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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle Through the Gaming Mailbag

13 June 2006

Q. Playing Caribbean Stud Poker, I had Ace-King-8-5-2, and the card the dealer turned face up from her hand was an Ace. I made the bet, because my Ace matched his Ace. Another guy at the table told me that was the wrong play, that you bet only if one of the other three cards matches the dealer. The dealer didn't qualify, so I won on my ante and just got my bet back anyway. Her next highest card was a 10, and there were no pairs. But was the other player right? I want to give myself the best chance to win, and I always thought I was doing it by betting with Ace-King and a match.

A. The other player was correct. When we have Ace-King in Caribbean Stud, we do a lot of splitting of hairs. One of those hair splits is that when we have Ace-King and no other face cards in the hand, we bet whenever one of the other three cards matches the dealer's face up card, and fold when there's no such match.

Note the provision that there are no other face cards in the hand. If we have Ace-King- Queen or Ace-King-Jack, we bet if any of our five cards match the dealer's face-up card, and with Ace-King-Queen, we bet even with no match if our fourth highest card outranks the dealer's up card.

How much does all that gain us? Very little. With the strategy given here, you'll face a house edge of about 5.23 percent of the ante or 2.56 percent of total action. According to Michael Shackelford's outstanding Web site, wizardofodds.com, if you bet with Ace-King when any of your five cards matches the dealer up card, the house edge is 5.33 percent of the ante or 2.62 percent of total action.

By far the most important component of Caribbean Stud strategy is to bet with all pairs. I've seen many players fold with a pair of 2s or 3s. Those aren't necessarily winning hands, but in the long run, you'll lose more money by folding and forfeiting your ante than you will by betting the hand and accepting that you'll win some and lose some.

Q. I've read in your column that you advise playing all the lines on the video slots, even if it's only one coin at a time. If I'm on a non-progressive machine, and all the payoffs are multiplied by the number of coins bet on a line, might I be better off betting, for example, 15 coins on one line than one coin on each of 15 lines? Would I be better off with the higher payoffs, knowing that I wouldn't win as often?

A. Concentrating all your play on one line means fewer trips to the bonus round. Not only do the bonus rounds contain all the fun of the video slots, but while you're in the bonus round, you're playing for free. You're not making additional wagers.

Fewer trips to the bonus round means more of your time will be spent paying to play. Wagering 15 coins on one line, you will actually risk more money per hour than if you spread the same 15 coins across 15 lines.

None of that will make any difference in your long-term payback percentage. On most non-progressive video slots, that will be the same either way. You'll get that payback in a different way if you concentrate your play on one line. That adds volatility to the game. You would have many more losing spins than winners, but no wins would be smaller than your bet. Just as on three-reel slots, you'd win big more often, but you'd risk more fast losses.

Losing fast is not a possibility I'd take lightly on a video slot. Most video slots have lower payback percentages than most reel-spinners to begin with. If it's added volatility you want, you're usually better off betting three-quarters at a time on a three-reel game than 15 nickels on one line on a video slot.

If you want all that volatility, that's your choice. But by diminishing your trips to the bonus round and wagering more money per hour, you'll lose more money per hour on a video slot by betting 15 coins on one line than one coin on each of 15.

Q. How much odds do they have to give you on the craps table before the player has an edge when betting pass and taking the odds?

A. Unless we're talking about dice controllers and non-random rolls, the player never has an edge at pass-free odds combination. The combination has two components, the pass line bet and the free odds. The pass bet carries a house edge of 1.41 percent, while the free odds are an even bet. The more odds you're permitted to take, the more the house edge on the pass portion of the combination is watered down. At single odds, the house edge on the combination is 0.8 percent; at double odds, 0.6 percent; at 10x odds, 0.3 percent; at 100x odds, 0.02 percent. The house edge gets smaller and smaller, but never disappears entirely.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9).

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski