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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

26 June 2011

Q. I sometimes play in an Indian casino where they have the Class II games. You know, the ones that look like regular slots, except there's a little area where they show bingo numbers. I know you're really playing bingo against other players in those games, no matter what the rest of the game looks like.

Since you're playing against other players, does that mean you can't play unless there is someone else at the bank of machines? If I want to play Mr. Cashman, for example, do I have to wait until someone else wants to play Mr. Cashman?

Also, sometimes I play the video poker. Those machines have bingo areas on the screen, too. Does it being bingo change your strategy at all?

A. You don't necessarily have to wait until someone wants to play the same game as you. The server in casinos with Class II games can link games with different player interfaces — the slot reels and bonus screens. What really matters in determining your outcome is the bingo pattern being built and the numbers are drawn electronically. The same bingo draw can easily be applied to games with different themes and graphics.

As for video poker, the Class II version is not a game of strategy, as are video poker games in commercial casinos or Class III video poker games in Indian casinos. You're going to get what the bingo draw says you should get, no matter what strategy you use. If you throw away a full house, you might draw a new full house, or a leprechaun, genie or some other magical character might appear and award you a bonus of the amount you should have won had you held the full house.

Similarly, in a pick'em-type bonus event, your award is determined by the bingo draw. In a commercial casino or on a Class III slot game, your choices make a difference. A random number generator sets the possibilities, and which party box or treasure chest or alien artifact you pick determines how large a bonus you get. On a Class II game, you have an illusion of choice, but you're going to get what you're going to get.

Q. My dad is one of those guys who always splits 10s if the dealer has a 6 up. He told me, "The way I look at it, when I have an edge, I want my money on the table. I have an edge with a 20 against a 6, but I also have an edge with a 10 against a 6. So I split and get more money on the table."

You know and I know his edge is a lot bigger if he stands on the 20, and splitting the 10s costs him money. But he did set me to wondering. Is there ever a right time to split the 10s against a 6?

A. If you're a basic strategy player, no. It's always best to stand on 20. If you're a Hi-Lo counter, and the true count is plus-4 or higher in a multideck game, then you add to your edge by splitting the 10s.

Then there's tournament play. If you're in the late stages in a tournament round and you absolutely have to maximize your wagers, then splitting 10s is one way to do it. But understand that in tournaments, we sometimes have to make all kinds of odd plays that we wouldn't make in a cash game.

Q. My buddy and I went to play some blackjack, and had to wait for a shuffle because the sign on the table said "No mid-shoe entry." The dealer said it was a courtesy to the other players, but some guy at the table said it was to discourage back counting. What is back counting?

A. Back counting, also called "Wonging" in honor of blackjack expert Stanford Wong, is counting cards while standing away from the table. The back counter doesn't enter the game until the count is favorable. In that way, the successful back counter never has to suffer through the periods of the game when the house has an edge. He plays only when there is a high concentration of high cards remaining to be played. That increases the chances of getting a blackjack and also increases the chances of drawing a high card in double down situations — things that turn the edge in the player's favor.

I see restricted entry rules most frequently on single-deck and double-deck games, but have seen no mid-shoe entry signs even on six-deck and eight-deck shoe games, usually those with high minimum bets.

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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:

> More Books By John Grochowski