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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Midstream switch?

17 March 2003

Dear Mark,
While playing pai gow the other day, the dealer set his cards and was in the process of turning the players'. He turned my set and announced two winners. As the dealer was checking the next player's cards, the pit boss came over and had the dealer reset his cards. This resulted in me getting a push. This doesn't seem fair unless the casino will also let us reset after we see the dealer's cards. I would appreciate your comments. Lane B.

Casino dealers must set their hands according to strict, fixed house rules. Says so in the fine print. Once all the hands are set, the dealer turns his cards last and compares the player's hand rank with his own. You win if both your low hand and high hand have higher poker rankings than the dealer's low and high hands. That is how it is supposed to work.

In your case, Lane, the dealer apparently set his hand wrong and an observant pit boss had him reset his hands according to the house rules. Nevertheless, I believe you caught a fair call. Despite the dealer's probable mistake, the game was played out according to the rules that were already in place when you bought in.

Here's an example of the sort of thing that could have happened. Say the dealer had an 8 of spades, 8 of hearts, 9 of spades, 9 of hearts, and a 5, 6 and 10 of hearts.

The strong hands would be a flush or a pair of 8s and 9s. Had the dealer set his hand with the 8 and 9 of spades in the front and the flush in the back, it could (not "would," as each casino has different house rules on dealer hand-setting) have been set incorrectly. Typical house rules dictate that the 8s should be in the front and the 9s in the back, with the flush going by the wayside.

Same idea shows up if a blackjack dealer holding an ace, 2, 2, ace and a face card, stops at a hard 16. If he proceeds to pay the table, an eagle-eyed pit boss would come over and make the dealer take another hit.

You didn't mention, Lane, whether the dealer possibly had a "foul" hand. A pai gow poker hand is foul when the hand has either the wrong number of cards, or when the two-card hand has a higher poker value than the five-card hand. Using our example from above, the dealer would have fouled the hand had he put the 9s up front and the 8s in the five-card hand. In that case, the foul hand would have been a losing hand for the dealer, and you would have been paid.

Dear Mark,
I get plenty of high pairs in video poker, but rarely convert them to better hands. How often should I be getting two pairs, trips, etc? Todd N.

Here is the list, Todd, straight from Valhalla, of just how often certain combinations should be obtained when you are holding a high pair.

Two pair: Every six times. Three-of-a-kind: Every nine times. Full House: Every 98 times. Four-of-a-kind: Every 360 times.

Of course, by holding a single pair you cannot get a straight, flush, straight flush or a royal flush. Matching your conversions against these average outcomes should more or less tell you how your luck is running.

Gambling thought of the week: "There is not much of a gamble left in a casino. Chance is only an illusion." John Alcamo

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.