Gambling City

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Same Price, Less Sauce

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I seem to be having less success playing the video poker game, Deuces Wild. I’m playing the same way I normally do. Is there something I should be on the lookout for since I play Deuces Wild exclusively? Sharon T.

Sharon, let me attempt to make a real-life comparison here. When you go to your local grocery store to purchase a jar of spaghetti sauce, you’re probably paying the same amount as you did a year ago. But look closely at the glass container. It’s shrunk! Now it’s a 28 oz. jar where it used to be 32 oz. The same probably holds true with the Deuces Wild machines you’re playing on. You pay the same price to play it, but you’re now getting less in return. Are the casinos cheating or rigging the machines so you’ll lose more? Not at all. They most likely changed what they pay you for four-of-a-kind.

Expert players will evaluate the potential return on a Deuces Wild video poker machine by the payoffs on four-of-a-kind hands, so in casinos with little competition or ones tightening the screws a bit, you’re normally paid 20 coins versus 25 for each coin played on that payoff.

Because four-of-a-kinds occur frequently, this lower payout drops the percentage return by almost 6.5%.

So, Sharon, I suggest first finding, then playing, only full-pay video poker machines, ones that give you 25 coins for each quarter played.

Dear Mark: A friend, who claims he is very knowledgable about blackjack, told me you should always split 10s when the dealer is showing a six. Does he know what he’s talking about? Ellen G.

This reliable source, Ellen, does he stand behind you while you’re playing your hard-earned cash offering advice but never wagering his own money?

Seriously, Ellen, there is only one time when it is basic blackjack strategy to split 10s and that’s on a face-up blackjack game. Face-up blackjack is where all the cards dealt are exposed, including both of the dealer’s cards. Only here does correct strategy dictate splitting 10s against a dealer’s 13, 14, 15, 16.

But I can’t recommend this version of blackjack to anyone because even when using perfect basic strategy, the casino edge is 2.0% compared to 0.4% with regular blackjack. Why 2%? Mainly because you lose when you push (tie).

Dear Mark: Can a greenhorn player stick to a few simple bets instead of mixing up his wagers on a crap game? S. K.

Absolutely, and I recommend it.

When you join the euphoria of this action-packed game and give craps a try for the first time, you need not be intimidated. Just step up with confidence and play these two outstanding craps wagers. A pass line bet and placing the 6 or 8. Both have a house advantage of under 1.5 percent.

A few tips first. Ask your friendly craps dealer (generally the first two hours of his shift) how to make these bets. Also, look for the lowest table limit you can find, preferably $2 or less. Even with a low house edge, no need to make it an expensive learning experience. Also note here, I’m not mentioning odds. True, they are the best bet the casino offers, but, the devil is in the details. I will revisit odds in the near future when more space is available.

Finally, disregard those proposition bets (hardways, field bets, one number rolls, etc.) the dealer is barking out. Some can have a house advantage as high as 16 percent—higher than the interest on your Visa Card.

If you stick with the smart craps wagers I mentioned above, your experience with the craps table should be a positive one.