ability to spot a sucker bet. Contrary to popular belief, sucker bets aren’t necessarily the bets with the lowest chances of winning.
In fact, some of the biggest locks of all-time can be a sucker bet if the odds aren’t right.
I’ll put it this way, and if when looking at any bet you come across, you can’t find a positive expected value (EV), it’s most likely a sucker bet.
Here are five sucker bets you should never take, almost never.
Skip the Progressive Slots
The mega-jackpots of progressive slots draw in players from across state lines. It’s not uncommon to see these mammoth piles of cash to exceed $10 million.
Even with enough money to retire to a lavish lifestyle on the line for only a few dollars, the progressive slots are among the worst bets in the casino.
For starters, the casino house edge on progressive slots is as high as 17%. That means for every $100, but into play, you can expect a loss of $17.
Factor in how quickly the action goes on slot machines, and you’ll quickly burn through hundreds of dollars.
Sure, what’s a couple of hundred dollar investment for a $15 million return?
Well, you’ve got a bit of a mountain to overcome on your way to millions. The odds of hitting the Megabucks Slots jackpot is estimated at close to 50,000,000 to 1.
You’re basically better off playing any other game in the casino. Of course, try telling that to any of the people that have won millions on a single $3 play.
Stay Away From the Tie Bet in Baccarat
Baccarat is a lot of fun for beginners and veteran casino gamblers alike. On my last trip to Las Vegas, I spent almost as much time at the baccarat table as I did at the blackjack table.
Baccarat isn’t like the other table games with sucker bets; there are only three possible bets in baccarat. Those bets are the banker bet, player bet, and a tie bet.
The casino’s not telling you that the tie bet’s house edge is 14%. I often see players get greedy and go in heavy for a tie bet hoping for a huge payday.
I’ve rarely seen this play work, and when it does, it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll lose it all back.
Stay away from the tie bet, and you may actually turn a profit playing live baccarat.
No Blackjack Insurance, Please
Blackjack is one of the safest plays in the casino. When played using the basic strategy for blackjack, you cut the house advantage to under 0.05%.
If you’re lucky enough to find a table with player-friendly rules, you can cut the edge by even more.
However, I’m not here to extoll the greatness of blackjack. After all, this entire article is devoted to sucker bets.
Here’s where we run into blackjack’s fatal flaw, the insurance bet.
The insurance bet seems decent at face value. The casino allows you to make a second bet equal to your initial wager when the dealer is showing an Ace.
If the dealer has a blackjack, you win, and the bet pays 2 to 1. Many players think it’s 50/50; either the dealer has a 10 valued card for blackjack, or they don’t.
Unfortunately, there is fewer 10 valued card than the other possible results. In fact, you increase the house edge by more than double when you take the insurance bet every time the dealer shows an Ace.
When the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you automatically lose the insurance bet and may very well lose your original bet, too. This effectively doubles your loss on the hand.
I mentioned earlier that there were rare occasions where the sucker bet is the only bet to make. Insurance in blackjack is that play, under a particular set of circumstances.
Hole carding is an old school blackjack strategy where you can catch a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card. Once in a blue moon, you’ll sit down at a table and notice that the dealer has a particularly sloppy technique.
When this happens, it’s easier than you think to see the dealer’s hole card as they lay it face down on the table. If you see that the dealer has blackjack, you should absolutely take the insurance.
Kick the Keno Gambling Habit
Keno lures players in with jackpots going all the way up to $100k. It’s similar to the playing the lottery in that you can win a giant pile of cash for a couple of bucks.
Keno has the single largest house edge in the casino. The house edge on keno is a whopping 25%.
I was in the casino one day and strolled through the keno lounge for reasons I can’t remember. What I do remember is a fellow wearing a Texas Rangers baseball cap.
Being the huge baseball fan that I am and the fact that he was repping my team, I stopped and exchanged a few pleasantries before moving on to other things.
I happened to pass the man again, and almost 7 hours had passed. Still, there he was posted up in the same chair.
I asked what was up with the keno marathon. He informed me that while he had burned his entire bankroll, his wife had done much better and gave him $50 for the day.
He’d been playing keno while his wife lived it up at the tables, brutal. I’m not sure how much he had lost, but I know he was down by over half.
American Roulette Needs to Go
People often think of roulette as a game where the house advantage is so high that the entire table is for suckers.
This isn’t entirely accurate. For the most part, the even-money bets in roulette offer a relatively low house edge.
The sucker bet in roulette actually pertains to the double zero or American variety.
What makes American roulette a sucker bet?
Because the very same casino with the double zero games likely offers a single zero roulette variation of the same game.
Also known as European roulette, the single-zero wheel has only about half the double-zero cousins’ house edge.
The odds are so much better on the European wheel that you should never even sit down to an American game.
If you find yourself in a casino without a single zero game, you need to either leave or find a different game.
I am not a roulette aficionado, but I have a friend that is, and we’ve actually changed hotels before because of this rule.
Our wives don’t gamble much, but he and I spend a tremendous amount of time on the casino floor during our Vegas trips.
He expressed his concerns over traveling from one end of the strip to the other for a decent single zero game. He was so resolute that he offered to cover the room for the entire stay if we’d agree to move.
Luckily, I had some room comps, and the move didn’t cost us a dime. Still, there was a man that I consider to be a successful (to say the least) roulette player that was willing to eat several hundred dollars to skip the double zero wheel completely.
Follow his example, don’t be a sucker by playing American roulette.
Sucker bets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They’re often cleverly concealed as providing a benefit or an out to the player.
Take every necessary measure when avoiding these five sucker bets you should never take.