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Points on etiquette and en prison

27 December 2005

Dear Mark,
In poker, who is supposed to show their cards first at the end of a hand? Is it the one who calls the last bet, or the player who makes the last bet? Justin B.

Customarily, Justin, if there has been a bet on the final round of betting, the person who makes the last wager, or raise, has to show first; the person who called waits to see what the others throw down before showing the caller's cards.

Occasionally players do check on the final round, so what happens then? Most casinos and card rooms still have the player who made the last bet or raise show their cards first, although, I have seen in a few card rooms that in this situation, the player nearest the button shows their hand first.

Dear Mark,
If you had to make but one bet on a roulette table, what would it be? You've mentioned in the past playing on a single-zero wheel if you can find one, but is there any bet that is better than another on that table? Frank S.

Hip, hip, Frank, always go for searching out a single-zero roulette game, as that little extra effort — if successful — allows you to chop the house edge from 5.26% to 2.63%. Now, that's something; you cut it in half! But your base question still remains: is there one bet that stands out over all others on a single-zero game?

Yep, Frank, there's one. The absolute best bet is an "even-money" wager on a French (or single-zero) wheel that offers the en prison (surrender) option. The house edge with this one wager is slashed to 1.35%.

And what the heck do I mean by en prison? Guess.

The French phrase "en prison" signifies that if you're betting an even money outside wager like red, and the next number called is green 0, the dealer won't snatch your losing chips. Instead, he or she will put a small marker on top of your bet. It's then en prison, Frank; your bet is temporarily held hostage until the outcome of the next spin. If black or the green 0 appears on the next spin, you would then lose your entire original wager. But if red reappears, the dealer will remove the en prison marker and you are free to either pick up your bet or replay it.

By the way, Frank, when I mentioned above "one bet that stands out over all others," it's important to note that most players erroneously believe that certain wagers on a roulette table are superior to others. Not so. All bets, except one (the five-number bet, 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3) suffer the same 5.26% house edge on a double zero wheel. Switching to a single-zero game guillotines the house edge about in half on every wager on the layout except for the en prison bet.

Dear Mark,
I've noticed that some casinos offer more than two-times odds on the crap table. How much of the house edge am I whittling away by playing 5x or even 10x odds? Duncan M.

Below is the casino advantage on your total bet when taking odds combined with your pass line wager. Without placing an odds bet, the house edge is 1.41%; on 1x odds it's 0.85%; on 2x odds 0.61%; on 5x odds 0.33%, and on 10x odds 0.18%.

Dear Mark,
For every new hand in video poker, are you playing on a never-ending deck or is the deck reshuffled? Billie F.

Casinos do not use a perpetual deck in video poker. For example, on a Jacks or Better game, each new hand begins with a freshly shuffled 52-card deck. When you press the "play credits" button for the next hand, you're starting over with 52, new, randomly shuffled, cards.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "A tour bus will disgorge another batch of brightly-dressed tourists and you see a kind of glazed, magic in their eyes as they tramp steadily toward an already sealed fate." -- Barney Vinson, "Las Vegas Behind The Tables"

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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.