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Deal me in: Smaller bankroll needed for video poker

1 December 2008

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Taking your advice, any time I'm given the choice, I play video poker over slots. My question is, do you still need the same sized session bankroll for video poker as you would for slots? Dana S.

Your bankroll, Dana, the money you will need to set aside specifically for playing video poker, would be less than you'd set aside for slots, because poker machines tend to have higher hit frequencies than do slot machines.

A session bankroll for video poker would be the amount for 75 hands, which should be enough to keep you playing for a couple hours. For slots, 100-plus hands would be the minimum, although both sums, Dana, could fall far short when you're having one of those "takin' a lickin'" days.

Dear Mark: My husband left a cold video poker machine and within two minutes someone else sat down on the machine he was playing and instantly hit a four-of-a-kind, followed a few minutes later by a royal flush. Would another $10 in that machine have gotten him the same hands? Sherry F.

I share your disappointment, Sherry, in giving up on a cold machine, only to see someone else plop down in front of it and good fortune suddenly blesses the newcomer.

Yet, the chill comfort I can provide you is in letting you know that all machines cycle through thousands and thousands of outcomes each and every second. Your husband would have had to hit the deal button at the exact same instant that the following player did in order to have had that four-of-a-kind, let alone the royal. A millisecond difference, earlier or later, would have produced a less juicy outcome.

Dear Mark: Unless you tell the dealer otherwise, place bets are always "off" on the come-out roll. Why is that? Isn't one roll of the dice be as good as any other roll of the dice? Mike P.

You're correct, Mike, in that the house edge on place bets is exactly the same as if you have them working on the come-out, or any other roll.

The reason most players who have a wager on the pass line as well as a place number and want the place numbers off is that they're not interested in being a winner on the pass line, and simultaneously a loser on the place bets if a 7 were to roll. They prefer leaving their place bets in an indeterminate state for a roll; that way, if the shooter rolls a 7 on the come-out, they win on the pass line, and their place bets are still alive. If a point number appears (4, 5 ,6, 8, 9, 10), they can then root against the 7 on both the pass and place bets alike.

Dear Mark: The Indian casino where I play replaced all of their remaining two- deck handheld and shoe games with automatic shuffling machines. Is there any basic strategy differences from a multi-deck game versus an automatic shuffler? Will J.

Even though there are no basic strategy differences required to play on automatic shuffle machines, if it's not the only game in town, my first bit of advice, Will, is to shuffle your feet out of the casino and find yourself a hand-dealt game.

Sure, there are some studies that show that continuous automatic shufflers actually reduce the house edge against basic strategy players, but such reduction is not enough to offset the approximately 20 percent increase in the number of hands you'll see per hour.

Increasing hands-per-hour generally multiplies the benefits-per-hour for the entity with the built-in edge, and even though you're playing basic strategy, continuous shuffling machines and non-continuous shufflers alike will take more of a bite out of your bankroll than will a hand-shuffled game, giving the house more of an opportunity for the casino advantage to peck away at your bankroll.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"The attraction of gambling is the possibility of wealth without work." --San Braids, The Intelligent Guide To Texas Hold'em Poker

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.