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Best of John Grochowski

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Gambler's Survival Kit - Part 2

24 May 2005

Any player's casino survival kit has to start with the raw basics to take into the casino --- cash, coupons, player rewards cards, all things we discussed last week.

But if you're serious about surviving with your bankroll reasonably intact, you'll also need to pack your kit with a few things for home use. You need to know how to play the games, best bets, strategies and how to manage your money. Let's take another look inside the survival kit and see what we find.

BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

Since you're reading this column, I know you've chosen to seek out some advice on playing casino games. I don't pretend to be the last word there --- not even close. Several magazines will give you a good sampling of what's available. Page through Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, and you'll find expert advice from Frank Scoblete on craps, Henry Tamburin on blackjack, Fred Renzey on poker, John Robison on slots, Bob Dancer on video poker and, yes, I write a Q&A column that touches on all games. In Casino Player magazine, you'll often find Scoblete, Tamburin, Dancer, Anthony Curtis and his stable of Las Vegas Advisor contributors and more. Stock your kit with such publications, and you'll get a good head start on learning casino survival techniques.

Don't stop there. If you have a favorite game that you want to learn to play well, by all means find a pick or two for your kit. No matter what the game, there's expert advice there for the taking, including my own "Casino Answer Book" series. If you're a craps player, you might like Scoblete's "Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos" or "Get the Edge at Craps." A blackjack player might like Tamburin's "Blackjack: Take the Money and Run," Arnold Snyder's "Blackbelt in Blackjack," Olaf Vancura's and Ken Fuchs' "Knock-Out Blackjack" or Fred Renzey's "Blackjack Bluebook II."

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Blackjack and video poker are games at which your skill and knowledge of strategies make a difference. Software that will test that skill, warn you when you are making mistakes and help you take your game to a higher level definitely belongs in your survival kit.

For video poker players, there are two outstanding programs: Frugal Video Poker, with tips from Queen of Comps Jean Scott, and Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker, by Dean Zamzone. Either one will correct your play as you practice, and both come loaded with games while enabling the player to change pay tables to match the ones they actually see in their local casinos. Frugal Video Poker, the more expensive of the two, has more extras --- a comp calculator, a strategy generator that will produce printable strategy tables for any pay table, and an option for the user to choose to have play corrected for perfect play --- as favored by WinPoker --- or for play against a strategy table.

There is a good deal of instructional software available for blackjack players. One recent, inexpensive program that I really like is Blackjack 6-7-8 from StickySoft Corp. It'll drill you on basic strategy and counting cards, will show the effect variations in rules have on the house edge, run high-speed simulations --- there are a host of extras. For survival purposes at blackjack, learning basic strategy is fundamental, so whatever software you choose, be sure basic strategy drills, with warnings for mistakes, are part of the package.

STRATEGY CARDS

Think you know your blackjack basic strategy, but are unclear on a few fine points? Or are you just a little fuzzy on how to play certain video poker hands? Maybe strategy cards should be part of your survival kit.

In some jurisdictions you can take your strategy card right to the blackjack table or video poker machine, and use it to help make your decisions. Some states --- Illinois, for instance --- do not permit you to use strategy cards while you play.

If you're in an area where cards are permitted and would like a little "tip sheet" while you play, laminated, pocket-sized blackjack cards are readily available in casino gift shops. Nearly all inexpensive cards will show the same basic strategy. StickySoft's Blackjack 6-7-8 cards are a bit pricier, but have some extras that make them worth considering if you don't already have a strategy card. Each of the four cards in the series is a tri-fold piece with six panels --- four with basic strategies adapted for common rules variations, and two panels with discussions on playing decisions, basic strategy and the house edge.

Video poker strategy cards are a little less common, but there are some good ones out there. Frugal Strategy Cards, by Skip Hughes, are easy to use. Five cards --- one each for 9-6 Jacks or Better, full-pay Deuces Wild, 10-7 Double Bonus Poker, Kings or Better Joker Poker, and Pick-'Em Poker --- are available individually or as a set. Bob Dancer also has strategy cards developed with Liam W. Daily on nine different games. These are six-sided cards with strategies at four skill levels, from beginner to advanced.

With a fully loaded kit, there's one last thing to double check --- your instinct for survival. That's where we'll go next week.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski