A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I was in a blackjack game that allowed late surrender. Other rules werenâ€™t very good: eight decks, dealer hits soft 17, double downs restricted to hard 10 and 11, split pairs only once, no double after split.

At least I had the surrender option, and I took full advantage. I seemed to get a lot of 16s against dealer 10s.

My question is about the composition of my 16s. Does it make any difference whether the 16 is 10-6 or 9-7? I should split 8s instead of surrendering, right?

A. You didnâ€™t tell me the payoff on blackjacks, but assuming itâ€™s 3-2, the house edge against a basic strategy player is 0.91 percent. If blackjacks pay only 6-5, that soars to 2.27 percent, meaning itâ€™s time to find a different game.

Basic strategy for late surrender in an eight-deck game where the dealer hits soft 17 and surrender is allowed is to surrender with hard 15 against a dealerâ€™s 10 or Ace; surrender hard 16 against 9, 10 or Ace, and surrender hard 17 against an Ace.

There is an exception when the 16 is a pair of 8s. Then, the best play is to surrender only against an Ace, but to split against all other dealer cards.

Anytime you surrender, your loss is 50 cents per dollar wagered. Thatâ€™s by definition â€” when you surrender, you give up half your wager instead of playing out the hand.

Given the hand compositions you mentioned, the average loss per dollar wagered if you hit is 54.1 cents if you have 10-6 and 53.8 percent with 9-7. Either way, your average loss is higher if you play out the hand than if you surrender.

If you start with a pair of 8s, splitting the pair leaves you an average loss of 49.4 cents of your original wager. Thatâ€™s lower than the 50 cents for surrender, so you split.

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Q. Iâ€™m just picking up craps, and Iâ€™m trying to figure out the hows and whys.

My friend who got me interested tells me that itâ€™s good to bet on 6 and 8, but bad to bet on 7. But heâ€™s also told me 7 comes up the most, so why wouldnâ€™t a bet on 7, paying 4-1, be better than a bet on 6 or 8, paying 7-6?

I know Iâ€™m being a newbie, but why wouldnâ€™t a bigger payoff on a number that rolls more often be the better bet?

A. The key is that place bets on 6 and 8 are multi-roll bets while any 7 is a single-roll bet.

When you bet on 6, the only numbers that matter are 6 and 7. If the shooter rolls any of the five ways to make a 6 you win, while you lose on any of the six rolls that total 7. If the roll is any other number, your bet stays in action.

Itâ€™s the same way with 8 â€” five winning rolls, six losers and 25 that donâ€™t decide the bet.

When you bet on any 7, there are no numbers that donâ€™t matter. You win on the six ways to make 7, but lose on the other 30 combinations.

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Mary has played slot machines for more years than she cares to count.

Look at that comparison. On 6 or 8, there are five ways to win and six ways to lose. On any 7, there are six ways to win and THIRTY ways to lose.

Thatâ€™s powerful stuff. Even with the 4-1 pay you mention, any 7 carries a 16.67 percent house edge that dwarfs the 1.52 percent on placing 6 or 8.