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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

20 October 2011

Q. I was playing craps, and some of the others were playing something called the "Fire Bet." When the shooter made a point, they'd put a fire disk on that point. Once the shooter made a couple of points, the guys started to get excited, but I think I only saw it pay off once. I didn't know anything about it, so I stayed away, figured I'd learn something about it before I got involved. Is this a good bet, or something to ignore?

A. The Fire Bet is a side bet that the shooter will make four or more different points. They have to be different numbers — the shooter could make four sixes in a row, and that would count as only one number.

There are several different pay tables for the bet, but the one I've seen pays 25-for-1 if the shooter makes four different points, 250-for-1 for five different points, and 1,000-for-1 for all six point numbers.

Note that it's "for-1." If you have a \$1 Fire Bet and the shooter makes four different points, you'll wind up with a total of \$25 that represents your \$1 bet plus \$24 in winnings. A 1,000-for-1 payoff is the same as 999-to-1, but that 1,000 looks nice on the layout.

The shooter will make four or more different points before sevening out only a little more than 1% of the time, and with the pay table above the house has about a 21% edge. It's not a bet for a serious player; it's for a jackpot hunter who doesn't mind spotting the house something extra for a chance at a big payday.

I'd never fire up for this bet. The house edge is just too big.

Q. Can you tell me the odds of getting a royal flush on the deal? How about getting a royal flush after you throw away all five cards? That has to be a little better, right?

A. The chances of getting a royal flush on the initial deal are 1 in 649,740. That's the same as in any other five-card poker game, such as Caribbean Stud or Let It Ride. We see it happen more often in video poker than in the table games because we play a lot more hands per hour in video poker.

On to the chances of drawing a royal. For five card discards, there are two answers. If your first five cards include a 10, and you throw 'em all away — as you would on a hand such as 2-3-5-7-10 of mixed suits — you have a 1 in 511,313 chance of the next five cards bringing a royal. If your first five cards do not include a 10, your chances improve to 1 in 383,484.75.

As you've no doubt gathered, the difference is because you can't draw a royal in any suit in which you've discarded a 10. There are 1,533,939 possible five-card draws. If you're discarding a 10, there are three possible royals. If your discards do not include a 10, four royals are available.

When we draw fewer cards, the only royal available to us is in the suit we hold, so the chances of drawing a royal mirror the number of possible draws. If we hold one royal flush card and draw four new cards, the chance of completing the royal is 1 in 178,365. Hold two royal cards and take a three-card draw, the chance improves to 1 in 16,125, then to 1 in 1,081 with a two-card draw and 1 in 47 if we start with four parts of a royal and draw one.

Q. Why isn't it basic strategy in blackjack to do whatever the dealer does? The casino makes money. The dealer must know what he's doing.

A. We play under different conditions than the dealer. If I bust, I lose my money regardless of what the dealer does. Hands in which both the player and dealer bust, and the player loses, is what gives the house an edge in blackjack.

So players have to adjust their strategy. The dealer has to hit 16 and less, no matter what. Players don't. If I have a 16 and the dealer's face up card is a 6, I don't have to hit, a play that would cause me to bust 61.5% of the time. I can stand, and let the dealer risk going bust.

And for what it's worth, knowing what he's doing doesn't enter into a dealer's strategy. All the dealer's plays are dictated by the rules of the game. He or she has no options, and can't adjust play for the best chance at beating the players. Players do have options, and should take advantage by learning basic strategy.

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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.