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Deal Me In: Spread Your Action Around

22 May 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: The casino where I play cut back on the perks I normally receive. Is there anything I can do about it? Tim D.

I made mention a few weeks back, Tim, that it baffled me that some casinos are making wholesale changes to their video poker machines, hoping to improve their theoretical hold during these tough times. It appears another recessionary cost-cutting plan is to cut back on perks, or comps, if I may revert to the lingo.

Sure, Tim, it might make sense in the short term for them to squeeze some juice out of their customers. But long-term, will it keep you a loyal customer? I hardly think so. Comps are probably one of the reasons that you have kept coming back for more.

My recommendation, Tim, is that you should have at least a half dozen casinos where you are rated as a player. That way, if Casino A changes their comp policy, and it's not to your liking, you can abort Casino A and reward your play to Casino B.

Dear Mark: In your opinion, is the casino edge the most important thing the player is up against, or is there something else the average player should be looking for? Matt G.

It's one of many obstacles the player is up against, but yes, it's probably the most important.

Other catches you can't escape is their war chest against yours, the lack of sound money management techniques on your part, and the speed of the game (the number of decisions per hour) can also be central to a winning, or losing, experience.

Yes, Matt, you should always focus on the house edge, always make bets that have a house edge of less than two percent. But some of those games, like mini-baccarat, are played at a blistering speed, whereas roulette, with a far steeper house edge, is played at a snail's pace.

You need to realize that on a fast-paced game with a low house edge you have the potential of losing more of your hard-earned money over a period of an hour than on a slow paced game with a higher house edge.

Dear Mark: Can you ever think of a scenario where you would split 5s? Robbie B.

Splitting 5's is where NEVER applies.

Anytime you are dealt a two-card hand of 10, not only are you in possession of a potent starter hand, but also an excellent opportunity on which you can double down. The only thing splitting 5s does is give you two mediocre starters.

Commit this rule to memory, Robbie. When you have a pair of 5s, double against a dealer's 2 through 9, hit against a 10 and an ace, but never split. Say that back, with conviction.

Dear Mark: You recommend placing the 6 and 8 in craps, but why not the 4, 5, 9, and 10? Len T.

Because the house edge on placing the 4, 5, 9 and 10 is far too big to overcome over the long haul. The 4 and 10 have a 6.67% casino advantage and the 5 and 9 come in with a 4.0 percent edge.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Like casinos that banish card counters, many of the largest Sports books despise winning players." --Michael Konic, Telling Lies and Getting Paid

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.