A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. This is more a story than a question. I know you shouldn’t stand on soft 17. I know that when the dealer has a 6 up and I have Ace-6 I should double down. I always do that, except this one time I didn’t.

My only excuse is that my attention was elsewhere. The waitress brought my drink just as the cards were being dealt. My husband was right behind her, waiting to tell me he’d been winning at craps but that the shooter had finally sevened out so he was going to check in on the games at the sports book.

The dealer could have waited, I’m sure, but instead of holding on till I actually looked at my cards, I signaled to stand.

It didn’t turn out too bad. The dealer busted and I won the hand. But the card that was dealt after my turn was a 4. If I’d done my usual double down, I’d have had 21 and a nicer win.

I don’t think anybody else even noticed, but I did. It made me mad at myself.

A. For players who know basic strategy, distractions such as you describe is a major contributor to mistakes, along with fatigue and just playing having a brain cramp.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, your average result if you stand is a loss of half a cent per dollar wagered. If you hit, you move to the profit side with 12.6 cents gained per dollar.

If you make the best play and double down, your profit doubles to 25.2 cents per dollar of your original wager.

So yes, you made a mistake in standing on your Ace-6, but yes, we almost all make them.

Q. How long do you keep playing a hot slot machine? How fast do you walk away from a cold slot machine?

A. Me personally? I’ll usually use floating win goals and loss limits on slots. If I put a $20 bill in a penny slot and play all the paylines for one coin per line — usually bets of 30, 40 or 50 cents — I’ll set a floor of $10. If my credit meter dips to $10, I move to another game.

If, on the other hand, I’m having good run and the meter rises to $30, I’ll move my floor up by $10 so that I’ll walk away with at least $20. If the meter rises to $40, then I’ll move my floor up to $30, and so on.

It’s all designed so that I won’t lose too much on any one game in a cold streak, and won’t lose it all back in a hot streak.

However, that’s mainly personal preference and a way to discipline myself not to overbet. There is no tendency for hot machines to stay hot nor for cold machines to stay cold.

A cold streak tells us only that the game has been cold. It doesn’t tell us anything about future outcomes. It’s the same deal with a hot streak. The streak doesn’t tell us anything about the game’s overall payback percentage or the likelihood that it will continue paying.

If you and I each made $1,000 worth of bets on machines with similar payback percentages, and I kept on the move with my system and you stayed at one machine through thick and thin, our average results would be about the same.

The key is to know your limits. Enjoy the wins when they come, but decide on a reasonable cost for a day’s entertainment and never let your losses exceed that figure.

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