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Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have been reading your column for 20 years. Your weekly column offers excellent material for aspiring gamblers. You say, “make only bets that have less than a 2% house edge,” and I absolutely follow that rule, with one exception. As you also advise, I always keep a lookout for single-zero roulette tables where the house edge is cut in half. The single-zero roulette wheel made its exit long ago where I usually play; but just recently, I found a video machine with single-zero roulette. The layout looks the same as far as I can see. My question is, are the odds the same on this video version as they are on a single-zero table game?
Brad H.

Thank you, Brad, for being a loyal reader and for your kind words. Actually, I started my Deal Me In column in April of 1996, so, at this writing, I am a year shy of that 20-year milestone.

As you noted, Brad, in normal playing conditions, a single-zero roulette table does lower the house edge from 5.26% found on double-zero games to 2.7%. Electronic versions of roulette and other table games often have a variety of different pay tables. One that I noticed at a local casino near my home in N. Michigan, was that their single-zero machine only pays 33-for-1 on a straight-up wager which normally pays 35-to-1. So, even the astute player needs to notice the "for-1" and "to-1" alteration. On a roulette table, you are paid 35-to-1, which includes 35 units in winnings and you get to keep your initial one unit bet. With a 33 “for” 1 payoff, the house edge leaps to 10.8%.

By getting only 33 total units on a single-zero video roulette machine, you will soon stop saying “yippee” and instead be saying “yikes” as your bankroll disappears.

Dear Mark: I have played video poker since its inception, and to date I have recorded over 100 royal flushes. At my last session, I hit two consecutive Royals, which was a first for me. I was playing on a 10-7 Double Bonus Poker game. What do you think the odds are of this happening?
Dave R.

Dave, your video poker gaming career must have begun back in 1979, as that is when Si Redd, first combined a solid-state processing unit with a TV-like monitor and introduced video Draw Poker.

I do like your game of choice, Dave, a 10/7 (that is 10 for a full house and 7 for a flush)"Double Bonus" machine offers a bonus payout for four aces, and has a theoretical return of 100.2% when played with perfect strategy.

Of course, the frequency of Royal flushes does depend on your playing expertise. So, if you are using optimal play on that 10-7 Double Bonus Poker game, theoretically, you will average a Royal Flush every 48,048 hands.

From the beginning of video poker, back-to-back Royals is something that the majority of video poker players have never witnessed and never will. In your example, you would multiply 48,048 X 48,048 and find the odds of hitting back-to-back Royals are 2,308,610,304 to one. After your first Royal, the second Royal has the same one in 48,048 chance of hitting as the first one did.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
“I don't eat peanuts at the card table. There's no reason in the world eating peanuts should affect the outcome of the game, but it doesn't cost me anything to observe the taboo against it, so I observe it.” – Doyle Brunson, How I Made $1,000,000 Playing Poker (1979)