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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Boosting the payoff

12 October 2012

Dear Mark: On multi-denomination slot and video poker machines, does the payback percent increase when I play higher denominations on the same machine? Betty B.

The potential for the long-term payback does go up, Betty, as you increase the denomination on a multi-denominational machine.

Most, but not all, multi-denominational machines actually have better long-term paybacks as you increase the denomination on them. For video poker, the machine uses diverse paytables, whereas a slot machine uses a different virtual reel layout.

Although the changes on a slot's virtual reel layout are camouflaged from the player, with video poker, paytables are in full view for you to compare, as you change denomination from nickels to quarters, and quarters to dollars. You will instantly note the paytable for the dollar denomination is more generous than the paytable for the quarter game, and the quarter denomination's heftier than the nickel denomination.

Dear Mark: Since switching recently from slots to video poker, I am having trouble hitting my first royal flush. I have been close a few times, by which I mean at least a dozen times being dealt four cards to a royal, but still no royal flush. My question is, say that I am dealt four cards to a royal, is there software or a chip that exists within the machine that controls the draw to a royal flush in contrast to any other hand dealt? Larry G.

Sorry, Larry, shenanigans are not afoot as you anxiously sweat out four-to-a-royal. Take it from me; hitting any royal, even with a draw, is a rarity. Those elusive royal flushes appear, on average, once in every 40,000 hands, and according to your question, it sounds like you have not been playing that long. Moreover, you claim that you have had 12 opportunities, having been dealt four to a royal, but the chances remain 1/47 on the draw, which is obviously more than your dozen opportunities to date.

The way it truly works, Larry, is that every card remaining in the deck has an equal opportunity of being drawn and used as your replacement card.

When you begin play by pressing the Deal button, your five cards are selected, and then displayed, but the random number generator (RNG) continues to cycle. With four cards to a royal, you obviously are going to discard one card and press the Draw button. It isn't until the draw cards are needed that the replacement cards are selected, randomly.

Dear Mark: I have two questions regarding playing head-to-head at blackjack. Is there any advantage to playing head-to-head against the dealer instead of multiple players at the table? Also, if a player is playing alone, what is the etiquette for another player joining the game? Rob B.

The only advantage in playing head-to-head against the dealer occurs when you have a mathematical edge against the casino, and that is if you are a card counter. Otherwise, Rob, what you are going to see flying solo is more hands per hour, and even using perfect basic strategy, that still favors the house. More players mean fewer hands per hour, with fewer chances of the house edge working against you.

Although all players have a right to play where and when they want, when I see players playing by themselves, especially when their wager exceeds what I plan to bet, I politely ask him or her if they prefer to play alone or would they mind some company.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Presidents and presidential assassins are like Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Even though one city is all about sin and the other is all about salvation, they are identical, one-dimensional company towns built up by the sheer will of true believers." - Sarah Vowell
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.