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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: So much for being a penny pincher

4 April 2008

Dear Mark: I would like to share the following with your readers. Recently I lost over $500 in one session, get this, playing penny slots. I don't believe I have ever lost that much playing nickels, or even quarters. Being frugal just doesn't work in the casino. Timothy H.

Thanks for sharing, Timothy. The answer here is pretty simple. A "penny machine" isn't a penny machine if you play 25 coins per line. Really, how hard is it to bet a buck or more a spin on a penny machine? It isn't.

Unfortunately, the lower-denomination machines are taking more and more space on the casino floor, and all penny slots offer a minimum bet of more than one unit. Most players get bored easily at a penny a pop, then gung-ho trigger happy for the Play Max button, and voila, they're $500 in the hole.

Dear Mark: I just saw the movie 21. Did I hear right that during one scene someone said that splitting 8s against a 10 was for suckers. Doesn't that run contrary to your writings that you should always split 8s? Rob B.

I've yet to see the movie 21, based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, but had I been an advisor on that film, I probably would have caught that dialog error, had it appeared in the script, and suggested a change.

What you're really doing when you split 8s is breaking up a 16, the worst possible hand you can have in blackjack. When you split 8s, you will lose $44 for every $100 wagered. If you were just to hit the hand, you would lose $51 for every $100 bet. You may not necessarily always put extra jingle in your pocket by splitting 8s, but you will jingle louder and longer if you split 'em.

I'll stand firm, Rob, as would most blackjack writers, that the correct strategy is to split 8s against a 10. The lone exception on splitting 8s is that when surrender is allowed, you do it against an ace, if the dealer hits a soft 17.

Dear Mark: After the point has been established, why won't the casino allow you to make a don't pass bet? They do on the pass line. Sid D.

If they, they being the current casino owners, allowed you to go right up on the numbers without having to go through an initial placement on the don't pass line, they would be turning over the keys to the front door to the future casino owner, that being you.

Here's the arithmetic. On the come-out roll, when you first place a don't come bet, the house has eight ways to win if the 7 or 11 appear, and will lose only 3 ways if the 2 and 3 (the 12 being a push) are thrown. But once a number has been established, the player has a substantial edge over the house: six to five on the 6 and 8, three to two on the 5 and 9, and two to one on the 4 and 10.

They, and now that we know who they really is (or are), have no problem letting you make a pass line bet once a number has been established because that wager is paid off at even money. They have a large edge on this bet since before a number has been established, the player has eight ways to win if the 7 or 11 are rolled, but has four chances of losing if the 2, 3, or 12 appear.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Luck is a lady but — as with all ladies of class — she chooses her lovers imperiously." —Lyle Stuart

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.