A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I seem to do better at blackjack with short sessions and leaving the table when I’m four or five betting units ahead. I then move to another table.

My friend tells me all these sessions are not independent and the house advantage will still exist on a cumulative basis. Can you help?

A. There’s nothing in the math of the game that makes it more likely for you to win in multiple short sessions than in fewer longer sessions. If you’re playing under rules that give the house a 1 percent edge and you bet a total of $10,000, then you can expect average losses of $100 regardless of whether you bet the $10,000 in one marathon session or 10 short sessions.

On average, the house edge is the same regardless of whether you play for 30 minutes or five hours. Of course, the house edge does vary with the count, as card counters know, but the times when the edge is higher than usual and the times when the edge is lower than usual or even swings in the players favor balance out over time.

As a practical matter for a non-counter, the house edge is the same and your average result per hour will be the same regardless of the length of your sessions.

That being said, if you feel like you’re getting better results with shorter sessions, then by all means, continue to play shorter sessions. Playing short sessions won’t hurt you vs. the house edge, it will keep your investment per session small, and it may give you an edge in keeping your concentration sharp and avoiding fatigue.

Q. My favorite video poker game is Bonus Poker Deluxe. I like that 400-coin payoff on all four of a kinds, even the 5s through Kings.

The casino where I play had 9-6 BPD for a long time, then about five years ago switched to 8-6. I missed the 9-6, but still did pretty well on the 8-6 game.

Now they’ve changed it again and it’s 8-5. How does that affect the payouts, and do you have any strategy tips?

A. With a 9-6 pay table, meaning full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, Bonus Deluxe is a terrific game with a 99.6 percent return with expert play. At 8-6, that drops to 98.5 percent, and at 8-5 it’s 97.4.

The reduction of the full house payoff to 5-for-1 forces some strategy changes.

Always hold three parts of a royal instead of four parts of a flush. In the 9-6 or 8-6 games, we hold three-card royals most of the time, except that we hold four to a flush instead of Ace-King-10, Ace-Queen-10 or Ace-Jack-10. In 8-5 BPD, even on those hands we discard the extra suited card and just hold the three parts of a royal.

In the 8-5 game, hold three unsuited high cards instead of suited Jack-8-7 — — a three-card straight flush with two gaps on the inside.

Also with the 8-5 pay table, hold a four-card inside straight with three high cards, including an Ace, instead of two suited high cards.

Let’s illustrate the last point with a sample hand. What should you do if the deal brings Ace-Jack of spades, King of hearts, 10 of diamonds and 5 of clubs?

The average return in the 8-5 game is 2.66 coins on the Ace-King-Jack-10 vs. 2.63 for the two high spades. With an 8-6 pay table, it’s 2.68 for Ace-Jack vs. 2.66 for the inside straight. It’s a close call, but the better play depends on the flush return.

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