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Deal Me In: For now, this victor is enjoying the spoils

30 November 2007

Dear Mark: I seem to have an uncanny winning history with Three-card Poker. I have won consistently over the past year but in particular over the past few sittings, that being 15 winning sessions out of 20, with a profit of over $8,500.00. I know cards are streaky, but my uncanny luck with this game makes me question the odds. Why am I winning consistently at a game the experts say stay away from? Wayne C.

The game Wayne writes of, Three-card Poker -- for any reader who may have forgotten -- is a poker-based game that uses just three cards per hand and is played on a blackjack table using a 52-card deck. The differences from standard poker are: no further cards are drawn, and players do not compete against each other, but against either the dealer, or against a posted payout schedule.

I'm not quite sure, Wayne, what experts you're reading, who advise you to "stay away from it," since it's not only the easiest poker game I know of, but by using a very simple strategy, the house edge drops as low as 2.01%. For me at least, it's a thumb's up play.

As for that simple betting strategy, Wayne, make the "play" wager if you have at least a queen, six, and a four in your hand. Using this simple approach, the house edge on the "ante" wager is about 2.01%; with the "pair plus" it's slightly higher at 2.3%.

As for your winning streak, yes, allow me to congratulate you on your bonanza, but needless to say (and I will), that your gambling timeline at Three-card poker has been limited to hundreds, maybe thousands of hands, not millions, so happenstance in your favor, can, and will happen.

Don't, Wayne, put your faith in the heady fantasy that happy aberrations in gambling odds will last forever, even in games that carry a small house edge, like Three-card poker.

Dear Mark: Do you have any blackjack money management tips on how to discipline myself on holding on to winnings? It seems all the money I win ends up back in the dealer's tray. Hardy K.

Teaching people to walk away with some vestige of their winnings can be an exercise in futility. Excuse me while I sigh and roll my eyes. A writer for the Journal of Experimental Psychology I am not. But I can offer you a money management tip that, if you make – no, if you KEEP -- the pledge to stick with it, will work wonders in your ability to leave with a profit.

Pocket your winnings -- yeah, that's right, start by getting the chips off the felt -- as you win and continue playing with only your principal bankroll. Once your beginning bankroll is lost, count your pocketed winnings and continue playing with only half of your net win (your winnings less your original bankroll), or better yet, leave with all the profit.

For example, if your bankroll for that session were $200, you would pocket all your winnings and continue to play off the original greenbacks. Once the $200 dollars is gone, but your pocketed winnings are $300, play with only with half of the surplus, $50 (that is: $300 -$200=$100, half of which is $50), repeating, burying in your deepest pocket any additional amount won. Personally, I wouldn't even do that; I'd walk; figuring a 50% return on my money can't be had even with a "can't miss" stock pick.

By the way, Hardy, this money management tip will in no way affect the house edge over your play in blackjack, nor does it guarantee that you will win more money. The casino's built-in advantage in blackjack remains the same whether you apply this money management technique or not.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"Sometimes you'll miss a bet, sure, but it's OK to miss a bet. Poker is an art form, of course, but sometimes you have to sacrifice art in favor of making a profit." --Mike Caro

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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.