QUESTION: The other day, my brother-in-law said, “It always seems like you’re ahead sometime whenever you go to the casino. If only you could bring yourself to quit while you’re ahead, you’d do all right.”
We laughed, then got to talking. If you won your first $10 blackjack bet, you probably wouldn’t leave. But if you could bring yourself to do that, would you actually make money? Always quit when you’re ahead -- is that the way to beat the casino?
ANSWER: If only it were that easy.
The notion that there’s a point in every casino trip when you’re ahead is false. The house edge is working against you from the moment you start wagering. There are days in the casino when you lose your first bet, fall behind, and never climb out of the hole.
Will you lose less money overall if you quit whenever you’re ahead? Sure, as long as you’re playing games with a house edge. Making fewer bets means less exposure to the house edge and smaller overall losses. That’s true whether your stopping point is “whenever I’m ahead,” “whenever I’m down $50,” “when I’ve made 1,000 wagers” or any other point you want to define.
Quitting while you’re ahead will prevent dropping into the red on that trip. But sometimes, it will prevent you from having a larger winning session. Leaving after winning that first $10 blackjack bet means you can’t win hundreds. My biggest day in a casino started with a royal flush on a quarter video poker machine. Had I quit then, I wouldn’t have won my $8,000 royal on a $2 machine that night.
Over a long period, the amount you leave in the casino will reflect the house edge. If you’re playing roulette, with its 5.26 percent house edge, then the times you quit while you’re ahead will be balanced against the times you’re never ahead and keep playing. And something close to 5.26 percent of your wagers will wind up in the house till.
QUESTION: At Aqueduct, I was playing an IGT machine one-hand video poker game with a match sixth-bonus. I pulled a royal flush in spades, with a matching 9 of spades. I just wonder what the denominations of the match wins are. I once saw $250. Do you know how high the match goes?
ANSWER: The only match card game I know is Triple Play Poker with Match Card, but that’s not the single-hand game you were playing. In Triple Play with Match Card, three cards are dealt in a vertical column to the right of the three regular video poker hands. If any of those cards match a card in a winning hand, it multiplies winnings. If the top card is a match, it triples any winning hands, while the middle card is a 4x and the bottom a 5x multiplier. If two cards are matches, winners are multiplied by 11.
I’m not familiar with a single-hand game with a match card bonus. I’ll try to find out more and readdress the game later on.
One thing to keep in mind when playing at Aqueduct or other New York video lottery terminal locations: the games are not random number generator games, such as you’d find in most casinos. New York VLTs put a player-friendly interface on a lottery game, but you’re playing the electronic equivalent of a scratchoff card. Video poker strategy, such as you’d use in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and points in between, does not apply.
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