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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Same price, less sauce

9 June 2000

Dear Mark,
I seem to be having less success playing the video poker game Deuces Wild. I'm playing the same way I normally do. Is there something I should be on the lookout for since I play Deuces Wild exclusively? Sharon T.

Sharon, let me try to make a real-life comparison here. When you go to your local grocery store to purchase a jar of spaghetti sauce, you're probably paying the same amount as you did a year ago. But look closely at the glass container. It's shrunk! Now it's a 28 oz. jar where it used to be 32 oz. The same probably holds true with the Deuces Wild machines you're playing on. You pay the same price to play it, but you're now getting less in return. Are the casinos cheating or rigging the machines so you'll lose more? Not at all. They most likely changed what they pay you for four-of-a-kind.

Expert players evaluate the potential return on a Deuces Wild video poker machine by the payoffs on four-of-a-kind hands, so in casinos with limited competition or ones tightening the screws a bit, you're normally paid 20 coins versus 25 for each coin inserted on that payoff. Because fours-of-a-kind occur frequently, this lower payout drops the percentage return by almost 6.5%.

So, Sharon, I recommend first finding, then playing, only full-pay machines, ones that give you 25 coins for each quarter played.

Dear Mark,
A friend, who claims he knows a lot about blackjack, told me you should always split 10s when the dealer is showing a six. Does he know what he's talking about? Ellen G.

This reliable source, Ellen, does he stand behind you while you're playing your hard-earned cash, offering advice but never wagering his own money?

Seriously, Ellen, there is only one time when it's proper basic strategy to split 10s and that's on a face-up blackjack game. Face-up blackjack is where all the cards dealt are exposed, including both of the dealer's cards. Only here does correct strategy dictate you splitting 10s against a dealer's 13, 14, 15, 16.

But I can't recommend this version of blackjack to anyone because even when using perfect basic strategy, the casino edge is 2.0% compared to 0.4% with regular blackjack. Why 2%? Mainly because you lose when you push (tie).

Dear Mark,
Can a greenhorn player stick to a few simple bets instead of mixing up his wagers on a craps game? Samuel K.

Absolutely, and I advocate it.

When you join the euphoria of this action-packed game and give craps a try for the first time, you need not be intimidated. Just step up to the table with confidence and play these two outstanding craps wagers. A pass line bet and placing the 6 or 8. Both have a house advantage of under 1.5%.

A few pointers first. Ask your friendly dealer (generally the first two hours of his shift) how to make these bets. Also, look for the lowest table limit you can find, preferably $2 or less. Even with a low house edge, no need to make it an expensive learning experience. Also note here, I'm not mentioning odds. True, they are the best bet the casino offers, but, the devil is in the details. I will revisit odds in the near future when more space is available.

Finally, disregard those proposition bets (hard ways, field bets, one-number rolls, etc.) the dealer is barking out. Some can have a house advantage as high as 16% — higher than the interest on your Visa card.

If you stick with the smart wagers I mentioned above, your liaison with the crap table should be a pleasant one.

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.