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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Red to black with a player's card

20 September 2004

Dear Mark,
I follow your advice religiously and have gone from being a losing player to a break-even one. I vaguely remember a column of yours in the past where you gave a tip on getting the best of the casino even if your casino wagers have a 2% or less house edge. Please refresh my memory. Hal S.

Yeah, Hal, I have one to go from breaking even to adding some booty to your billfold. You can cut your cost of playing any game that has less than a 2% casino advantage by using a casino player's card. The cost of using one is zip, and as you play a percentage of the total bets made are returned to you in the form of a comp, with many casinos actually giving you hard currency. Ready money can sometimes turn a break-even session into a winning one. One downside, Hal, is that far too many players bet a king's ransom for a free trip to the buffet. A free feeding frenzy at the trough is a weakness even I have.

Dear Mark,
You recommend betting either the player or bank hand in baccarat. Seems when betting the bank hand, they charge a 5% commission. Since you only recommend wagers with house advantage of 2% or less, and they are charging a 5% commission, how does this wash? Mark H.

Agreed, Mark, they do charge a 5% commission when you bet the bank hand in baccarat, but only when you win. Even so, is it still a sweet deal? Yep, because the rules for drawing cards for the player hand are different from those applying to the bank hand. That 5% commission is just the juice the casino wants for that rule change. Without their charging that 5% commission, you would actually have an advantage over the house. So, to make the casino's edge roughly the same for the bank and the player's hands, a 5% commission is charged on every winning bank hand. In the future, Mark, do not let that 5% commission scare you out of making one of the best wagers in the casino for the player. Even factoring in the commission, the casino's edge is a paltry 1.17% on the bank hand and 1.36% on the player hand.

Dear Mark,
What is a more valuable hand in Jacks or Better video poker, an open-ended straight, or a low pair? Art T.

As to your first question, Art, you should always keep a low pair over a four card open-ended straight with this one exception: keep an open ended straight if it contains two or three high cards. For example, a 10 of hearts, jack of diamonds, queen of clubs, and king of hearts is a keeper over a pair of 10s.

Gambling quote of the week: "There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. The upper class knows very little about it. Now and then you find ambassadors who have sort of a general knowledge of the game, but the ignorance of the people is fearful. Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kindhearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a 'flush.' It is enough to make one ashamed of one's species." Mark Twain

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.