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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Rump riders can play along

23 March 2007

Dear Mark: In blackjack, are you ever allowed to stand behind a player and make a bet in the circle of a player sitting in front of you? They seem to allow it where I play, but personally I find it very annoying. Johnny E.

I too, Johnny, am no fan of an over-the-shoulder bet, especially when it knocks over another player's Slurpee Super Gulp and delays the game for 20 minutes, which just enlivened a recent evening for me.

The wager you're describing is called a Rider bet, a separate wager that rides alongside the typical bet made by a player whose chips are in the betting circle. If allowed in the casino you play in, you can have up to two Riders per circle, but the total amount of wagers placed on the betting circle cannot exceed the table maximum.

As for the decision-making on the wager, the player whose rear end is in the seat making the original bet in the circle gets to decide how the hand will be played, although in one joint I was recently in, the player who places the largest amount gets to direct play, even if he or she is the Rider. Also, the player sitting front-and-center can also bet the maximum table amount, which trumps anyone else who wishes to make a Rider bet.

Dear Mark: I've noticed that some casinos pay double on the 12 when making a field bet in craps, while others pay triple. Obviously the smart move is getting paid triple, but what if the casino I am playing in only offers getting paid double? Should I ever play it? Vince F.

Many casinos pay even money on a winning field bet if a 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11 is rolled, double on a 2, and triple on a 12. Informed dice players know that getting triple on the 12 reduces the house edge to 2.78%.

Luckily, Vince, on every craps layout, the pay schedule for a field bet is clearly marked, so you'll know ahead of time, if you're getting fleeced, though they don't use that honest word on the layout. I state fleeced because some casinos pay only double on the 12, and this minor change brings the casino advantage up to 5.56%, making it a bet you shouldn't ever make.

Dear Mark: I was told that unless I play maximum coins in a video poker machine that I will never hit the royal flush. Is that true? Jenny S.

You were told wrong, Jenny. You have the same chance of hitting a royal regardless of how many coins inserted. Video poker machines are NOT set to give more royals with short coin play. States that follow Nevada gaming standards require that the number of coins bet must not affect the outcome of play. The randomizing shuffle of the virtual deck stops when the first coin is inserted, or, on the microsecond when you push the first bet button, with the deck remaining unchanged until the hand is over.

But consider, Jenny, that playing short is going to cost you. When you play five coins you typically win 4,000 for the royal as opposed to 250-for-1 when playing fewer, costing you about 1.5% on your payback. And although your chances for hitting a royal remain the same, at that squinchy payoff, you'll never beat that machine over the long haul.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"To the average casino visitor, gambling is all about luck. To a few knowledgeable players and those in the gambling business, it's all about mathematics." --VP Pappy

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.