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# Picking the Cards

9 February 2020

QUESTION: Is it really possible to get an edge on any machine games? Does strategy make a difference on video poker or video blackjack, or is the machine just going to deal paying hands when it wants to?

ANSWER: “Want” is not part of the equation for an electronic gaming device. Video poker and blackjack machines don’t deal the cards they “want” to. They deal the cards that correspond to numbers determined by a random number generator.

The RNG doesn’t know what the cards are, or even that cards are part of the game. It just generates numbers. There is a map that tells the game what card to display for each number generated.

The effect is that cards are dealt in the same proportions you would get from physically shuffling a deck of cards.

The odds of the games are set up so random result will give the house an edge almost all the time, without the machine wanting to do anything.

In video blackjack, playing basic strategy makes the same difference in the house edge as it would with the same rules on a table game. So yes, your skill makes a difference.

Just as on the tables, rules usually are set up to give the house an edge. There have been video blackjack games that have offered early surrender and given an edge to skilled players, but I know of none in use now.

In video poker, your skill at knowing what to hold and what to discard makes a difference. Just how low you can get the house edge, and whether players can get an edge, is dependent on the pay table. Skilled players can get an edge on 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker or 10-6 Double Double Bonus, but not on games with lower pay tables.

Pay tables that can yield a player edge are increasingly rare, but yes, skill makes a difference and player edges are possible. The machines don’t just pay what and when they “want.”

QUESTION: About that basket bet in roulette, with 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. It has a 7.89 percent house edge compared to 5.26 percent on all the other bets.

Why don’t they just proportion the payout so it has the 5.26 percent edge. All these other bets with different quantities of numbers, they proportion the payout so one number pays 35-1 and has a 5.26 percent edge, four numbers pay 8-1 and have a 5.26 percent edge, six numbers pay 5-1 and have a 5.26 percent edge.

Why don’t they change the basket from 6-1 to get down to 5.26 percent?

ANSWER: Because it’s not possible to make a payoff in whole numbers that would yield a 5.26 percent edge on a five-number bet.

As you note, at 6-1 payoffs, the edge is 7.89 percent. At 7-1, PLAYERS would have a 5.26 percent edge.

A house edge of 5.26 percent would require the five-number bet to pay \$6.20-1. Casinos won’t want the expense of stocking change or tokens for such payoffs.

Incidentally, with all other bets on the table, you get 36 if you add both sides of the odds line and multiply by the quantity of numbers in the wager. A four-number bet pays 8-1, so if you add 8 and 1 and multiply by 4, you get 36.

On the five number bet, if you add 6 and 1 for the payoff, then multiply by 5, you get only 35. You do get 36 if you add 6.2 and 1, then multiply by 5.
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Best of John Grochowski
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.