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Sucker Bets Are For Suckers, Don't Be A Sucker

By MikeE on Wednesday, 16th February 2011 12:23pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 23


The sucker bet - the low limit side bet increasingly found on nearly every game - is just as much a cancer to the casino world as 6:5 odds are to blackjack. Sure, you can choose not to bet it, but its damage is done regardless of how you play.

You see, a table game, with its ebb and flow of money, its pace, and its social camaraderie, is a beautiful thing. It's not a slot machine. Aside from long shot roulette action and some carnival choices, table games don't (or at least didn't) appeal to the lottery mentality. For those who take their gambling seriously, they're a battle, and after a valiant effort of four hours, nothing feels as good as stepping up from the table with more money in your pocket than what you started with. You've figuratively defeated the megaresort that regularly takes many for millions. And if you did it together with a group of old and newfound friends, the experience is heightened exponentially.

But it seems that's all changing.

I used to love pai gow poker, but the very reason I started loving the game - its slow, social atmosphere - has made me start loathing it. Why? Because of the insistence from EVERYONE, including the dealer, telling me to bet the fortune bonus.

"It's only a dollar. You had a seven-card straight there."

Would have, should have, but I didn't. They all seem to forget the literally hundreds lost betting small increments on the fortune and can only recall when the long shots hit. It's why when my luck is down and I submit myself to the slow bleed that is pai gow, I search for the ever-dying, non-fortune bonus variant.

Baccarat is an even greater victim, especially in the "EZ" variant where a three-card banker win with total of seven is a 40-1 payout for those who made the "Dragon" bet. Ever played it? Those long, sometimes heated conversations with other players - not unlike a jury deliberating - over whether the shoe will turn "banker" or "player" are gone. The insane numerology used to come to the conclusion as to what the shoe will turn next is lost. Instead, the actual bet doesn't even matter, and the entire table screams over the ridiculous "Dragon" bonus, oblivious to any other action. At some point, you question whether this variation even deserves to be called "baccarat." It turns the beautiful game into a carnival. It's huge in California casinos and it's starting to find its way to Vegas.

You see the sucker bet in Let It Ride and increasingly in blackjack. While not as damaging to the allure of the game, the insistence from everyone around you to play the bonus quickly gets annoying. Even the dealer, the person behind the felt who has seen plenty of people grind their chip stack down to nothing betting the side bet, is backing it knowing all too well that if it hits, it virtually guarantees him a tip.

Maybe I'm too sensitive. Maybe I'm old fashioned. But hey, if I want a carnival in a casino, I'll go to Excalibur's midway. We need to vote with our wallets and refrain from the sucker bet before every casino turns into one of these.

Tagged: sucker bets   


Comments & Discussion:

I try to avoid the sucker bets like the plague, and I've not really seen too many dealers pushing them. Then again, you don't see as many table games with these sucker bets at the casinos on Fremont Street. I'll admit to in the past betting the $1 one on Let It Ride as well as the various Blackjack sucker variants. You have them hit once or twice and you get sucked in.

Do any properties in Vegas have the fire bet on Craps tables yet? I was never a believer in the fire bet until my friend hit it for $1200 or something like that.

On my first trip to Vegas I remember being enamored with Caribbean Stud Poker, I thought it was the greatest game when I hit one of the bets, then I decided to actually do some research before gambling and discovered I was a moron for playing it.

I think the problem is people want to see that big hit, to most people the idea of playing $5 blackjack for hours and only winning $200 is not that exciting, yes it's a good outcome, but no rush of excitement. On the casino-side, it let's them rake in more money and keep table limits lower, sure it's a $5 table, but it's really a $6 table with the bonus bet and that bet has a 25% house-edge.

Ok I agree that sucker bets ruin Blackjack, but sometimes it's fun to just play something different. Oh and Casino war is fun I don't care how bad Clark loses. HAHA

I'm torn on this topic. Probably because I'm not a hard-core gambler and feel like if I'm going to lose money I at least want the chance at a decent payoff. Grinding blackjack for hours just to double my money may be a nice win, but that isn't what I'm looking for and that money isn't going to change my life. Combined with my short attention span, I need to more than triple my money in less than a hour or it doesn't really seem like much of a win. I guess I'm more in the lottery camp on this one.

@bd9902 I've seen the Fire Bet options at some of the Caesars Entertainment properties and I also think the Vegas Club has it as well.

Hard Rock and Station also have the fire bet. Seems like the sucker bet to end all sucker bets.

While I don't take these bets, I've pretty much lost my outrage over them. It's all -EV gambling, with or without the sucker bet. You're paying for the entertainment. If you are more entertained while taking the sucker bets and don't mind the extra cost for that entertainment, then there you go. I've grown quite a liking for the exotic video poker variations out there, and I'm sure I'm getting raped on the house edge. Don't mind, because they're fun. This ain't poker where it can be +EV and a legitimate goal is to make money off of it.

Amen, and thank you for writing this. I love playing pai gow poker, sipping some drinks, and just relaxing. All the bonus does is tilt the odds way in the house's favor. I was seriously bummed when Encore/Wynn switched over to bonus. Are the MGM casinos the only ones with dragon pai gow poker now?

i will play the "bonus" bet or whatever it's called on 3-card poker, and i've had more success with it than not. turned $100 into $320 at the Strat that way, $5 on the bid/ante, $10 on the bonus.

One way to look at it is, people who love making the high-house-edge bets lose more and subsidize the Vegas value-for-money that you enjoy. Let's face it, if Vegas gamblers only played come bets with full odds, full pay Deuces, or perfect basic-strategy BJ, the town would be a much poorer place.

Great topic. After seeing 10 years between a vegas craps table, I was surprised to see the "sucker" Big 6 and 8 go, and an improvement on the Field (doubling or tripling 12 and/or 2). Yet it came at the cost of the waste of time "fire bet", a puzzling "world bet", and the standardization of odds to 3-4-5x. (amusing side on craps sucker bets. When I was in the Philippines, the common middle bet was the high horn nicknamed "Pappa George". I wonder if its "Pappa Barak" now.)

Odd thing about the proliferation of the various Sino-esque "Dragon Bonus", "Double Fortune Bonus", or "Double Fortune Golden Dragon Lucky Butterfly Pavilion Bonus", I never saw such sucker bets in Macau (or at least have them played enough to notice them). The joke's on you round-eye!

Great stuff, Mike. And I couldn't agree more. Very few sights make me cringe more than seeing someone plunk down a fat bet on the Big 6/Big 8 bet on the craps table at 1:1 and a house edge of 9.09 percent, instead of placing a 6 or 8 for a 7:6 payout and a house edge of 1.52 percent. It is the same bet. And, if that's not the definition of a sucker bet, I don't know what is. My second biggest peeve at craps is seeing someone place a 4 or 10 (9:5 payoff and 6.67 percent house edge) instead of buying a 4 or 10 (2:1 payoff with a 5 percent vig for a 4.76 percent house edge). Then again, I don't think anyone should waste their time on a multitude of craps bets. The worst craps strategy I ever saw was when this guy bought AND placed $10 on 4,5,6,8,9 AND 10 after the point was set. I never took the time to do the math on that one. I just know it suuuccckkked. And I watched him flush about two grand away in about a half-hour.

I must own up to making a few deplorable sucker bets. I take full responsibility for betting on:
a) The Cubs to win the Series.
b) The Bears to win anything.
I now realize the folly of these bets and am currently seeking help to cure my condition.

I never thought I would see a 'Dragon Bonus' at Big Baccarat.... but, I finally did. Big Baccarat at Bally's AC now has a 'Dragon Bonus' on the big table layout. I've renamed it the 'Loveman Bonus' (which seems to get quite a few laughs). The 'fire-bet' at dice doesn't really bother me, since dice has LOTS of prop/lousy bets anyway.

I don't play sucker bets, but I don't think the hostility towards them is necessarily entirely fair. First, as the article acknowledged, you don't have to play them.

Now, as for EZ Baccarat, the game actually has a LOWER house edge on the Banker bet (1.02%) versus the standard game with the 5% commission (1.06%). The game, however, plays more quickly (which is better for the house). So, whilst that little sucker bet is there on the table, the main Banker bet is actually better (on a per-bet basis).

Saying that Blackjack side bets are just as bad as 6:5 is immensely hyperbolic. 6:5 damages the main game itself; the side bet is simply an option.

Mike maybe I read your commentaries wrong but you seem like kind of an angry guy. I agree that these bets are necessary to keep the table limits lower and the drinks flowing free...besides, best payout ever was the pair plus on 3 card poker, not a game I usually play; I was up a few hundred already hitting straights and flushes and said fuck it and put 50 bucks on it and hit a straight flush for 40 to 1!! I ended up turning 50 bucks in three thousand dollars!!

I myself can't wait for the blackjack side bet where the payoff is a free spin of a money wheel set up behind the dealer. Woo-hoo! Go big money go!

Nice article Mike, for me I tend to agree with you that dealers and other players making a constant point about whether or not you are on a bonus bet is bad form. If I'm playing, I've learned to ignore it, but it's still frustrating. I can understand why the casinos offer it though, especially in something like Pai Gow or even baccarat, at their low house edge and slow style it's not exactly appealing to new gamblers and no one's reinvented the wheel on table games yet, so it does offer a person a tourist a chance to play something, pay the rent for the house in a higher edge way and gives them an outside chance at a nice payout.

If you really want to see how bad the add on bet is elsewhere, head up to Detroit and play blackjack or one of the other games with those bets and watch the daily grinders fall over themselves to put themselves up on your spot since you aren't betting it anyway. They wind up with $40-$50 on a $10 table on the bonus bet and $10 on their standard and reload regularly, that's when it's taken to the extreme in my opinion, those that do it in Vegas (at least on the strip in my experience) are usually a bit more reserved and for the most part treat it like a slow played slot machine.

For the ones that like to point out how you'd have won if you had bet it, I take the approach of showing them how I'd have lost on all the hands I would have when I don't have the bet up.

I played Blackjack at Slots-o-Fun about 2 years ago. They had the wheel behind the dealer. If you got Blackjack you got to spin it for your payout. I got up the moment I was dealt a blackjack and the dealer but a big red button in front of me.

^^ And I thought I was just being a wise-ass!!! What did you spin for, one of those famous Slots-o-Fun 1/2-pound Hot Dogs?

First time I ever played Pai Gow poker, after 30 or so minutes of playing I got a Royal Flush. Dealer went crazy because I hadn't bet the bonus.
I bet $5 on it occasionally knowing full well it increases a reasonable house edge for the player (especially if I play as house), but if I'm ahead I take parchedearths approach. Go for a big hit.
Of course if one becomes too enamored of "the big win" you cross over into the total sucker side. Or, like the late great Jim Healey used to chide: "they'll send a car.."
Good topic.

I believe it was a free drink or deck of cards. HAHA Anyway I had to step around a newborn that some lady put on the floor by the bar. When i got my drink the bartender threw the group out that had the newborn. Classy place, I stayed for about 20 min.

@LAvegasphile "Angry" is one of the last words I'd use to describe MikeE. Everything I've read by him seems like valid, constructive criticism.

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