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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 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 ( He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at your question to Grochowski at

Q. I've seen estimates all over the map for the house edge against average blackjack players. I've seen 2 percent, 1.5 and I think 1 percent. What assumption do casinos make when rating for comps?

A. My go-to guy on questions like this is a former casino general manager with a long-time table games background. He's been retired for a few years now, but he said toward the end of his career, they had narrowed all the way to 1 percent.

Each casino or corporate entity has its own comp policies, but I think it's fair to say comp rates are lower than they once were. Business took a hit in the financial crisis of 2007-2008, and operators took a hard look at money they were spending on player rewards.

One point of emphasis is making sure the rewards go to the players who are most valuable to the casino. If electronic betting pads, card-reading shoes, or other methods of precisely tracking total wagers and quality of play ever become commonplace, comp rates for average players may increase. Of course, Blackjack Insider readers who play at basic strategy or better levels won't get any help from such a development.

Q. I found Triple Double Bonus Poker with the 9-7 pay table. I looked it up and saw it pays 99.6 percent, but it always seems to take my money as fast as I put it in. Any tips?

A. Losing money fast is par for the course in any Triple Double Bonus session that does not include a big jackpot hand. It's as volatile a video poker game as you could ask for, with a variance of 98.28 and standard deviation of 9.91. Compare that to 19.51 and 4.42 on an even-keel game like 9-6 Jacks or Better, or even the 41.98 and 6.48 on 9-6 Double Double Bonus - considered a volatile game in any context other than comparison to Triple Double Bonus.

Video poker games that rank high in volatility share a few characteristics. One is that they return only 1-for-1 on two pairs, as opposed to the 2-for-1 on the less volatile Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker. Another is that a large portion of their return comes from rare hands. Double Double Bonus Poker, with its 2,000-for-5 bonanza on four Aces with a low-card kicker, as well as other enhanced four-of-a-kind payoffs, gives 18.76 percent of its overall return on four-of -a-kinds. Only 5.91 percent of the payback on 9-6 Jacks or Better comes from quads.

Triple Double Bonus goes DDB one better by paying 4,000 coins on four Aces with a kicker, and pays 2,000 on four 2s, 3s or 4s accompanied by an Ace, 2, 3 or 4. On the 9-7 version, a whopping 27.4 percent of the payback comes from quads.

To offset that, the payoff on three of a kind is reduced from the usual 3-for-1 to 2-for-1. Compared to the Jacks or Better base, two very common hands have reduced paybacks. On 9-6 Jacks or Better, 22.33 percent of your overall return comes from three-of-a-kind and 25.86 percent from two pairs. On 9-6 Double Bonus, three-of-a-kind holds up at 22.58 percent while two pairs, with the smaller payoff, decline to 12.31 percent. On 9-7 Triple Double Bonus, there's a drop-off to 14.73 percent on three of a kind and 11.99 percent on two pairs.

Four-of-a-kinds represent 0.237 percent of all hands in 9-7 TDB, while three-of-a-kinds plus two pairs make up 33.44 percent. But 27.4 percent of payback comes from quads and only 26.72 from trips plus two pairs.

It makes for a wild ride that's great for jackpot hunting. But when the big hands don't come, you're not getting enough return on three-of-a-kind and two pair to keep you in the hunt. That's why you've found your money disappearing so quickly.

Q. What's the house edge on Mississippi Stud? I've read 5 percent, and I've read 1 percent. I like to play, but might have to back off if I've just been getting lucky on a 5-percent game.

A. As with many poker-based table games that include a combination of antes and bets, there are a couple of different ways to look at the house edge on Mississippi Stud.

Mississippi Stud involves an ante, plus three potential bets that can be one to three times the ante. If you start with a $5 ante, it's possible to have $50 on the table by the end of the hand.

If you wish to consider the house edge as the portion of the ante the house expects to win from a player using optimal strategy, it's 4.91 percent.

Another way to look at it is that if you play optimal strategy, as detailed by Michael Shackelford at , then your average bet will be 3.59 units per hand. So if you want to consider the house edge as the portion of your total wagers you can expect to lose, you can divide that 4.91 percent ante edge by 3.59 units per hand. That leaves a house edge of 1.37 percent.

Shackelford separates the two numbers as a 4.91 percent house edge and a 1.37 percent element of risk. I usually list both, referring to house edge of 4.91 percent of the ante or 1.37 percent of total action.

Both are useful numbers, telling you different things about what you can expect from the game.

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