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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

2 February 2010

Q. We watched a guy at video poker win four jackpots on the same multi-hand Spin Poker machine in about 15-20 minutes. What are the odds of that happening? His jackpots were \$1,250, \$1,290, \$8,010 (royal flush) and \$2,580, or something pretty close to that. We couldn't believe there weren't a ton of security or technicians checking out this machine. I just can't believe a machine could pay out THAT much and that often without something being wrong with it.

A. Hot streaks like that are rare, but within normal probability. To calculate the exact odds of it happening, I'd have to know the exact winning hands and the number of hands played. We're talking several million to one against, but with the volume of hands played by all players in a casino over time, streaks like that are inevitable, especially on multiple-hand games.

I had one of those days once on a quarter five-play game. I was playing Super Aces, so in addition to royal flushes paying \$1,000, four aces paid \$500. Within half an hour, I got the four aces, another hand where I got four aces twice, then a royal flush, then four aces again, four Aces again, another royal flush. The woman next to me was just amazed, and when I was dealt three aces, I turned to her and asked, "Do you think I can get 'em again?" She laughed and shook her head, I hit the button — and got the fourth ace on two more hands. I took a break, moved to another machine in a different part of the casino, and drew another royal.

Days like that are really rare, but they don't mean there's anything wrong with the machine. It's a welcome part of normal probability, offsetting those cold streaks that come all too often.

Q. Explain to me, in dollars and cents, why I'm better off risking \$6 on a place bet on 6 instead of \$5 on Big 6. Even if there's a difference in the house edge, how can it be better for a guy on a tight bankroll to risk more money?

A. With both Big 6 and a place bet on 6, you're betting the shooter will roll a 6 before the next 7. But the place bet on 6 pays 7-6 odds when you wager in multiples of \$6, while Big 6 pays even money. That's a huge difference.

Let's say we have a statistically average session of 11 trials where I place the 6 and you bet Big 6. I risk \$66, and you risk \$55. On the five times the 6 shows up before a 7, I get back my \$6 bet plus \$7 in winnings, for a total of \$65. You get back your \$5 bet plus \$5 in winnings on each of those trials, for \$50.

At the end, I have \$65 of my \$66 for \$1 in losses. You have \$50 of your \$55 for \$5 in losses. I've risked more, but you've lost five times as much as I have. Squeezing those bets down to \$5 and playing Big 6 instead of placing the 6 costs you money.

Q. I was recently playing blackjack and realized that many players at my table seemed to have no concept of basic strategy. I was curious if the play of others at a table can affect my chances of winning or losing? There always seems to be someone that takes offense to another's poor play and feels the need to give a blackjack lesson "for the good of the table." Obviously the person playing poorly will have decreased the odds of winning, but I am wondering what your take on this situation is.

A. The poor play of others helps you as often as it hurts you. Let's say the dealer has a 6 up and another player hits a 13, instead of following basic strategy and standing. Here's a typical scenario that starts players complaining:

• Bad player hits, gets a 10, and busts with 23.
• Dealer reveals his face-down card is a 10, for 16, but draws a 5 for a 21 that beats the whole table.
• Whole table is up in arms, complaining that the bad player took the dealer's bust card.

But what if the 10 and the 5 had been in the opposite order? There's nothing magical about card order, and they can come out small-big just as easily as big-small. Then the player would have gotten the 5 for an 18, and the dealer would have busted with the 10. The bad player in that case SAVES the whole table. But nobody cheers the play.

There's a lot of selective memory in complaints about bad players. We all notice and remember the plays that cost us money. But just as often, someone else's poor play will help us.

Everyone has the right to play their own hands in their own way, and other players need to understand that, in the long run, others' mistakes will help as often as they hurt.

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.