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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Meet some wallet gobblers

4 August 2006

Dear Mark,

I'm hoping you can clear up a question that's been bothering me for long time. I've noticed so many times on 50 and 100-play video poker machines that when dealt two pair, I get few full houses. They seem rigged! It seems like the 50 and 100-play have different programming. One VP expert has said they are programmed similar to a slot machine. Is that true? Sandy P.

Dear Mark,

Why is it that every time I play 50 and 100 play video poker machines, I make less money than when I play your standard video poker machine? Pete D.

Hi, Sally, meet Pete. Pete — Sally. It seems Pete's noticed the same thing you have.

That expert was correct, Sandy. Like today's cybernetic slots, all video poker machines use a random number generator (RNG) software algorithm to determine the game's outcome. The number of coins played cannot influence the end result. It doesn't make any difference if one coin is being wagered or 50 or 100.

Also, they should have the same expected return — that is, if the pay tables are identical. Herein lies the secret — why both of you are coming out cash-poor when playing the multi-play boxes. It's not because there is some sort of monkey business happening, but that multi-play video poker games usually have stingier pay tables than do their single-play kissing cousins. Typically, the more the hands offered, the worse the pay table.

For those who do prefer multi-play games, I suggest that you look for pay tables equal to that of a single-play game. Although a bit tough to ferret out, they do exist. Once found, perfect basic strategy (see below) always remains the same, be it for 1-play, 3-play or 100-play.

Quick tip: Assuming that both Sandy and Pete were to find identical pay tables, they will then need to ask themselves what they normally would play on a single play machine, and will then need to divide that number by 50 or 100. For instance, if they play $1 single-line machines, they should then play a one-cent 100-line game, or two-cent 50-liners.

Dear Mark,

Please explain what you mean by playing perfect basic strategy? Dan H.

What I mean by perfect basic strategy, Dan, is making perfect use of the information available to maximize the expected outcome of the bet. In blackjack, perfect basic strategy is nothing more than how you play each blackjack hand against the dealers "up-card." In video poker it's which discards you choose, since eliminating the wrong cards reduces your overall payback.

I'm sending you two strategy cards that put these priceless details at your fingertips.

Dear Mark,

The casino near my home now offers Crapless Craps. Is it a good bet? Kallan D.

Never Ever or Crapless Craps is ground I've plowed before, Kallan, so I'll synopsize. You do not lose on the 2, 3 or 12 on the come out roll. Instead, if the shooter tosses the 2, 3, 11 or 12, that becomes the point, just as the 4, 5, 6 and 8, 9, 10 would in normal craps. The 7 on the come out is your only instant winner.

Two thumbs down is my recommendation for Crapless Craps. The house edge on the pass line with these modified rules is a whopping 5.4%, about four times the typical crap game's 1.4% pass line edge.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Blackjack — what a game! How simple it looks, yet how complex it truly is." --Victor H. Royer

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.