Q. At Mississippi Stud the other night, one man obviously was playing for the first time. He caught on fast enough, but a player next to him was helping him along.
On one hand, the new guy had a $5 ante, saw his cards and then made a $5 raise. The player next to him said, “You want to bet the max there,” so he changed his raise to $15. Then he raised $15 again after the first community card and another $15 after the second.
As it turned out, the new guy had a pair of 7s that didn’t improve with the community cards. That’s a push, so he got all his money back and didn’t win anything.
I guess raising $15 is the right play, but there would have been no real harm in his raising $5, would there?
A. There would have been no real harm in this specific hand, since we know what happened. No money changed hands, and that would have been the case no matter how much was wagered.
However, the player didn’t know that when the bet was made. All he knew was that his bets couldn’t lose. There’s no risk, so the correct play is to bet the max on the chance that the community cards will turn the hand into a winner.
For those unfamiliar with Mississippi Stud, you must ante before receiving two cards. Three community cards are dealt face-down. After you see your cards, you may fold or stay by betting one, two or three times your ante. You have the same options after the first and second community cards are turned up.
The pay table starts at a push for pairs of 6s through 10s. With better hands, payoffs increase, starting at 2-1 on two pairs and maxing out at 500-1 on royal flushes.
Any time you have a hand that’s anywhere on the pay table, including push hands, your best strategy is to bet the max.
Michael Shackelford has a detailed strategy for what to bet at each opportunity at Wizard OfOdds.com.
Q. When the video slots first came out, I used to love to play the nickel games. Now I don’t see that many nickels anymore. Everything’s pennies. Why do you think that is?
A. The market evolved into one where the games that are played the most have more paylines than the nickel games of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Think about the games you were playing back then. The original Reel ’Em In from WMS Gaming had five paylines. If you bet one nickel per line, you were betting 25 cents, and even if you bet five coins per line, your total wager was only $1.25.
Follow-up games had nine lines and 15 lines, so covering the lines for one coin each meant bets of 45 cents and 75 cents.
There are still some of those around, but the bulk of games on today’s slot floors have 30 or 40 lines, and some have 50 or more. That’s not even taking into account the Reel Power-type games with no paylines but 243 ways to win.
Translating into nickel play, covering all lines at one credit per line on a 30-line slot would mean a $1.50 wager. On a 40-line slot, it’s $2.
Players love all the extra paylines, but most don’t want to bet $2 a spin to play them.
Games with fewer paylines remain available from manufacturers, and if that’s what the bulk of players wanted, that’s what would be on slot floors. But the games that are played most are penny machines with 30 or more lines.