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CASINO ANSWER MAN

by John Grochowski

John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Chicago Sun Times, Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at http://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Send your question to Grochowski at casinoanswerman@casinoanswerman.com.

Q. Tell me something about Bonus Poker Deluxe, where all four of a kinds pay 400. Do you make any kind of strategy adjustment for that? I know about Double Bonus and the other games where the 800 on four Aces mean you break up full houses with Aces up. Are the Deluxe bonuses big enough for any special plays?

A. Other than Bonus Poker, Bonus Poker Deluxe is probably the game most like Jacks or Better in terms of strategy. On page 62 of Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott and Viktor Nacht, they have a table that shows our expected return when using strategy for one game on another, and using 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy on 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe drops the average payback only from 99.64 percent to 99.61 percent.

The bonuses on four of a kind arenít large enough to force any major strategy adjustment. We donít break up a full house to keep three Aces, as we do in Double Bonus Poker and any other game that returns 800 or more for a five-coin bet when the fourth Ace turns up, nor do we break up two pair, keeping a pair of Aces by themselves, as we do in Double Double Bonus. We donít have enhanced flush and straight paybacks, as in the best versions of Double Bonus.

The one feature of Bonus Poker Deluxe that does cause us to make some adjustments is that two pairs return only 1-for-1 instead of the 2-for-1 we get in Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker. That affects our strategy on inside straight draws, because it limits the value of throwing away an entire hand, or the value of keeping fewer high cards. Dealt 2-4-5-6-9 of mixed suits, the best play is to discard the entire hand in Jacks or Better. In Bonus Deluxe, we hold 2-4-5-6.

In Jacks or Better, we draw to inside straights only when we have at least three high cards. Dealt 2-8-10-Jack-Queen of mixed suits, we hold Jack-Queen. In Bonus Deluxe, the lower two-pair return lessens the value of that two-card hold just enough that we go for the inside straight draw instead, holding 8-10-Jack-Queen.

Thatís minor tinkering of the kind we do on Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus and other games with 1-for-1 two-pair pays in addition to other adjustments needed to keep up with other changes in the pay table.

Q. Iíve been playing blackjack for a long time, and recently encountered a situation Iíd never seen. The first baseman hit a hard 17 against a 10. The dealer called out the play, and a supervisor game over to watch. The player drew a 6 and busted. The dealer turned up another 10 and finished the hand. Security then came over, and told the player to pick up his chips, that he could no longer play there. Hitting 17 against a 10 isnít really a card counter play, is it? What am I missing here?

A. My best guess is that surveillance found the player was getting a glimpse of the dealerís hole card, or that an associate was seeing the hole card and relaying the information.

Ideally, the problem would be corrected at dealer level. He or she has to stop exposing the hole cards. But casinos are private clubs, and in most jurisdictions are allowed to refuse service to any player for any reason. And letís face it, if you want to keep playing, you have to use a little discretion in using hole card information. Standing on 16 vs. 7 when you know the dealer has a 9 down is one thing. That just looks like a common bad play. Hitting hard 17 is on a different plane, a play that is certain to draw attention from the pit and from surveillance.

Q. Where I play craps the casino allows me to keep my bets up on my winning numbers (just like place bets). These are numbers that are made by making a come bet and then the number is hit. Is it better to keep my bet on the number or should I take it down and make another come bet?

Here is an example in case my question is not clear:

  • $10 come bet
  • Shooter rolls a 4 and my $10 goes to the 4
  • I take $10 odds and now have a total of $20 on the 4.
  • Next roll is a 4 and I win $30.
  • The house asks if I want to take down my contract bet, odds and winnings, or leave it up minus the winnings ($30).

    What is the best decision for me to make?

    A. You're better off to take it down and make a new come bet. Just as on pass, you have an edge on the comeout. With a new come bet, you have eight ways to win on the next roll, and only four ways to lose. The percentages are in favor of a fresh bet.

    If you really wanted to be on the 4 for a total of $20, you could make a place bet for that much. Then when a 4 came up, youíd be paid at 9-5 odds. Your winner would be paid $36 instead of the $30, youíre getting for come plus single odds.

    But that place bet faces a 6.67 percent house edge, and you can do far better if you start fresh with a new come bet. Starting anew gives you a chance at the comeout pays, and also gives you a chance at the shooter establishing more frequently rolled number as your come point. A fresh come bet has a house edge of 1.41 percent, and adding single odds drops the overall edge to 0.8 percent.

    On pass and come, the comeouts are the best parts of the bet. Donít pass that up.

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