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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A side bet here, a side bet there

2 December 2011

Dear Mark: Some of the local casinos are offering a side bet called "Perfect Pair" at their blackjack tables. What are the casino odds on this bet, and is it worth playing? Richard G.

We all get our share of "mixed pairs," cards of the same number, one black and one red. "Colored pairs," same numbers and same colors, either red or black, are rarer. Then there is the rarest "perfect pair," consisting of identically numbered cards of the same suit. Nevertheless, making a wager on their appearance does not make “perfect pairs” a value-added wager.

Pay tables do vary from casino to casino, Richard, but on a six-deck shoe where you get 6 to 1 for a mixed pair, 12 to 1 for a colored pair, and a perfect pair pops for 25 to 1, the house edge is more than 6 percent.

The problem with most side bets offered at the blackjack table is that they are far too expensive for the smart gambler. If played correctly, the game you’re playing, blackjack, has a casino advantage of less than 1 percent. Therefore, while you are using your noggin, grinding it out to lower that house edge, you do not want to make an additional side bet that has a casino advantage nearly 10 times as high.

Sorry, Richard, Perfect Pairs is just not a side bet I would recommend. Glad you checked.

Dear Mark: The casino I play at offers a side bet at blackjack called Super 7s, where if you get multiple 7s, you get some decent-sized payoffs. Yeah or nay as to this side bet? Alex L.

Super 7s is a side bet where you hope to be dealt one or more 7s. A typical payoff for 7s is as follows: For one 7 the payoff is 3 to 1. If your first two cards are unsuited 7s, the payoff is 50 to 1, but if both 7s are suited, the payoff doubles to 100 to 1. If you are dealt three unsuited 7s, your payoff is 500 to 1, and if all three 7s are suited, it climbs sharply to 5,000 to 1.

If you think getting three suited sevens on a multi-deck game seems to tempt, think again, Alex. It is just not that easy to hit. Surely, those high payoffs are alluring, but since our kitchen table math gives the casino an advantage of approximately 11 percent on this wager, I would call it a sucker bet for the lollipop crowd.

Dear Mark: I won a slot jackpot of $2,200 on a cruise ship but was NOT issued a W-2G. I am getting conflicting advice as to if I owe taxes on my win. Is a win on a cruise ship taxable, even without a W-2G? Janet B.

Although you didn’t reveal which cruise line, I am a bit surprised you did not receive a W-2G when your jackpot crossed a certain threshold. For slot machines, winnings of $1,200 or more should have triggered traceable paperwork.

In the eyes of the IRS, any winnings, from whatever form of gambling worldwide, are taxable and must be reported as "Other Income,” on Form 1040 of the US Individual Tax Return even if the casino did not issue a W-2G.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?” —Jean Cocteau
Recent Articles
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.