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5 October 2014

QUESTION: Now that football has started both in pros and colleges, can you give me a quick refresher at the house edge when you bet on the point spreads? You have to bet an extra 10 percent, so your bet is \$110 instead of \$100, but how big a house edge does that translate into? Also, what percentage of bets would you have to win to make a profit?

ANSWER: The 10 percent vigorish charged on such bets translates to a 4.55 percent house edge. Here’s how it works. If I bet \$110 on Team A, and you bet \$110 on Team B, the house takes in \$220 in wagers. The house pays the winner \$210 -- the \$110 wager plus \$100 in winnings.

The house then takes the other \$10, and we can divide that by the \$220 in wagers, then multiply to 100 to convert to percent, to arrive at a house edge of 4.55 percent.

If you had a coin-flip win rate of 50 percent, you would lose money. Per two games played, you’d wager \$220 and get \$210 back.

The break-even point comes at 52.273 percent. Win more often than that and you make money, less often and you make your contribution to the house’s bottom line. Winning that high a percentage of football bets is not easy, and there are many more long-term losers than winners.

QUESTION: My friend and I have debated over a Double Double Bonus video poker hand. If you have drawn three of a kind with Aces, 2s, 3s or 4s, with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 also in the hand, do you just hold the three of a kind or do you hold the three of a kind along with the extra Ace, 2, 3, or 4 to try and get the bigger hit?

My case is for just the three of a kind, drawing two cards. You first have to get the four of a kind before the extra Ace, 2, 3 or 4 means anything. What is your take on this one?

ANSWER: For those unfamiliar with Double Double Bonus Poker, there is a big jackpot jump for having the required fifth card to go with certain four of a kinds. Four Aces usually pays 800 coins for a five-coin, but with a 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card, the jackpot leaps to 2,000 coins. If the quads are 2s, 3s or 4s, the payoff is 400 coins, but jumps to 800 with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card.

Whether to hold a kicker card with three of a kind is one of the most-asked questions in video poker, one I address every few years. You can’t draw a flush when you start with three of a kind, so the arithmetic is the same for 9-6 and 9-5 Double Double Bonus.

When you start with three Aces plus the kicker, there are 47 possible draws. One will be the fourth Ace for the 2,000-coin jackpot, three will pair up the kicker to give you a full house 45 coins and 43 will leave you with three of a kind for 15 coins. The average return per hand is 59.15 coins.
If you hold just the three Aces, there are 1,081 possible two-card draws. Eleven of them will give you four Aces plus a 2, 3 or 4 for 2,000 coins, another 35 will give you four Aces without the kicker for 800 coins, 66 will bring full houses for 45 coins and the remaining 969 will leave you with three of a kind for 15 coins. The average return is 62.45 coins per hand. Holding just the three Aces brings a higher average return.

What if you start with three 2s, 3s or 4s? The arithmetic is the same, except to substitute a 400-coin value of four-of-a-kind without the kicker, and 800 coins for quads with the needed fifth card. The average return becomes 37.28 coins if you hold just the three of a kind and draw two cards, and 33.62 coins if you hold the kicker, too.

Maximize your chances at four of a kind by drawing two cards to three of a kind, and let the kickers come when they may.
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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.