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A neat trio you may not know

21 June 2004

Dear Mark,
When playing kitchen table poker, it seems arguments arise on what is the best possible hand for certain games. Recently a dispute occurred on what is the best hand for both California and Kansas City Lowball. For example, I recently thought I had the best hand for California Lowball with an A-2-3-4-5, all in hearts. My friend believed I didn't have the best hand because it also was a flush. Am I correct to assume that flushes do not count in both California and Kansas Cit Lowball? Jules G.

I am glad, Jules, your letter specified which game was disputed regarding flushes because flushes are treated differently in the two games you mentioned, California and Kansas City Lowball. Lowball is a form of draw poker in which the lowest hand wins the pot. But regarding the game in question in your letter, California Lowball, you are correct that it didn't matter that you had a heart flush. California Lowball, also called Ace to Five, is a form of lowball in which the best possible hand is just what you held — A-2-3-4-5. The ace is considered a low card, and straights and flushes DO NOT count against you.

As for Kansas City Lowball, or Deuce to Seven Lowball, the best possible hand is a 2-3-4-5-7. In this form of lowball, the ace can only be considered a high card and straights and flushes DO count against you.

Dear Mark,
I've just launched a website where your readers can play faro. It's got the rules of the game, a smattering of history, and a lovely visual design. You can play faro right on your Web browser, while enjoying the ragtime piano music of a 19th century saloon. Wichita Faro is not a commercial site, and there's no real gambling, just a FREE fun introduction to faro. Sean G.

Sean knows from a past column that Yours Truly would love to see faro reappear in a casino somewhere, anywhere, so much so that if a casino like the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City were to ever offer faro, I'd be on the first flight to Reno.

Of course, it would be a whole lot cheaper to surf over to Sean's Super Bargain — Wichita Faro web site: http://www.gleeson.us/faro/

So, readers, how about a two minute primer before you log on to Sean's Wichita Faro, and for those of you at home without Internet access, if such there be, go fetch yourself two decks of cards and play along, smugly grinning in the light of your lower phone bill.

With the first deck we'll use just thirteen cards for your layout, or spread. The other deck is for the game itself. Using one complete suit (layouts generally used spades), running from ace to king, lay them face up. This is your game layout. As the bettor, "back a card" (place your bet) on any rank (card) by putting a chip on it. With the other deck shuffled, deal the top two cards (dealers of yesteryear dealt from a box, sort of like today's shoe). If you backed the first card dealt, you lose, and if you placed a bet on the second card, you win. If you have a bet on any of the other cards, they can be withdrawn or left standing for the next turn. The house derived its advantage when a pair was dealt. Here the bank would take half the money that had been staked on the paired cards.

There you are, folks, you now know faro, the most popular game (it wasn't poker) of the Old West.

Gambling quote of the week: "The ability of a poker player is judged solely by the difference between his stack when he sat down and his stack when he got up." David Mamet, gaming author

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Best of Mark Pilarski
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.