A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. Weird experience at the craps table. Guy next to me kept betting $5 each on Big 6 and Big 8. You know, the ones in the corner with the big red numbers.

I told him he’d get better odds if he placed them instead, and he said, “I’ve tried that, but the dealer keeps trying to upsell me. I want to bet $5, and he keeps insisting on $6. I can only afford $5, so I bet these instead.”

What can you say to that?

A. I think it’s time Big 6 and Big 8 just went away. They’re terrible bets, widely enough known to be terrible bets that I never see anyone make them. Some table layouts have done away with those bets. Others should follow suit.

As for the player you saw betting Big 6 and Big 8, there’s such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish. He thinks he’s playing smart by limiting his bets, but he’s exposing himself to a house edge so much larger that he loses more money than he would with bigger bets. House edges are 1.52 on placing 6 or 8, 9.09 percent on Big 6 or Big 8.

Placing 6 and 8 and betting Big 6 and Big 8 work in the same way. If the shooter rolls a 7, you lose. If he rolls your number, you win. If he rolls any other number, there’s no decision and you may either leave the bet in action or take it down.

Winners on Big 6 or Big 8 pay even money. Winners on placing 6 or 8 pay at 7-6 odds — that, of course, is why the dealer wanted him to bet in multiples of $6.

Let’s use place 6/Big 6 as the example — place 8/Big 8 works the same way.

For purposes of evaluating the bets, the only rolls that matter are the six ways to make 7 and the five ways to make 6. If you bet $5 on Big 6, you risk $55. If you bet $6 to place 6, you risk $66.

On each of the five winning Big 6 bets, you keep your $5 bet and get $5 in winnings, so the winners leave you with $50 of your original $55 while the house keeps $5. On each winning place bet, you keep the $6 wager and get $7 in winnings. That leaves you with $65 and the house with $1.

By insisting on making the smaller bet, the Big 6/8 player loses five times as much money per average 11 decisions as the place bettor.

I’m a great believer in staying within bankroll limits, but in this case, the risks outweigh the costs of betting the extra dollar.

Q. I don’t understand how the video poker payouts on straights and flushes can be so similar. Mostly, I see 5-for-1 on flushes and 4-for-1 on straights. Yet I saw a five-card poker odds chart that said straights happen twice as often as flushes.

A. The chart you saw was for five-card stud poker, where straights do come up twice as often as flushes.

Video poker is draw poker, and our drawing strategies change the frequency of hands dramatically. In 8-5 Jacks or Better, for example, flushes (1.09 percent of hands) occur nearly as often as straights (1.12). Full houses (1.51) pay more, but come up more often than either straights or flushes.

The object of video poker pay tables is to make the game playable and fun while giving the house an edge, and not necessarily an exact reflection of true odds of the game.

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