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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Las Vegas is Cheapskate City

30 July 1999

Dear Mark,
I received an advertisement in the mail that offered a book of coupons that I can use on my next trip to Las Vegas. They wanted $4.95 for $200 worth of coupons. Is that a good deal? Terry C.


Save your money, Terry. Not only is Las Vegas the hot dog and shrimp cocktail capital of the world, but for the coupon clipper, Las Vegas is the "half-off" city. Everywhere you look, or go, newsstands will be loaded with, and hawkers passing out, coupons with the latest bargains in Las Vegas. The favorite of many who journey to Vegas is What's On in Las Vegas. With a 130,000-per-issue circulation, you will find this FREE, coupon-laden publication everywhere.

I'll be forthcoming here, Terry. I'm a big time tightwad. I won't, nor should you, pay full price for anything.

Dear Mark,
I have two blackjack questions for you. First, what is the house advantage, if any, if I use a never-bust system against the dealer? Also, is it better to play on a blackjack game where the dealer hits a soft 17 or stands? Thomas D.

Over the years I've seen many losing players employ this never-bust strategy. Right off the top, they're giving the house a 5% edge. Strict basic strategy, which obviously recommends hitting plenty of stiff hands, cuts the house edge to a half of one percent on the six-or eight-deck games that you'll find in the Chicago area. Use it, or plan on losing it-all.

When you play a game in which the dealer hits a soft 17, you give the house an additional two-tenths of one percent. With a soft 17 showing, an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 improves the dealer's hand and a 10, Jack, Queen or King leaves it of equivalent value. Eight of every 13 cards, Thomas, either improves the dealers hand or it stays the same. If any of the other five cards are drawn, the dealer still has a chance to convalesce his hand with another draw.

For the above reason, Thomas, basic strategy dictates that you the player should always hit a soft 17, or double down against a dealer who's showing a 3, 4, 5, 6.

Dear Mark,
Could you please give a brief description of the rules for Let It Ride? Hugh G.

Let It Ride is based on the all-American game of five-card stud poker. The game begins with every player placing three equal wagers on their individual betting circles. The object of the game is to get a winning poker hand (10s or better) using your three cards plus the dealers two "community" cards. Your three cards are dealt face down, and the two community cards are placed face down in front of the dealer.
After looking at your three cards, you may ask to have your bet returned or "let it ride," depending on whether your cards show the possibility of a winning hand. Then the dealer's first community card is turned over, and again you can ask for your bet back or let it ride. Finally, the second community card is turned over, completing both the player's poker hand and the game. Your third bet, a contract wager, is committed to play and can't be returned. The dealer then pays all the winning hands according to a payout schedule. The higher the rank hand, the greater the payoff, with a royal flush paying 1,000 to one.
The game is fairly simple, Hugh, but because 70% of the hands are outright losers, the house edge (3.5%) is well above my recommended maximum of 2%. I recommend you stick with some of the better bets that the casino has to offer.

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.