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# Red Dog

13 October 2002

The game of red dog is a simple affair; it is actually based on a child's game. In the casino version, each player puts up a wager. Two cards are dealt.

• If they are consecutive, the hand is a tie and no money changes hands.
• If they are of the same value, a third card is dealt. If this card is also the same, this is a "triple" and winning bets are paid off at 11-1, otherwise the hand is a tie.
• If the two cards are neither consecutive nor identical in value, the value difference between them is calculated and one is subtracted from the difference. This is called the spread.

For example, a 6 and a 2 is a spread of 3. A 4 and 6 is a spread of 1, and so on. Aces count as 14, while kings, queens and jacks count 13, 12 and 11, respectively. Suits are of no basic significance.

After the spread has been determined, players are offered the option of doubling their wagers. Then a third card is dealt. If it falls between the values of the first two cards, the players wins. If the card falls outside the values of the first two cards, the players lose their wagers. Players are paid off at even money for spreads greater than 3, 2-1 for a spread of 3, 4-1 for a spread of 2, and 5-1 for a spread of 1.

BASIC STRATEGY

The best strategy is to raise with any spread of 7 or greater.

HOUSE EDGE

The house edge against a player using the best strategy is 2.33% with eight decks and 2.37% with six decks. A bit of irony: the game operators seem to believe the game is less favourable with more decks as with blackjack. Actually more decks favours the players at this game, mostly because there is a greater chance of a triple with multiple decks.

CARD COUNTING

Efforts have been made to determine the viability of card counting at Red Dog in the usenet newsgroup rec.gambling other-games. Primary contributors to this study were Mr. Ted Alper and Dr. Yui-bui Chen. Mr. Alper told me in an e-mail that with perfect play the game could be profitable with deep penetration, but that until a significant percentage of the cards had been dealt out, favourable opportunities were small and rare.

Dr. Yui-bui Chen conducted a simulation of 200 million hands for the purposes of testing his 5-level "C" count. His conclusion: you would need a 1-900 spread to beat the game consistently.

An even older study by Steve Jacobs determined that Red Dog could be beaten as a practical matter if a single-deck game were offered, computer-perfect analysis for every hand was used, and a bet spread of 25 units to 1 were employed.

Unfortunately Red Dog is rarely found in real-world casinos. Even when it was, single-deck Red Dog just didn't exist. The game survives online, being offered by many Cryptologic and MicroGaming casinos, but generally the pack is shuffled after every hand.

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John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

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John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.