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What has odds of 1 to 2,598,960? Give up? Read on

22 December 2006

Dear Mark: Is there a difference in payback between a standard $1 slot machine and a $1 Megabucks machine? Sally O.

A wide-area progressive, such as a Megabucks machine, typically coughs up 87% to the player, which, compared to a standard one-dollar slot that roughly pays back 94%, representing a 7% loss in long-term return. Unfortunately, Sally, that percentage difference is tied up in a jackpot that you probably will never hit.

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts on alternating between two and three coins on a slot to save money? Cindy B.

Most slot machines, Cindy, offer an incentive to play the maximum coin amount. For example, two coins inserted may pay 2,000, but three coins pays out 5,000, a bonus of 1,000 additional coins. If this were the case with the machine you had in mind, then I would always recommend playing max coins.

But if the machine is a straight multiplier, say for instance the top jackpot line pays 1,000 with one coin inserted; the second pays 2,000; and the third 3,000, then, yes, occasionally betting less wouldn't make a difference.

Dear Mark: I really loved your column last week on card counting. I do have a question regarding counting multiple decks. Is it possible? Also, can you count cards when playing blackjack online? Al A.

Thanks, Al, for the nice compliment. Anyhow, as to your question, yes, if you have the smarts to count down one deck, you can count down two, six or even eight decks. You just happen to be counting longer between shuffles.

As for counting cards online, smarts won't matter since most online casinos shuffle-up after every hand.

Dear Mark: This actually happened at our friendly Friday night poker game. A player early in the evening got four aces and the king of spades to win the hand. Later on, he got the exact same hand? What are the chances of that occurring? Dale L.

Above average if he happened to be the dealer, who happens to be a master card magician, or has unbelievable skills at dealing seconds and bottoms. You did though state "friendly" in part of your question, so, I'll tell you that there are 2,598,960 possible hand combinations with a 52-card deck. So, Dale, the odds of getting any one specific hand would be one in 2,598,960.

Dear Mark: What is the correct strategy for late surrender? Don N.

Smart blackjack players always play in a casino that offers the best playing conditions. Early and late surrender are two such rules that do help the player.

Early surrender permits a player to relinquish half of the wager even if the dealer has a blackjack. With late surrender, a player loses the bet if the dealer possesses a blackjack.

Basic strategy for late surrender on a multi-deck game is as follows:

Surrender hard 16 (but not 8-8) vs. 9, 10, ace.

Surrender hard 15 vs. 10, although some experts also advise those who are risk - averse to surrender hard 15 vs. ace.

One more thing, Don. Don't think of surrender as giving up half your wager, but as just getting back half your probable loss.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Lady luck rules in the shot run." Ray Franke, Magical Blackjack

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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.