Gambling A To Z: A

Welcome to the first article in our new series, the Gambling A to Z. In each article, we take a look at various topics related to the wonderful world of gambling and what better place to start than with the letter “A”?

A is for… Ace

The most important playing card in the deck, the Ace is an iconic symbol in the gambling world. Such is its strength and popularity, the term “Ace” has spilled over into other areas of life, such as an unreturnable tennis serve or a professional who is highly skilled in his or her field.

In Texas Hold’em Poker, a pocket pair of Aces is the best possible starting hand; a hand that is dealt on average once every 221 hands. There are a plethora of nicknames for pocket Aces, such as “Pocket Rockets”, “Bullets”, “American Airlines” and “Mountains” and despite its obvious strength, it’s the one hand that can seemingly transform a generally solid poker player into a bad one.

As pocket Aces don’t come around all that often, we poker players like to make sure we get paid when holding them. Of course, this often sees us getting tricky and slow playing those Aces. It is worth remembering that when heads up, a pocket pair of Aces will win around 4 times out of 5, but against six random Hold’em hands for example, pocket Aces will actually lose around 3 out of 4 times. Don’t play your pocket Aces slow in Texas Hold’em!

In certain poker games, the Ace can take on a low value. For example, the best possible poker hand in Razz (where the object of the game is to get the best “low” hand) is A – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5, or a five high “low”. The Ace is taking on the value of 1 in this example.

In Blackjack, an Ace is particularly strong because of its dual value – the card is always worth both 1 and 11. This is a valuable property at the Blackjack table, as once your hand is worth more than 22, you are out of the game and must forfeit your wager. If you’re holding a hand worth 15 and you hit a Queen for example, then you are bust and you lose your bet, but if you hit an Ace, your hand is now worth 16, as opposed to 26, and you can continue to play.

Of course, you also need to be dealt an Ace in order to make Blackjack, which pays more than simply beating the dealer. Receiving two Aces in your Blackjack hand is almost as enjoyable as being dealt a natural Blackjack, as receiving two Aces allows you to split, thus offering two chances at hitting Blackjack.

A is for… Asian Handicap

The Asian Handicap is a football (soccer) betting market. As a draw is a fairly common result in football matches, bookmakers offer prices on three possible outcomes; the home win, the away win and the draw.

It is also quite common for a fixture to be very one sided, such as a Premier League team like Manchester United taking on a team of lesser ability, such as Wigan or Blackpool. As the price for Manchester United in a fixture like that would be very unattractive to a sports bettor, the bookmaker will offer a handicap, such as giving their opponents a one or even two goal head start, bringing the odds of both football teams closer together.

The handicap market still poses a problem for sports bettors though, so many bookmakers will simply things even further, by removing the draw altogether and offering what is essentially a fifty fifty bet – this is known as the Asian Handicap.

Instead of offering a full goal head start, the Asian handicap relies on half and quarter goal handicaps. For example, Wigan might be given a +1.5 advantage against Manchester United and the odds for both teams would be around the even money mark (2.00 in decimal odds).

If Manchester United win the match 2-0, for example, the score on the Asian Handicap would be 2-1.5, so any bets on Manchester United would win and those on Wigan would lose. Had the score been 2-1, the Asian Handicap score would be 2-2.5, so all bets on Wigan would be winners.

Asian Handicap markets occasionally use a “level handicap”, which will be written something like “Manchester United (0)”. This means that the actual match result is used to settle the bet, but should the game finish as a draw, then the bet is void and stakes are returned.

Asian Handicap markets sometimes utilise quarter goals too, so the handicap would be written something like “Manchester United (0, 0.5)”. In this case, half of your stake is on the +0 and the other half is on the +0.5, so if the match finishes 1-0 to Manchester United, the Asian Handicap results would be 1-0 and 1.5-0, so both halves of the bet win. If the match finished 1-1, then the Asian Handicap results would be 1-1 and 1.5-1 so only half of the bet wins and the other half is returned, as in the “level handicap” example.

The Asian Handicap seems complicated, but once you get used to it, it can be profitable way to bet on football.

A is for… Alcohol

A mistake often made by gamblers, is to drink whilst betting. This is not something we would ever recommend doing, even if you are gambling socially and not for especially large sums of money.

Alcohol impairs your ability to make the correct decision and it can affect your mood for the worse, making you chase losses and “tilt”. The casino has a big enough edge over the gambler as it is, so don’t cloud your judgement and risk making poor decisions by drinking.

Until next time, best of luck with your gambling!