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At the movies, maybe, but it's still illegal

26 April 2004

Dear Mark,
At our newly formed Thursday night poker club, I was informed that I couldn't call a bet, and then raise. I used these words; "I'll call your $20, and raise you another $20." Someone objected and said that I couldn't do that. I have seen this form of betting many times before, so enlighten me, am I wrong? Jeb S.

Where you have seen "I'll call your 20, partner," then after a swig of JD, the gambler utters, "I'll raise you another 20" is most likely at the movies. You wouldn't witness "I'll call you 20, and raise you another 20" on Travel Channel's World Poker Tour or ESPN's World Series of Poker.

Calling a bet, then digging back into your chip pile and declaring a raise is called a string-raise. String-raising is never permitted in the above-mentioned tournaments nor public poker games.

String-raising allows a player to read the reactions of anyone already in the pot, or the feedback of active players yet to bet. No legitimate poker game would allow a player to put some chips in the pot, then decide to raise if he feels he has a better hand by how he just read his opponent(s). The hesitation in the betting action is the illegal part of the move.

If someone makes a string-raise, a dealer will inform the player that a string-raise has just occurred, and that player will have to withdraw their raise and just call the bet.

If you want to raise, Jeb, just declare "raise," then go to your stack of chips and count the correct amount of chips needed and make the wager in one continuous motion.

Here's a tip for string-raises at a kitchen table game. If someone states "string-raise," but another player says, "It's OK by me, let it stand," you'll first want to agree with no string-raising, but you'll also want to FOLD. Even the two pair you might be sitting on is probably DOA. The player who allowed the string-raise in all probability has the nuts; an absolute cinch hand.

Dear Mark,
Can the casino change the odds of getting certain hands in video poker? For example, a player never being able to get a royal flush. Roger H.

Many players, Roger, erroneously believe that the casino can change the odds of video poker by changing an internal chip so that the player cannot acquire a royal flush, or even limit how many four-of-a-kinds and straight flushes they get. Nothing, Roger, could be further from the truth. If a casino was ever caught doing what your question suggests, they would probably lose their gaming license faster than you can say, "lose their gaming license."

In Nevada, where you play, all the chips are encrypted with a source code that's controlled by the gaming control board and the manufacturer, not casino management. The slot manager has no access to the source code to change the odds of the game.
The reason a royal flush is elusive, Roger, is because the odds of hitting one are almost 50,000 to one.

Gambling quote of the week: "A lot of good players never get to the top because when they get ahead in a game they start to feel sorry for their opponent. They ease up on him instead of kicking him when he is down. You've got to look at it this way: If you are playing your grandmother a fifty-point game, try to beat her fifty to nothing." Dan McGoorty, as told to Robert Bryne, McGoorty (1972)

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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.