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Deal Me In: Count and discount

25 January 2008

Dear Mark: Who was it that came up with the 10-card (10, J, Q, K) being the most important card to follow when counting cards in blackjack? Jake M.

It was Dr. Edward Thorp who, in 1962, developed the first method of card counting using an IBM 704 computer, and then followed up on his finding by writing the classic, Beat the Dealer. Thorp's theory was based on counting cards with a value of 10. He figured that the counter could determine the percentage of 10s against the other cards in the deck, and use that information to determine whether the deck was favorable to the house or to the player. In a deck of 52 cards, Jake, there are 36 non-10-value cards and 16 10-value cards, After each shuffle, the deck stands at 2.25 to one which slightly favors the house. When the percentage drops below that 2.25 threshold, it favors the player, who would then increase his or her bet. Conversely, when the deck favors the house, the player would wager less.

Dear Mark: Please settle an argument we had at out last poker outing. Player A bets $6 and then Player B tosses in a $25 chip without indicating that he is raising. The dealer proceeds to deal the flop and Player B creates a stink, saying he was raising the pot and not calling, then tosses in his cards, calls a misdeal, grabs his money and quits the hand. Do you mind refereeing this scenario for us so we can stay friends? Tom G.

Without being bellied up to your kitchen table, Tom, it is rocky at best refereeing your home game from the comfort of my LazyBoy chair via my laptop. So my generalized answer -- a bit ambiguous because some poker rooms sometimes interpret this scenario in different ways -- is this: If you put a single chip in the pot that is larger than the bet, but you do not announce a raise, you are assumed to have only called the bet. Example: In a $3-$6 game, when a player bets $6 and the next player puts a $25 chip in the pot without saying anything, that player has merely called the $6 bet.

In poker, Tom, it's called the over-sized, or one-chip rule, that being, when responding to another player's action, a bet of one chip with a denomination larger than the bet indicated at that juncture is a call unless the bettor verbally states otherwise.

The over-sized chip rule also applies when more than one chip is necessary to call a bet, and when the last chip tendered might be interpreted as a raise. Unless a player says "I raise," or words to that effect, he has only called. What should have happened at your kitchen table is that the dealer should have given change to the over-size player before proceeding with the flop.

Dear Mark: My aunt, who lives in Canada, bought a lottery ticket over the holidays while visiting us and matched four white balls plus the mega ball in the Mega Millions lottery. She seems to be under the impression that because she lives in Canada there will be no tax liability when she comes back to claim her $10,000 in winnings. Is she correct in her assumption? Diane D.

I can see, Diane, why she's under that impression since Canadians do not pay taxes on lottery-type winnings in Canada. But here in the States, all lottery prizes are subject to federal, state and local income taxes. Despite your aunt's being a non-U.S. resident, any winning prizes of more than $600 are subject to a flat, up-front, 30% estimated federal withholding rate, as well as, depending upon where she bought the ticket, that state's withholding rate.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"Losing: The inevitable outcome of wagering money on games where the house has the mathematical edge." VP Pappy, "Midwest Casino Guide"
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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.