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Deal Me In: Three speeds – three different results

7 September 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I'm confused as to your answer last week to George R. regarding shuffling machines. You stated "What continuous shuffling machines and non-continuous shufflers alike will do is to cause the average player to lose more, simply because more hands are dealt per hour." I always assumed that playing on an automatic shuffling machine was different than continuous shufflers and were okay to play on. Dan L. Agreed, Dan, there is difference between a continuous shuffling machine and a non-continuous automatic shuffler. A CSM randomly shuffles the discards after every round played, making for a game that flows faster, try 20% more hands per hour, which in turn increases your theoretical loss by the same measure. But non-continuous automatic shufflers will also cause the average player to lose more – again, simply because more hands are dealt per hour. With shuffling machines of any kind, the built-in edge the casino holds doesn't change, yet the speed of the game does. On average, Dan, plan on losing more money per hour against continuous shufflers, followed by non-continuous automatic shufflers, followed by what you should want to play on in the first place, hand-shuffled games. Dear Mark: I have been playing cribbage for 27 years and have yet to get a 29 hand. I saw my first one last week but unfortunately it was not mine. What are the odds of getting a 29 hand? Is it harder than a royal flush? Lyle H. Cribbage involves the playing and grouping of cards in combinations to gain points, 29 being the highest. There are four perfect hands in cribbage, one of each suit, which can produce 29 points. To accomplish perfection, your hand must consist of three 5s and a Jack, and the card turned up must be the fourth five, and must be the same suit as the Jack in your hand. Here is how the hand is scored: Eight combinations of "15" for 16 points, four-of-a-kind for 12 points, and a matching "nobs," the Jack, for 1 point, equaling 29 points. As someone who has always held a cribbage board at arm's length, I seldom play the game. Instead, I use the crib board as a scoring apparatus for dominoes. But my Dad, a lifelong player, who, believe me, plays a lot of cribbage, was the first person I called to see how many 29's he's had in his 70-plus years of playing. Answer: NONE, and "never seen one, either." Considering that countless games he played against my Uncle Albin, that seemed odd. Which leads me to wonder how anyone could spend a lifetime playing a game and never attain the perfect hand. You at least saw a perfect hand, Lyle, but there sure must be some long odds of actually holding one. According to the American Cribbage Congress, the odds of being dealt a perfect hand while playing against a single opponent are 216,580 to one. And if you are playing against two or three opponents, where you are dealt five cards and not six, those odds rise to one in 649,740. Now compare that to a royal flush on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine, where a royal flush appears, on average, once in every 40,390 hands. Keep playing, Lyle, maybe your day is coming. Oh, and if you ever do achieve the highest-scoring cribbage hand, please send me a picture for my Gambling Wall of Fame. Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Man is not a born gambler but, from his experiences in life, he acquires a fascination for the elements of chance." - J Philip Jones, Gambling Yesterday and Toady 1973
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.