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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Milking the pair

22 September 2006

Dear Mark,
For years I have always played a low pair before the flop, but on one of the television poker shows they said that wasn't always smart, yet they didn't give a detailed reason why. What are your thoughts of playing a low pair, such as twos or threes? Perry H.

Probably one of the most important aspects of Texas Hold 'em is the value of your starting two-card hand before the flop. How you play those first two cards, Perry, is parallel to and predictive of your probability of winning.

When you get a pair of deuces as a starting hand, position (playing order) becomes extremely important. The later you act, the more information you will then have about your opponent's cards, from seeing how they were played. The earlier you are to play, the more selective you should be, even if they are a pair. The announcer was correct in that a pair of twos or threes is usually worth playing before the flop in late position only, never in the early position.

Although far too many players play a twosome in any position, here's how I would normally play a starting hand match. Sevens and higher in any position; fives and sixes in mid or late position, and twos through fours in late position only.

Dear Mark,
With today's modern slot machines, does pulling the lever at different speeds have any effect on the overall odds of the machine? Sherry F.

Your typical slot machine's action (like the kind you're playing in Reno, or in any other gaming jurisdiction, for that matter) is determined by the draw of random numbers, which are mapped to particular stops on the reels at that split-second when the player initiates play, either by yanking the handle or by pressing the play button.

Because today's modern slot machines are computerized, the odds are whatever they are programmed to be and the lever is there for historical and entertainment purposes only — or as a temporary support in the event of catastrophe.

Dear Mark,
In baccarat, how much of an edge am I gaining if I'm only paying 4% commission on a bank bet versus the standard 5%? Tommy M.

A 4% commission on the bank bet in baccarat lowers the house edge on that wager to 0.6%, which is significantly lower than the house edge of 1.06% on the banker bet with a 5% commission.

By the way, Tommy, you didn't mention where you are finding a 4% commission on the bank bet, but I'm sure readers currently betting on one of the best wagers in the house, even at 5%, would love to know.

Dear Mark,
Which pays back more, video keno or a live game? Nancy T.

Although video keno typically offers a better return, based on their pay tables, than does live keno, it's also played at a much faster pace. This means, Nancy, that the low roller parked in the keno lounge, will lose far less money per hour at live keno than the same intrepid would seated in front of a keno machine, where monetary servitude to the house will end up being much, much more painful.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Players can learn how to win if they sincerely want to, if they set their minds to it, if they can find the desire to stand up and challenge the casino, breaking away from the passive crowd of losers." --John Gollehon

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.