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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Just whose money is it?

26 May 2003

Dear Mark,
If a slot player walks away from a machine leaving credits in it, and someone else walks up and plays those credits, is that okay? Are credits fair game for everyone else? Nancy G.

According to them, and we all know who them is, 'taint yours. Luckily, if Sticky-finger is caught, there is no soundproof room with a glove-vice waiting. In fact, I have never heard of any leftover-credits-playing culprit being shown the door.

But that doesn't mean there are not naughty charlatans who make a living scavenging the millions lost each year by gamblers who forget their stored credits (winnings).

Called "sea gulling" in gamblese, it is illegal to purposively circle the casino looking for orphan credits on a slot machine, or even change on the floor.
I have seen player impostors given the heave-ho (the dreaded permanent 86) for making a full-time occupation of cruising the casino on the lookout for easy pickings.

Clearly, you're not a casino conniver looking for an easy score. But a tip to you and other slot-playing patrons: before you walk away from any slot machine, dont forget to press the cash-out button. You might tattoo that bit of wisdom on your thumbnail.

Dear Mark,
I was especially interested in a recent column where you compare the three table poker games and suggested Three Card Poker as being the best. I interpret your message in this paragraph to say that playing the "Pair Plus" option is the best percentage-wise for the player. Am I correct? Or, should we play both the Ante and Pair Plus, then Play if we have a good hand? Hilda R.

Ordinarily, Three Card Poker is a better play than Caribbean Stud (-5.3%), better than Let it Ride (-3.5%), and even better than Pai Gow Poker (-2.5%).
As to the best bet in Three Card Poker itself, it depends, Hilda, on whether like your cards or not; I'll rephrase that — on whether you should like your cards. The house edge is 3.37% against the Ante alone, but only 2.01% against your queen-6-4, if you decide to make the Play bet. With a Pair Plus wager, the casino advantage is slightly higher at 2.32%.

But just when you think you've got your juju flowing over the low house edge of Three Card Poker, take a quick look upstream. Most casinos are now tightening the screws on Three Card Poker by reducing the payoffs on straight flushes and three-of-a-kinds. It's screamingly worse on the Pair Plus payoffs. For example, by making a crafty change on what you're paid for a straight flush from 40-to-1 to 35-to-1, and nibbling down threes-of-a-kind from 30-to-1 to 25-to-1, the house edge jumps to 4.58%, making this originally good game go bad, way bad.

Stick exclusively to these payoffs on Pair Plus wagers:
Straight flush: 40 to 1
Three-of-a-kind: 30 to 1
Straight: 6 to 1
Flush: 4 to 1
Pair: Even money 1 to 1

Also, to avoid pocketbook piracy, make sure the Ante Bonus payoff follows this schedule:
Straight flush: pays 5 to 1
Three-of-a-kind: pays 4 to 1
Straight: pays 1 to 1

Better yet, Hilda, think about giving Mini-Baccarat a try, or even blackjack, using perfect basic strategy. Each has a house edge well under 2%, whipping all the table games mentioned above.

Gambling quote of the week: "Essentially, expert card counters know the right bet and the right play at all times. Understandably, this doesn't thrill the casinos." Michael Konik, The Man With The $100,000 Breasts

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.