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Best of John Grochowski

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Playing Properly

5 December 2019

Casino games have built-in mathematical advantages to the house. With notable exceptions such as counting cards in blackjack or playing expert strategy at certain video poker games, you can’t completely overcome the house edge.

But short of learning to count cards or playing video poker at expert level, there are things you can do to make sure you get the most out of what casino games have to offer.

Here are a few for starters:

BLACKJACK: Everything starts with learning basic strategy. Players are getting better at this. In the early 1990s, casinos assumed they had about a 2 to 2.5 percent edge over average players. Today, the assumption is 1 to 1.5 percent.

Knowing basic strategy knocks that down even more. In a six-deck game in which dealers hit soft 17, you are permitted to double down on any first two cards, including after splitting pairs, may split any pair except Aces up to three times, may split Aces only once, and in which blackjacks pay 3-2, the house edge against a basic strategy player is 0.62 percent.

It’s easy to find blackjack basic strategy charts online, and basic strategy is part of any good book on the game.


THREE CARD POKER

  • Stick to ante-play:

Three Card Poker offers two basic bets: ante-play and Pair Plus.

In ante-play, if you follow the basic strategy of betting with Queen-6-4 or better or folding with less, the house edge is 3.37 percent of your ante or 2.01 percent of total action.

In Pair Plus, you win if your hand falls on a pay table that starts on any pair.

The most common pay table is 40-1 on a straight flush, 30-1 on three of a kind, 6-1 on straights, 4-1 on flushes and even money on any pair. The house edge is 7.28 percent.

That makes ante-play by far the better bet and Pair Plus a bet to avoid.

CRAPS

  • Stick to multi-roll bets: Craps has a number of wagers available with house edges of less than 2 percent. None of them can be settled in one roll.

Among bets settled in one roll, the best of the bunch is the field with a house edge of 2.78 percent if either 2 or 12 pays 3-1 while the other pays 2-1, or 5.56 percent of both pay 2-1.

Other than that, there’s a motley collection with sky-high edges including 11.11 percent on any craps and 16.67 percent on any 7.

Instead, look toward the best of the multi-roll bets, including pass or come (1.41 percent), don’t pass or don’t come (1.36 percent) and place bets on 6 or 8 (1.52 percent).

If your bankroll can handle backing pass or come with odds or laying odds with don’t pass or don’t come, so much the better. Keep line bets to the minimum and make up the rest of your normal-sized bet on the odds.

VIDEO POKER

  • Walk through the casino and check pay tables before you play.

Not all video poker pay tables are created equal. Jacks or Better with a 9-6 pay table -- meaning full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1 – returns 99.5 percent with expert play while the 8-5 version returns only 97.3 percent. Double Double Bonus Poker returns 99 percent at 9-6 and only 96.8 percent at 8-5.

Many casinos have games with different pay tables scattered around their floors. A game on the main floor might have a different table than a game in the designated video poker area, and both might be different than a game at the bar. It’s worth a walk to check pay tables.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski