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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Doubling up on bets and hopes

17 July 2009

Dear Mark: I like to play the double-up option on a video poker machine and I have a few questions about that bet. One, is it a good bet to make, being that it seems like a 50/50 proposition to me, and two, I was also wondering if I would get the next five cards out of the deck if I didn't make a double-up wager? Randy E.

What Randy's enquiring mind wants to know regards a video poker machine that offers the option of risking your current winning hand for a chance at doubling your money. That wager is fittingly named Double Up.

This Double Up bet involves five cards being drawn face down, the machine drawing one card first, and you selecting one of the remaining four cards. Basically you are playing high/low against a machine-dealt playing card.

If you draw a card higher than the one drawn by the machine, you are paid 1-to-1 on the wager. The Double Up offer continues after each successive win until you decide to bring it to an end, the casino abruptly ends your joyride, or, you lose.

So is Double Up a good bet or is it just another way for the casino to whack away at your bankroll?

It's the former, Randy, and actually, Double Up is one of the best bets the casino has to offer. No whackery here. You have a 50-50 likelihood of doubling your winnings, IF, and let me repeat that, IF, ties are a push to the player, and not a win for the house.

Truth being told, the game is an evenhanded coin toss, with an expected value of 100%. But if ties are considered a house win, then the Double Up bet has a house edge of 5.8%.

So now that you know that the house is offering up a square deal by giving you a 50-50 chance of winning, you start crunching numbers in your head, like, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc,. String 19 wins together and you can tell your boss to shove it because you just won $1,048,576.

Hold up giving notice yet, Randy. As in blackjack, where table limits apply, the compounding of money by parlaying winnings won't work here either. Machines limit the doubling from as little as five times in a row to10,000 coins returned ($2,500).

As to your second question, Randy, the five Double Up cards would not be the five cards you would have received had you not taken the Double Up option.

A video poker machine is constantly shuffling its electronic deck at lightning speed, so the card array would be sequentially different at the precise moment in time when you would initiate the Double Up option, from the array a moment later (accounting for the time it would take you to decline the Double Up option and deal a new hand).

Dear Mark: All things being equal in the level of skill of a player, does the number of decks affect the house edge in a game of blackjack? Alastair K.

Yes. Compared to a single deck game, the two-decker handicaps your play by 0.35%, four decks 0.48%, six decks 0.54%, and eight decks 0.58%. Given the choice, Alastair, and the rules being relatively equal, I would recommend playing on a game with the smallest number of decks possible.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It is not uncommon to see a lady in her bridal gown, married moments ago by a minister in full Elvis regalia, furiously working the slots with a Marlboro clenched between her teeth." --Rod Wiser, Casino Player

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.