I was out on the golf course recently with a friend of mine when I spotted a Gila Woodpecker up in a tree (yes, my golf ball is usually around the trees). I said to my friend, “Hey look there’s a Gila Woodpecker”. My friend being contrary as usual said, “No it’s not! You don’t know anything about birds”. Well a conversation ensued and ultimately a wager was made. With my handy camera phone (I love today’s technology) I took a picture of the feathered critter in question.

When we got home I broke out the bird book (we keep a bird book and reptile book on our back porch because we have lots of visitors to our backyard, and I don’t mean the human kind). Anyway, we compared the picture I took on the golf course with the one in the book and it was in fact a Gila Woodpecker.

I won the bet, but the bigger question is was it a good bet?

Now, my friend was right, I don’t know much about birds. However, there is a Gila Woodpecker that frequents my backyard (he likes the hummingbird feeder), so I was familiar with that **ku bet**.

When I saw that woodpecker in the tree I recognized it, because I had seen one like it on more than one occasion and had identified it in my bird book. Therefore, I contend that I made a good bet, based on personal knowledge.

The next question is did my friend make a good bet? Well, I contend he did as well, because he knew I wasn’t a bird expert and while I don’t know how many species of birds there are, in this bet, he had every other bird in the world (or at least every bird in our region of the country). In other words, let’s say, for sake of conversation there are a thousand species of birds in our region. He had the other nine hundred and ninety-nine, I only had one. So, in an even money wager, the odds were actually in his favor.

What does all this mean to you? Well, I have read some interesting articles, blogs and forum discussions of late saying this bet and that bet are not good bets, with little or no substantiation, so I am going to break down two of those bets for you and let you figure out whether they are good bets or bad bets.

According to most experts it is generally acknowledged that the “field bet” in craps is a bad bet, and the “place bet” in the same game is a good bet. Let’s take a look at both.

The field bet is a one roll bet, the very next roll of the dice. If it comes up 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12 you win. If you hit the 2 it pays 2 to 1, if you hit the 12 it pays 3 to 1, all others pay even money or 1 to 1. If it comes up 5, 6, 7, or 8 you lose. (In some casinos the payouts could be different, ALWAYS check the local house rules!)

There are 16 ways to win and 20 ways to lose, so the odds say you will win this bet 44% of the time. You will win 16 times out of 36 rolls. That is over the course of time, and as you well know anything can happen in a short run.

The house percentage on this bet is 2.8%. If you make the same bet every time, you will lose $2.80 out of every $100.00 placed into action.

This is calculated by taking the amount of winnings and subtracting the amount of losses then dividing the total amount bet into the total amount lost. If that is confusing, here it is broken down. Assuming $1.00 bet each time.

In the 16 wins you will win $19, $1 each on 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11 (14 ways to make those numbers); $2 on the 2 (one way to make the 2); and $3 on the 12 (one way to make the 12) for a grand total of $19. In the 20 losses you will lose $20 ($1.00 each). Your net loss is $1.00 ($19 – $20 = $1.00 lost); if you divide this by the total amount bet ($36.00) you will get.02777 or 2.8%

Now let’s examine the place bet. The place bet is selecting one of the “point numbers” (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) and betting it will be rolled before a 7 is rolled. For this illustration we will use the number 5.

So you are betting the 5 will appear before the 7, no other numbers matter. This bet pays you 7 to 5, so every time you win you will collect $7, while if you lose you will lose $5.

There are four ways to make a 5 and six ways to make a 7, so the odds of you winning this bet are 4 out of 10 or 40% of the time.

The house percentage on this wager is 4%. Breaking that down assuming a $5 bet each time.

On the four wins you will be paid $28 ($7 x 4 = $28), on the 6 losses you will lose $30 ($5 x 6 = $30), so you will lose $2 out of every $50 bet (same formula as above) $2 divided by $50 equals.04 or 4%

Let’s recap what we have discovered…

You have a better chance of winning the field bet than a place bet on the 5 (44% vs. 40%)

The house percentage is lower on the field bet than the place bet (2.8% vs. 4%)

So what can you conclude about these two bets? Well I refer you back to my bird story!

Know your Play. Know your way.

David “tHE bIG pOSSUM” Shippey has been casino gambling since 1969 and his passion is the craps table, but he has had equal success at blackjack and roulette.

He is not a professional gambler, nor a card counter, nor a casino shill…He is just an ordinary guy who also happens to be an author, a mentor, and a casino gambling expert.

His nickname…tHE bIG pOSSUM…actually comes from his golf game. Which by the way is not very good, he is an 18 handicap (on a good day), which means he shoots in the 90’s most of the time and does reach the century mark on some days. But, he has always had the uncanny ability to actually par or birdie the hole with the big money on it, and was more than one time accused of playing opossum…the name stuck and at 6′ 0″ 235 pounds it was easy to add “BIG”…hence tHE bIG pOSSUM.