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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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It could happen to you — and then again, probably not

14 January 2003

Dear Mark,
You always recommend making wagers that have less than a 2% house advantage. Okay, sound logic, but why is it that a gambler can still win, even on games like keno or those big slot jackpots when the Law of Averages says they won't? William R.

Because, William, the Law of Averages does not have time to work during most brief casino visit. That said, you should never put your faith in the heady belief that happy aberrations in gambling odds will happen in games that carry a huge house advantage. The keen player never ignores the mathematical odds that are working for or against him. But every gambler's timeline (tabletime) is still relatively short, be it three hours or three days, so anything can happen- even for the 8-spot keno winner, or the serendipitous winner of the super slot-pot. Those fortuitous winners don't go home because the Law of Averages worked in their favor, most likely it was because the Law of Averages didn't.

Dear Mark,
I am new to the game of mini-baccarat. My boyfriend says all I should do is just keep betting the player hand. Besides avoiding the 5% commission when making the bank hand bet, it has the easiest rules to remember on when your hand has to be hit. Not that I am challenging my boyfriend's wisdom, but what are your thoughts on just sticking with the player (one) wager? Molly P.

Your Mr. Smart (clearly a loyal column reader) is correct, Molly, as the bank hand has no bearing on whether or not the player hand draws a card.
The lone variable, which determines whether the player hand should get that third card, is the total of the first two cards the player hand receives. If that total is 0 through 5, then the player hand receives a third card. If the player hand totals 6, 7, 8, or 9, then the hand cannot draw an additional card. For example, 6 + K = 6 (stands); 8 + 7 = 5 (draws); J + Q = 0 (draws); 8 + 8 = 6 (stands). (Reference: 10, J, Q, K are always zero)

Though most players vary their betting between the bank hand and player hand, I see no problem with sticking to just one wager. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid, is just fine and dandy, especially if you are one of those players who don't believe in streaks, that each dealt hand is an independent event, separate from each preceding hand.

But just so you know, Molly, by learning the more complex rules on when you have to take a hit on the bank hand does reduce the house edge down to 1.17%, slipping neatly under the already picayune 1.36% edge the casino has over the player hand.
Either way, both the bank and player bets are smart wagers because they have a relatively low casino advantage, making them both some of the best bets in the casino.

Dear Mark,
In video poker, is it better to keep a small pair against a single face card? Leslie B.

A small pair, Leslie, (2s-10s) is always a keeper over a single face card.

Gambling quote of the week: "Anyone who tells you that they're a professional craps shooter, professional baccarat player or professional slot junkie is either a liar or a cheat that the casino hasn't caught yet." —Lou Krieger & Arthur Reber

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.