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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Patience (and a big bankroll) is necessary if you're counting on a royal

18 April 2008

Dear Mark: How much money is needed for a bankroll before I can expect to hit a royal flush? Andy A.

It could be more than your net worth, Andy.

Plenty of players, my Mom for example, went years, stretch that, decades, without ever hitting one. Of course, she's a worst-case scenario, made worse by the fact that she's no longer with us. Possibly by now she's caught her first, playing at St. Peter's Casino and Resort Hotel.

But on average, Andy, you can expect to hit a royal approximately once every 40,000 hands. By factoring in smaller wins (a pair through a straight flush) along the way, the average bankroll required is 4,000 to 5,000 units ($200 to $250 for nickels, $1,000 to $1,250 for quarters, and $4,000 to $5,000 for dollars) to keep you in the game between royal flushes.

Dear Mark: I love playing in craps tournaments, yet I have never been able to win one. Either I can't maintain the lead or catch the leader when behind. Any suggestions? Jason D.

Successful tournament players, once ahead in a craps tournament, mimic every bet of those competitors who are close behind so their rivals have no chance of catching up. If the closest challenger makes a $500 pass line bet, the leaders often do the same.

You can only catch the leader by betting the opposite of the leader's bets. Do your best to let them lead out, and if they are betting $500 on the pass line, you bet $500 on the don't. This way, you win if they lose.

The other way to catch up in short order is by making proposition bets that pay off in large amounts. The odds remain awful on these long shot wagers, and I would never recommend them for conventional craps play, but I've seen a few tournaments won with these come-from-behind long shot wagers, especially in the latter stages of a tournament.

Dear Mark: Do you have any idea who in gambling is credited with the term "beat the house?" Sue F.

I believe that term, Sue, predates legalized gambling (1931) in the United States.

Its genesis, Sue, is a pre-revolutionary expression, where "house" referred to a merchant's place of business. Those who could talk a shopkeeper into giving them a better deal could literally boast that they had "beaten the house."

In today's usage, "house" refers to a gambling establishment, and giving it a whupping is referred to as "bringing down" or "beating the house."

Dear Mark: In last week's column you shared with us the virtues of doubling down. You didn't mention it, but what are your thoughts about doubling down for less? Gene R.

Let's review. Last week I wrote that the three main reasons why doubling down is so advantageous to you are 1) you know the dealer's up-card, 2) the casino is allowing you to bet more money with that information, and 3) your chances of winning the hand are better than the dealer's.

With those reasons working in your favor, Gene, especially reason number three, doubling down when you're more likely to win the hand than not, why would you not want to put up the maximum amount?

The primary reason you play blackjack over most other casino games is because it offers opportunities where you can have the edge over the casino, not the other way around. Hereafter, Gene, never shortchange yourself when a doubling down situation arises.

Dear Mark: Is there any one particular seat at a blackjack table that gets better cards? Sunny G.

No seat, Sunny, be it first base or third, has a better chance of being dealt good cards.

Considering expert card counters who track what's been played, they do get to observe additional cards from the third base position before they make a decision, but that extra information only helps them, not the average Joe.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Compulsive winning is as self-destructive in its own way as compulsive losing." --David Spanier, Total Poker

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.