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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Don't give in to peer pressure when it comes to those 'sucker' side bets

20 June 2008

Dear Mark: I enjoy playing the carnival game Let It Ride. I know, bad odds, but it's fun. So I don't play the side bets, Bonus or three-card bet because I feel these are sucker bets and the house has big enough odds against me without adding to it. But every time I would have won at one of these side bets the dealer never fails to point this out and chastises me for not betting it, and then the other players join in with the dealer and make me feel like a fool for not making the bet. I still don't make the side bets but I want to ask you, are they right and I should be betting the side bets and if so which one or both? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Bill

The game you speak of, Bill, Let It Ride, (for those unfamiliar with it) is a variation of five-card stud poker where the player wagers on a poker hand consisting of three cards in the player's hand and two community cards in the dealer's hand. When the game is played using perfect basic strategy, the casino's advantage on Let It Ride is 3.51%, and even though the house edge is almost six times the edge in blackjack when using perfect basic strategy, you enjoy playing it, know in advance the toll it could take on your wallet, and there are in the casino worse games (and better ones) than Let It Ride that you could play.

But now, let's talk about this dealer who used the wisdom of hindsight to be critical of your play. He, or she for that matter, is dead wrong. It's easy to have a perfect understanding of a wager that could have won after it has happened, but in actuality, the Let It Ride side bets, where for $1 you are offered an additional payoff with certain paying hands, carry a double-digit casino edge making them nothing more than sucker bets.

Skip those side bets, Bill -- better yet, any interest in switching to blackjack?

Dear Mark: Can you please recommend a book and/or author that give the BEST strategies for playing video poker? I think it would help my odds considerably, if at least, I played "by the book." Mike S.

Because video poker often has a positive expectation, it is the one machine game that really offers the player the chance to get the best of the casinos. A caveat to that statement is that you must select the best machines and play the proper strategies on those machines.

I could easily recommend the most technically accurate video poker book on the bookshelves today, but it isn't going to be of much use to the average player if the poor guy or gal has to struggle to understand and apply its strategies. So, Mike, I'm going to limit my picks to three straightforward, and easy-to-grasp books: Victory at Video Poker by Frank Scoblete, or either Precision Play or Optimum Play by Dan Paymar.

My advice for those of you who are now just recreational players, but who want to become serious video poker players, is to get any of these books and watch with pleasure the direction your hard-earned money then flows.

Dear Mark: I read your casino column every Thursday and thanks for all the advice on video poker. We are planning a trip to Las Vegas and I would like to know where to find 'a printed video cheat sheet.' Robert B.

Using a printed video cheat sheet gives you not only the discipline to play video poker correctly, but it also gives you an understanding of the "Expected Value" of the hands you are dealt. Each hand dealt has what's called an "expected value," which is the average value of all the results attainable after the discards are replaced, assuming that the optimum cards are retained (per your cheat sheet) and that each possible draw occurs.

As for where to find a printed cheat sheet, you can either purchase the books recommended above, copy their strategy charts and use them in the casino, or check out the Gambler's Book Shop at 800-522-1777 (http://www.gamblersbook.com), which carries a decent selection of laminated cheat sheet cards for different video poker games.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In poker, you should be rewarded for good decisions and penalized for bad ones. That's the essence of the game." --Mike Sexton, "Shuffle Up and Deal"

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.