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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Shufflin' off to Pyramids and deep caves

8 September 2006

Dear Mark,
I consider myself your typical blackjack player, out there to have some fun, and like you always say in your column, only spend the money that I can afford to lose. But lately it seems I'm losing more money at blackjack, and I think it is due to continuous shuffling machines. Do these machines affect the odds in blackjack? Joe D.

Although perpetual shufflers make it next to impossible for card counters, continuous shuffling machines do NOT affect the odds of the game for basic strategy players, or average Joes like you. However, continuous shuffling machines and noncontinuous shufflers alike will take more of a bite out of your bankroll than will a hand-shuffled game.

With continuous shuffling machines, the dealer never has to break to shuffle cards, and this, Joe, increases the number of hands dealt per hour, giving more of an opportunity for the casino advantage to peck away at your bankroll.

But my biggest dislike about ceaseless shuffling is the loss of personal contact between the table player and the dealer. In the short span of time it took me to shuffle cards, I've traded avocado dip recipes, five-star sports picks for the weekend; I've even become lifelong friends with many a player. That camaraderie is completely lost when continuous shufflers are used.

It seems today that far too many casinos stress hands-per-hour over customer service, and in the long run I feel it's a bad deal for all.

Dear Mark,
A quick follow-up question to a past column regarding Pyramid Poker. You mentioned in a future column providing the optimal strategy for it. Any chance you can post it? Pete P.

As a refresher, Pete, Pyramid Poker is a simplified version of pai gow poker, where, instead of seven cards, three cards are dealt to each player. Once both the dealer and players are dealt their three cards, the players arrange their hands so each has a two-card hand and a one-card hand. As in pai gow poker, the one-card hand must have a lower value than the two-card hand. The hand rankings are just the same as in poker except there are no straights or flushes with the two-card hand, and aces are always high.

The following, Pete, is the optimal player strategy for Pyramid Poker.

If you're dealt three singletons, play the middle-valued card as the one-card hand, except play the lowest card as the 1-card hand with any of the following hands: 2, 3, and any card 5 or higher, or 2, 4, and any card queen or higher.

With a pair and a loner, normally play the pair in the 2-card hand, except with any of the following:

With a 2 to 4 loner and a pair of jacks or higher, or................

with a 5 to 7 loner and a pair of queens or higher, or ...............

with an 8 or 9 loner and a pair of kings or higher, or ..............

with a 10 or jack loner and a pair of aces, split the pair, one in the 2-card hand and the other as the 1-card hand.

Dear Mark,
Do you ever foresee a casino adjoining the nuclear waste site in Nevada when it comes online? Gurth T.

I believe Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the nation's first long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, will forever be off limits to casino gambling since NASA has secured 20 square miles of surrounding federal land in case they ever want to fake another moon landing.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In the long run there's no luck in poker, but the short run is longer than most people know." -- Rick Bennet

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.