Boule: What game is it, anyway?
QUESTION: On a bike trip across France, I stopped in a casino and happened upon a game similar to roulette, but much smaller. Do you know anything about it? The game was closed, and there was no one around to explain what it was. — Jerome P.
ANSWER: I believe what you are referring to is boule (la boule), which is a simplified version of roulette. Boule is analogous to roulette in that it features a table and a spinning wheel, but it only has nine numbers and three colors on which you can bet. Boule is played with a large wooden wheel and a rubber ball a tad smaller than a tennis ball.
The game is quite simple, but it's also a fast way of losing a whole lot of money. Every bet offered has a house edge of 11.11 percent, which is far worse than roulette (5.26 percent) or a true European single-zero wheel that offers a rule called "en prison" (1.35 percent).
La boule, Jerome, est un pari terrible.
QUESTION: I have heard, although not seen, certain casinos offer different commissions on a four and 10 buy bet in craps. Of three casinos near where I live, they all offer a buy bet with a 5 percent commission. Was I misinformed? — Nick F.
ANSWER: Essentially, a buy bet resembles a place bet, except you pay a 5 percent commission on the amount of your wager. When you win, you are paid at the true odds, minus the 5 percent.
For those buying the four or 10, it is advised you wager at least $20, since the minimum commission the casino will charge you for making a buy wager is a dollar (5 percent of $20). The casino edge on any buy bet for $20 works out to 4.76 percent, with smaller-sized wagers going increasingly higher.
Since a buy bet does nothing more than give the house a 5 percent commission for paying you correct odds on a winning bet, I recommend sticking with wagers that only give the house less than a 2 percent edge, such as a place bet. But only take this on the six and eight. Stay away from placing the four or 10, as the house edge is 6.67 percent.
Placing the six or eight has a smaller house edge, 1.5 percent, than buying the four or 10, and it also is plenty cheap. A place bet can be made for as little as $6.
My point here is there are other wagers on a craps game that are far superior to buying the four, 10, or any number for that matter. With an exception below, I generally cannot affirm the buy wager as recommended play.
Yes, there are certain casinos that offer a different commission structure on a four and 10 buy bet. Although all casinos charge the commission, some only do if you win. When your four or 10 are losers, you don't have to pay the commission, and the house edge drops all the way down to 1.67 percent, making for a terrific wager.
Longtime readers of this column know the drill and only make wagers on a crap table, or any bet in the casino, that has less than 2 percent house edge. A buy bet on the four or 10, one that is commission-free if you lose, is one I would recommend adding to your betting repertoire.