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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Inquiring minds want to know

22 June 2007

Dear Mark: In poker, is it taboo to ask opponents how they would play a particular hand? Jim F.

Not only is there nothing wrong with asking opponents for their opinions, Jim, I actually encourage it.

Nothing gives you more information about how an opponent plays than simply asking. Players love to hear themselves talk, especially about how skillful they are in playing a hand.

Those rarely volunteered operational schemes may come out over weeks of observation, but can be cheerfully had in mere seconds just by inquiring. Strange but true.

Dear Mark: Do dollar slot machines pay back the same amount as dollar video poker machines? Janice B.

Video poker machines are much more liberal than slots, with paybacks ranging from 96% to over 100%, while slots range from 85% to 97% in comparable coin denominations.

With video poker, when you add comps and other slot club benefits, it's not hard to break even or better, thus, your chances of winning at video poker are far greater. Best of all, Janice, you can easily determine the most liberal video poker machines just by eyeballing their pay tables.

With slots, the paybacks are based on the generosity of the casino; and, as a breed, they are not necessarily known for their philanthropy.

Dear Mark: You mention in a previous column using a winning progressive method of betting by predetermining a percentage increase from each winning bet. You stated increasing your winning bets by approximately 50% after the second win. But don't most who use this strategy begin the 50% progression after the first win? David M.

The $10, $15, $22, $30, $45 — repeat ad infinitum may work just fine, but locking up that first $10 wager as a winner, then progressively betting more, appeals to me. My conservative nature coming through, I suppose.

Dear Mark: You mentioned last week that sitting to the left of a loose player was the best place to sit. Is there any best place to sit for getting the best cards? Jeff G.

First off, Jeff, it isn't just sitting to the left of a loose player that does it; most of the profits you will make at poker will come from your right. And that's because of your positional advantage over those players. There is nothing more powerful in poker than seeing what the other player does before you act.

As to where to park your fanny for those good cards, well, because all cards are in theory randomly arranged, no seat is any better than any other. You should expect to get cards of the same value, no matter where you sit.

Sure, after a few hours of play you'll notice that some seats have been blessed by "lady luck," but that's hindsight, and not something you can predict in advance. If you could, you wouldn't be reading this column.

Dear Mark: At our weekly poker game, we often discuss how we should handle the dealer selecting the poker game he favors. Which is fairer, before each hand, or before each round? Steve M.

Because in many games the dealer has a positional advantage, "Dealer's Choice" (where the dealer is allowed to select the particular poker game that will be dealt on his own deal), is fairest when players take turns choosing the game for the entire round.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"Las Vegas is the most honest fake city in the world." — Frank Scoblete

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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.