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30 May 2001

Q. I'm confused. I'd always heard that the lowest house edge in Three Card Poker was against the dealer as long as the player bets with a Queen or better and folds other hands. But your quiz answers on March 2 indicate that average losses are lower on Pair Plus than against the dealer. What gives?

A. The quiz section specified lowest average losses given minimum bets. Given those conditions, average losses will be lower on Pair Plus because the player bets more on play vs. the dealer. That's because play vs. the dealer has two-stage betting in which the player starts with an ante, then either adds a bet or folds.

Let's say I'm playing both options at a table with a \$5 minimum. I start with a \$5 bet on Pair Plus and a \$5 ante against the dealer. On Pair Plus, that's my total risk, but against the dealer, once I've seen my cards I must either bet another \$5 or forfeit my ante. Optimal strategy calls for making the bet on any hand of a Queen or better, which we receive 69.6 percent of the time.

The bottom line is that when the minimum bet is \$5, a player making minimum bets risks just \$5 on Pair Plus, but risks an average of \$8.48 on play against the dealer. That higher risk accounts for higher average losses.

Q. Your quiz on Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker did a nice job pointing out similarities and differences between the games, but you didn't really tell us which is the best game to play. Which is your favorite?

A. My favorite of the three is Three Card Poker, because its house edge is the lowest of the three games, winning hands come more frequently and players have a realistic shot at the top jackpot. The biggest-paying hand in Three Card Poker, a three-card straight flush, occurs once per 455 hands, compared with once per 649,740 hands for a royal flush in Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride.

The higher hit frequency means smaller jackpots, of course. A straight flush will bring a Pair Plus player in Three Card Poker a 40-1 payoff. That's a nice win, but it doesn't compare with the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the progressive jackpot in Caribbean Stud, or even the 1,000-1 payoff for a royal in Let It Ride.

The bottom line is that players who like more frequent small wins probably will like Three Card Poker better, while those who like to take their chances on bigger jackpots will prefer the other two games.

Q. Where do you think is the best place to stay in Las Vegas?

A. I don't think there is any one best place to stay in Las Vegas. It depends on what's important to you.

If I'm on a pleasure trip to Las Vegas, my top priority is the quality of gaming available. I want single-deck or double-deck blackjack with favorable rules, and I want a variety of full-pay video poker games, including plenty of 25-cent games.

I don't need a lot of glitz. My room doesn't need to be the most spacious in town. I don't need a celebrity chef's restaurant on the premises. I don't often go to the shows. If my room is clean and comfortable and the restaurants are decent, that'll do as long as the gaming is good. Easy comps are a plus.

Given those criteria, I like casinos geared to locals such as the Reserve, just south of Las Vegas in Henderson, and the Fiesta in northwest Las Vegas. I don't always stay at locals-oriented places. I move around both to stay up-to-date and because sometimes I have business that is better accomplished on the Strip. But always, the quality of games is a prime consideration in choosing a place to stay.

Others might want to soak in the atmosphere, the shows and the bright lights, and not care so much about getting the best deals on the games. If the fanciest rooms and big-name restaurants are what's important to you, then my favorites might not be the best places for you.

I usually advise first-time visitors to stay near the center of the Strip, where they're an easy walk from all the latest and greatest attractions.

But if you're a Las Vegas veteran, have seen the sights and are ready to narrow your priorities, finding the best place to stay depends on your own list.

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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.