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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Ask Barney

20 October 2002

Carol writes, "Please don't think this question stupid, but I've recently been introduced to my very own casino host. He's done so much for me, but as a "newbie", I'm not sure of the proper way to thank him.  Can you give me some advice, or steer me in the right direction?"

Good question. Most casinos don't allow hosts to accept money. There's usually a $25 limit on gifts, too. So if you really want to make points with your host, give him a nice tie, or give her a nice scarf or piece of good costume jewelry. (Be sure you put the money inside before you gift wrap it.)

Dr. Bob Sammons of Colorado wants to know where he can find a good software program on the game of craps.  He also writes, "I can never remember the odds on the different numbers.  Is there an easy way to do it?" 

Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas offers an interactive craps simulator game that teaches you the intricacies of casino craps and lets you play at the same time.  It's called Craps Sim II (by Conjelco) and it sells for $34.95.  A professional version by Conjelco that performs up to 2 billion rolls and reports the statistical information costs $79.95. 

Your best bet is to play on a low-stakes table until you get the hang of the game, or better yet: take a free lesson in a Vegas casino next time you're in town.  A dozen casinos offer free gaming lessons, and times are posted.

Here's a simple key for remembering the odds on the numbers:

There are 3 ways to roll a 4 or 10.
There are 4 ways to roll a 5 or 9.
There are 5 ways to roll a 6 or 8.
There are 6 ways to roll a 7.


So the odds on the 4 and 10 are 6 to 3 -- or 2 to 1.
The odds on the 5 and 9 are 6 to 4 -- or 3 to 2.
The odds on the 6 and 8 are 6 to 5.

Here's another crappy--er--craps question.  This one is from a reader named Stanley who asks, "Can you explain when you are supposed to collect your winnings on come bets, and what the free bets are that our computer version keeps referring to?  We never have figured either of these out."

A come bet is the same thing as a bet on the pass line, only with a come bet you're getting a new number during the game.  In other words, your bet "comes" to the next number that rolls.  As with the pass line, your money will stay on the number until that number rolls again (in which case you're paid immediately) or until a 7 rolls (in which case you lose your money, your house, your car, and all your friends).

Another thing to remember: Come bets lose on a winner 7, too.  However, if you take odds on a come bet (and you should), they're off until the shooter establishes a new point.  So in the case of a winner 7, your odds will be returned to you.

What are the free bets on a dice table?  There aren't any that I know of, but I think the computer was referring to the odds on pass line and come bets.  By taking the odds on these bets, the casino must pay you the true amount when you win, cutting the house edge to only 1 percent.  So in a way it is a free bet, since the casino has no advantage over you for that portion of your wager.

How many wedding chapels are there in Las Vegas?

I counted 70 of them in the yellow pages.  These include the Drive Up Wedding Window for those who have absolutely nothing to wear, and Weddings on Wheels, which is kind of like ordering a pizza.  By the way, there are over 100,000 weddings performed in Las Vegas every year.  The busiest day of the week is Saturday, and the most popular day of the year is Valentine's Day, when around 3,000 wedding licenses are issued.  (The second most popular wedding date is New Year's Eve.)

No blood test or waiting period is required to get married in Las Vegas.  The Marriage License Bureau is open from 8 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. Friday until midnight on Sunday.

How much does it cost to get married in Las Vegas?

Roughly one-half of your income for the rest of your life.  But for the wedding itself, the marriage license costs $35 and the civil ceremony at the courthouse runs another $35.  Or if you really want to make it a memorable occasion, get married in a balloon.  Pilot, crew, minister, 6 passengers, video tape of ceremony, and flight: $950.  (Parachutes, Dramamine, last will & testament are extra.)  On average, a Vegas wedding costs around $200.

What is a "middled" bet on a sports contest?

That's when you find yourself in the enviable position of being in the middle: by betting the favorite when the line first opens, then betting the other team if the point spread (or line) moves dramatically.  For example, San Francisco opens at -8 over San Diego, and you bet San Francisco.  Early betting is on San Francisco, so the sports book moves the line to -12.  Now you bet San Diego at +12.  San Francisco wins 24-14.  You've won both bets, and you've "middled" the casino!

Do I have to pay taxes on winning sports bets?

You have to pay taxes on horse race winnings of $600 or more that paid off at odds of over 300 to 1.  On other sports events, winnings of over $1,200 must be reported on any bet that paid off at odds of over 300 to 1.  If the odds are less than 300 to 1, no taxes on winnings have to be reported.  On winnings of over $5,000 at odds of over 300 to 1, taxes of 28 percent will automatically be taken out of your payoff.  I wouldn't worry about it too much, though.  One sports book writer told me he has only paid one winner on this kind of bet in the last four years. 

Even if you hit a 300 to 1 long-shot, remember that you can deduct your gambling losses from your winnings.  You'll have to itemize these deductions on Schedule A of your income tax return.  You can do this by holding on to losing tickets or by requesting a "Win/Loss Statement" from your favorite casino.  Allow 3 to 4 weeks for the report (and another 3 to 4 weeks for an audit by the IRS).

How busy is McCarran International Airport?

McCarran gets an average of 840 commercial flights, either landing or taking off, every day of the year!  Based on passenger activity (28 million a year), that makes it one of the 10 busiest airports in the country.  There are also 5,000 cars a day vying for the 400 parking spaces, so do like I do.  Take a rental car to the airport, park in a red zone, and then report it stolen.

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson