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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Share and share alike

14 January 2011

Dear Mark: I need your help to clarify a hand of Texas Hold'em to settle a discussion. The Board: (4, 9, 9, jack, queen), Hand one: (8, 9) Hand two: (6, 9).

Which cards are used to break the tie of trip 9s, the kicker in each hand, or is the hand a tie based on the common Jack and Queen? James S.


Every player's final hand, James, is made up of five cards and five cards only. The remaining two cards in Texas Hold'em have no value.

To tangle with your question, James, let's compare the hands card-by-card and thereby determine the winner. You have the board's communal two 9s, along with a nine in each hand for trips, and to get to the uppermost hand for both players, you would add the jack and queen from the board, creating a tie, and a split pot. Whaddya know?

Because you are sharing all five cards, that kicker (the 6 and 8), the highest unpaired card in both hands, wouldn't play a part in either five-card hand.

When it comes to games with community cards where two (or more) players show down identical hands, the split pot can have an extra chip, say for instance a pot of $111. The extra dollar ($56 vs. $55) would go to the player in the worst position; then, where I play, it's usually tossed to the dealer as a gratuity.

Dear Mark: Is it better to play blackjack where the dealer hits a soft 17, or stand? Also, before betting, how do you know which game you are on? Ryan G.

For you the player, Ryan, it is better to play on a game where the dealer stands on a soft 17 and doesn't hit. Playing on a game in which the dealer hits a soft 17 gives the house an additional two-tenths of 1 percent advantage. Here's the reason why, Ryan.

When a soft 17 is showing, an ace, 2, 3 or 4 improves the dealer's hand. A 10, jack, queen or king leaves it of unchanged value. Therefore, eight of every 13 cards either improves the dealer's hand or keeps it the same. If any of the other five cards is drawn, the dealer still has a chance to increase the value of his hand with another draw.

The reason that the player's expectation decreases when the dealer must hit soft 17 is that even though the dealer will bust slightly more often when he hits rather than stands on 17, on those times when he doesn't bust he will more often end up with a hand that totals higher than 17. The net result is that the casino's edge increases by 0.2 percent.

As to knowing which game you are on, it generally specifies that information clearly on the layout.

Dear Mark: When playing slots, is there any truth that after a certain number of spins, if the machine is going to hit, it would have, if it doesn't, it won't? Shirley C.

There is no typical amount of time or spin count that it takes to win on any slot machine.

Any time you are front-and-center on any slot machine, the machine can hit a jackpot on your first spin, third spin or you could yank the handle a hundred times without any significant results.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "That's what they call the great pyramid of gambling! Sharks at the top, then the rounders, the minnows and at the bottom, the fish -- the suckers, the suppliers. Scavengers and suppliers just like in life." --Pug Pearson, Fast Company
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.