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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Hell's Kitchen

3 February 2003

Dear Mark,
Hell broke out at our kitchen table poker game last Friday night. Quite an argument ignited over the following hand in pai gow poker. Does the five card straight of 9-10-J-Q-K beat an A-2-3-4-5 straight? Scooter T.

BASIC QUESTION: IS THIS THE HAND YOU'LL DIE FOR?
BASIC ANSWER: 'TAIN'T WORTH IT, FRIEND.
Pai gow poker is a banking poker game played today in most casinos and California card rooms. The object of pai gow poker is to make two poker hands that beat the banker's (in your case "kitchen opponents'") hands.

Each player is dealt seven cards that he makes into a five-card hand (the "high hand") and a two-card hand (the "low hand"). The hands are played and ranked like traditional poker hands, but with a couple of exceptions. Your question, Scooter, highlights one of them. An A-2-3-4-5 is the second highest straight possible. Only a 10-J-Q-K-A beats it, but not a 9-10-J-Q-K straight.

Another deviation from traditional poker is that the hand — four aces and a joker — always beats a royal flush. Now that we have settled last Friday night's brouhaha, the most High Queen Goddess of Pai Gow, the honorable Hung Lo, ordains that the losing Bob-a-looie will buy all the beer and munchies at your next game, but is forbidden to sing in Mandarin.

Dear Mark,
What are the differences between a "don't pass" and a "don't come" bet in craps? Stan J.

The opposite side of a pass or come bet is the don't pass or don't come wager. And though being a "wrong" bettor might get you elected to public office, if the 3 rolls, you and the casino get paid, but not your fellow stake-holders, all rooting for the Point on the game.

As to your question, on any differences between a "don't come" and a "don't pass" bet in craps, there is very little. A don't pass bet is placed immediately before a "come out" roll, whereas a don't come bet is made after the come out roll and a point has been made. In all other respects a don't come bet it is exactly like a don't pass bet. Both wagers have a house edge of 1.40%, compared to a 1.41% casino advantage for a pass line or come bet.

Dear Mark,
Please explain a "lay" bet in craps. Clint S.

With a "lay" bet you are wagering that a specific number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) will NOT appear before a 7 rolls. In casino cant, making a lay bet is also called "buying behind" the number. The casino takes a 5% commission on the winnings on these bets. This 5% is usually taken on the front end (though some casinos take it after the win) and figured on the amount that you could win but not on the size of your bet. The house edge ranges from 2.5% behind the 4 and 10 to 4.2% behind the 6 and 8.

Gambling quote of the week: "The only difference between bucking a game with a house percentage of 1% or less compared to bucking a game which has a much higher percentage is that the player bucking the higher percentage goes broke much sooner." Elmer West

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.