Dear Mark: When playing craps, I am aware that it is best to stay away from any prop box bets. But when playing the don’t pass line for a $10 bet with a max lay of $60, if the point is a 4 or 10, is it wise to hedge this bet with a $10 hard 4 or 10? Bill P.

In 1933, Wilson Mizner lay dying. He was fifty-eight, and all his life he had been a gamester. “Do you want a priest?” he was asked, during an interval of consciousness. “I want a priest, a rabbi and a Protestant clergyman,” he managed to flash back. “I want to hedge my bets.”

Was it was a good move on Mizner’s part? Perhaps, but when it comes to the game of craps, my advice remains the same: Never hedge your bets.

“Hedging” your bet in craps is when you make one bet with the erroneous belief  it will “protect” another wager somewhere else on the layout. The logic here is analogous to diversifying your investment portfolio by buying bonds to “protect” against losses that you might experience in the stock market. Usually, though, both investments won’t go south on you simultaneously. Every bet on the crap layout has a negative expectation.

Hedge betting by using one wager to offset the “negative probabilities” of another wager is just not smart betting on a crap game. What you are doing is taking a high-house-edge bet on the hard 4 or 10 (the hard 4 and 10 carry a casino advantage of 11.1%) and expecting it to make a don’t pass wager (1.4%, lower by laying odds) of higher quality.

You can’t, Bill, have it both ways. You cannot protect yourself “here” without being hurt “there.” Not only can a hedge betting system NOT beat a game like craps, but it also won’t even dent the house edge.

My advice to you, Bill, is to pass on hedge betting, stick to the don’t pass, and reduce that minuscule 1.4% house edge by laying odds.

Mark, Where does the term “jackpot” come from? I have never been able to find the origin of the word. Lee H.

Multiple dictionaries that I checked, Lee, date the word Jackpot |’jak pät| somewhere between 1880-85, Americanism, and of uncertain origin. The first published use of the term may have been in 1865 in an issue of The National Police Gazette.

That timeline would precede the invention in 1895 of the first mechanical slot machine by Bavarian immigrant Charles Fey. It was Fey who linked the three reels to the slide payout mechanism, creating the first reeled, mechanical slot machine. In a gesture of patriotism, he named it Liberty Bell. The word “jackpot” does not appear anywhere on the Liberty Bell machine. The machine had five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a Liberty bell. The player who lined up three Liberty Bells, would receive the highest payout of 10 nickels. Possibly back then they shouted “Eureka!” after a 50¢ win.

With a bit of research, you can find the derivation of the word jackpot getting the most traction from the combination of the words jack + pot. In the 1860s, the term was used in a form of poker, where the “pot” accumulated until a player could open the bidding with two “jacks” or better.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “He speaks the language of the game he plays at, better than the language of his country.” – Charles Cotton, The Compleat Gamester (1674)