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# Deal Me In: If I only held…

23 May 2008

Dear Mark: My husband is critical of my video poker play, so much so that I hate sitting next to him. He keeps saying, "Well, if you held this instead of that, you would have gotten a better hand." I strictly play each hand using a printed cheat sheet based on the perfect strategy for that game, but he believes I should deviate my play. Help. Carol R.

Each hand dealt has what's called an "expected value," which is the average value of all the wins attainable after the discards are replaced, assuming that the optimum cards are retained (per your cheat sheet) and that each possible draw occurs.

You are playing correctly, Carol, in that you must hold the combination of cards with the highest expected value, because those are the cards that will win you the most money over the long haul, not your spouse's suggestions screeched in your ear.

Your husband seems to think that if you are holding, say, three jacks, and you correctly discard a queen and king, and then you draw and receive another queen, in that case, had you held the queen, possibly you could have gotten a full house.

The correct strategy is to hold only the jacks, since you, me, and especially he, each and all of us hasn't a clue as to what cards will be drawn from the deck to replace what you just discarded.

As for the squabbling amongst spouses, my B- in Psychology 101 hardly qualifies me for further comment. (Some casinos do sell earplugs.)

Dear Mark: A friend of mine claimed he was dead broke walking out of a casino and played \$1 on a craps game and within a minute had almost a \$1,000. I think he's full of it. Is his claim possible? Dan D.

Absolutely, Dan, and it can be done with just two rolls of the dice.

I'm guessing here, but I figure he put a dollar on the two or twelve, hit for \$30, and then he let the \$30 ride for a \$900 payday.

Long odds, yes, but I've seen a lot crazier things happen on a craps game than back-to-back snake eyes.

Dear Mark: I have always wondered how the newspaper where I live can give an accurate figure as to the payout percentages of slot machines. Am I to trust those figures? Kerry A.

There is no reason not to, Kerry.

Payback percentage numbers on slot machines come from your state's (Nevada) Gaming Commission. Those figures are the amount paid out by the area's casinos, divided by the money wagered, and then multiplied by 100.

To simplify, let's say area casinos paid out \$10,000 in jackpots, but patrons wagered \$11,000 to win that 10 grand. Divide \$10,000 by \$11,000, multiply by 100, and you get a figure of a 91% payout percentage on your local slots.

Dear Mark: I read somewhere that if you bet the banker hand in baccarat you win more hands than you lose. Why would the casino offer a wager where you have an advantage over the house? Paul D.

"Read somewhere" might have been here, Paul, but I also stated that even though the banker hand does win 50.68% of hands, excluding ties, the house collects a 5% commission on all winning bets.

Nevertheless, even with a 5% commission, the banker hand is one of the best bets in the casino, with a house edge of only 1.17%, thus, keep that wager in your arsenal.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In a metaphorical sense, the host is the snake in the Garden of Eden. His job is to talk Adam into taking a bite from the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Good and Bad Bets." Whale Hunt in the Desert by Deke Castleman

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Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.