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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Those teachable electrons

16 November 2007

Dear Mark: I played on a video poker game where you were guaranteed at least one deuce. If, as you say, the machine deals each randomly, how can I be guaranteed a deuce? Gary N.

The casinos where I live, Gary, don't offer the variation of video poker you write of: Deuce on the Deal from Bally's, where you have the option of playing five extra coins to guarantee you at least one deuce on the opening hand.

Without some field testing where I would usually take a whack at this version of video poker, I am guessing with reasonable certainty that the machine still uses a random number generator, but it has been programmed to keep spitting out hands until one of them contains a deuce. Then that set of cards becomes your starting hand. Likewise, if you don't pay the bonus coin amount, you are essentially playing Deuces Wild video poker.

Dear Mark: This year to date, I have two slot jackpot wins, one of $1,200, and another of $1,500. I was told by a friend not to worry because you are allowed to deduct all of my documented gaming losses for that year, which total approximately $4,700? Is this true? Maureen P.

Since, Maureen, you probably received W-2G's from the casino, one for $1,200 and the other for $1,500, those gambling wins will need to be reported on tax form 1040 on the Other Income Line. Don't try to go blotto on me and forget to attach those W-2G's along with your occupation's W-2 form(s) because any single-win amount in slots over $1,200, is required to be reported to the IRS by the casino. Luckily, Maureen, you can offset the taxes on your win(s) by reporting your losses if you keep flawless records.

Gambling losses, so long as you itemize rather than take the standard deduction on your tax return, can be used only to counterbalance gambling wins during that same tax period. So even though your overall losses for the year are $4,700, to date, you can deduct only $2,700 of your total losses in the Other Miscellaneous Deductions section on your Schedule A.

Dear Mark: Are the side bets at Caribbean Stud Poker worth a dollar wager? Really, what's a buck when I have a chance of winning $100,000? David O.

What you should be asking, David, is: "Are the odds of being dealt a 'natural' royal flush, along with a pipe dream payoff of $100,000, worth it?"

Since the true odds are almost 650,000 to 1 of getting a natural, unless you see a progressive figure closing in on those high odds, the $100,000 plus jackpot may look seductive; but it's still not worth my dollar wager.

Dear Mark: When paid for a five-card Charlie in blackjack, how much of an edge do you get against the casino? Larry W.

A five-card Charlie occurs when after hitting and receiving a total of five cards without busting, and the dealer doesn't get a blackjack, you automatically win, and get paid a bonus of two-to-one for your gambling prowess.

Few casinos, Larry, award this hand. Still, as with any rule variation in blackjack, they all have some effect on the player's expected return. So, taking into consideration typical blackjack rules and the use of basic strategy, getting paid for a five-card Charlie, where or if you can find it, rewards you with an additional +1.46%, which now gives you a positive expectation against the game.

Dear Mark: For the average player, does it make any difference in blackjack whether there is one player on the game, or if the table is full? Kelly D.

Oops, I'm a bit short on space, Kelly, so you're getting the 25¢ special today: NO.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"Fear is the basis of all mankind. In cards, you psyche 'em out, you shark 'em, you put the fear of God in 'em." -- Puggy Pearson, 1973 WSOP winner (1975)

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.