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HOME > Gaming > Little things mean a lot

Little things mean a lot

17 April 2014

By John Grochowski

Sometimes little things make a big impact on how you day in the casino goes. That’s why for many years I’ve been compiling short tips on how to get the most out of what the casino offers.

It’s been a few months since my last list, so for this time here are half a dozen short tips.

  • My e-mail brought a question from a blackjack player. "I saw online that the house edge goes down when they use a continuous shuffling machine. Should I look for continuous shufflers?"

Michael Shackelford, on his wizardofodds.com site, calculates continuous shufflers do reduce the house edge by a tiny, tiny amount -- about two hundredths of a percent on a six-deck game. But the shufflers also speed the game up, giving the house edge more chances per hour to work against you.

Here's the tip: Speed favors whoever has the edge on the game, for most players the edge belongs to the house. Avoid automatic continuous shufflers. Your best deal comes on a hand-shuffled game.

  • A phone call brought this question from a craps player:

“Don’t you think it’s best to play where players have been winning? If I see lots of chips in front of the players, I know there’s been a hot streak. I want to get in on it.”

Problem is there is no guarantee that a table that has been hot will stay hot. In the hands of all but the tiny percentage of players who practice dice control, rolls are random.

Here's the tip: If playing at a table that has been hot makes YOU feel more comfortable, then go ahead. There’s no harm in choosing a place to play on that basis. But understand that the past results are no guarantee of future success.

  • An e-mailer wrote to ask about a $5 video poker machine she’d seen.

“It was a Double Bonus Poker machine, but instead of paying 250 coins on straight flushes or four of a kind with 5s through Kings, it paid only 239. On a $5 machine, that shorts me $55 on a four-of-a-kind.”

I pointed out to her that 250-coin payoff on a $5 game is $1,250, above the $1,200 at which the casino is required to have you sign an IRS form W2-G before you’re paid, while 239 coins are worth $1,195, just below the threshold.

Here's the tip: On $5 Double Bonus Poker, paying 239 coins instead of 250 on four-of-a-kinds and straight flushes costs about 0.4 percent of your average return, but saves hassle and paperwork.

  • A woman wrote to me about a big slot jackpot she’d hit. “After I was paid and signed the tax form,” she said, “the attendant turned a key before I could play again. The man next to me said that resets the machine into ‘collect’ mode.”

All the attendant was really doing was unlocking the machine. On any jackpot of $1,200 or more, the machine locks so the casino can have you sign a tax form before you continue.

Here's the tip: There is no “collect” or “payback” mode on slot machines. Don’t worry if the attendant turns a key or punches in a code before you can play after a jackpot. That’s just procedure to ensure compliance with IRS regulations.

  • An e-mail brought tale of woe from a Pai Gow poker table: “My friend told me to make my bottom hand as strong as I can, but when I put a pair of Kings in the bottom hand and a pair of 9s in the top, I was told I arranged them wrong, and the dealer took my money.”

In Pai Gow poker, you’re dealt seven cards, which you arrange into a five-card “high” hand and a two-card “second-high” hand. Both must beat the dealer for you to win your bet, but you get your money back if one wins.

Here's the tip: Making the second high hand strong is sound strategy, with one condition: your five-card hand MUST outrank your two-card hand. If it doesn’t, you lose your bet.

  • Three-Card Poker includes a Pair Plus wager in which you’re wagering that your three cards will include a pair or better. The top payoff is 40-1 on a three-card straight flush.
A player at my table once was dealt a straight flush, and he took the money and ran. “The odds of hitting two in a row have to be astronomical,” he said as he left. The odds against two in a row are pretty high -– 1 in 22,100 -- but he already had the first one.

Here's the tip: Past results don’t influence future outcomes. On any one hand in Three-Card Poker, your chances of hitting a straight flush are 1 in 460, no matter what’s happened on previous hands.

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

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

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

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