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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Naming the puck and a keno rarity

1 March 2004

Dear Mark,
Pardon the simplicity of this question, but how do they figure who deals, and when, when I am watching televised poker? Tammy J.

When you watch televised poker, you are watching Texas Hold'em played with as many as 10 players. Look closely at the TV image next time, Tammy, and you'll notice a small disk (brings to mind a hockey puck but usually white) sitting just in front of one of the contestants. This disk is called the "button."

The button shows who would be dealing the cards if he or she were actually the dealer. Holding the dealer button is an advantage in Texas Hold'em because the dealer is the last player to act. By acting last, that player has valuable additional information when it's betting time. This positional advantage remains throughout the hand, then passes — clockwise — to the next player for the next hand. Thus, all players in the game have equal opportunities to hold this rotating positional advantage.

Dear Mark,
Once a month I go to the casino. I only play keno, eat at their buffet (they have a great senior discount for the lunch buffet) and never stay more than two hours. Last May I hit a solid six spot for $2,200, and last month I won $280 on a 10-spot ticket. I usually alternate between a six and 10 spot ticket. What do you think of my system of play? Marge H.

The Gambling for Experts school answer is "Hey, Marge, don't you realize you're making one of the worst bets in the casino, the one with a minimum house edge of 25%?"

Mathematically, the School is on the ball: the chances of hitting 10 of 10 are one in 10 million at best. Readers of this column know that Yours Truly has spelled out those long odds and pitfalls of keno with anguishing regularity.

BUT, without even counting your winnings, Marge, I still have the latitude to salute your play, for a few non-mathematical reasons.

For starters, you are obeying money management rule #1: Betting money you can afford to lose. Bravo! Also, if you are not winning, at least you are losing S L O W L Y. With keno games played roughly every 10 minutes, at a dollar a pop you won't go bust in a two-hour keno stint. And finally, it seems to me that you're really having fun. If it's fun risking $1 to win $50,000, play. That's what you're there for Marge, to have fun, right?

Oh yeah, about that cheap buffet at senior prices. Next time you write me, Marge, don't forget to include place and price. My readers would love to know. Heck, I'd like to know.

But, back to business: putting your winnings into the equation, I figure you to be ahead of the game for at least the next four years.
So, what's Marge doing wrong? That famous trio — Nada, Zilch and Nothing!

Gambling quote of the week: "Put not your luck in Kings and Princes: Three of a kind will take them both." —Robert C. Schenck, Rules for Playing Poker (1880)

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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.