A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I saw a weird thing at the craps table the other day. This guy was betting don’t pass and don’t come. He wasn’t bothering anybody, just making his bets, and nobody was bothering him either.
The weird part was that he kept taking his bets down. Anytime the number was 6 or 8, he took the bet down. He’d play only if the point was 4, 5, 9 or 10.
I didn’t even know you could take those bets down. You can’t take pass or come down after the comeout. But since he could, why did he?
A. Don’t pass and don’t come bettors can take their bets down after the comeout because once a point is established, they have an edge over the house. The house makes its money off don’t bettors on the comeout.
Pass and come bettors face the opposite situation. They have the edge on the comeout, but once a point is established, the house starts making money. The house is not going to let you bet when you have the edge and take the bet down when the edge flips.
The bettor you saw take his don’t bets down when points were 6 and 8 seems to have figured that since those are the most frequently rolled point numbers, he’d best avoid them.
Problem is, don’t bettors have an edge even when the points are 6 and 8. With either, there are five ways to roll the numbers that would be losers for the don’t bettor, but six ways to roll a winner 7.
That’s not as strong for don’t bettors as 5 or 9, each with four ways to lose and six ways to win, or 4 or 10, each with three ways to lose and six ways to win.
Nevertheless, once a point of 6 or 8 is established, don’t pass and don’t come bettors will win more often than they lose.
The don’t bettor in question was avoiding his weakest numbers, but they still were numbers that gave him the edge. He was leaving potential profit on the table.
Q. I’m not sure I understand why different video poker games deal royal flushes different numbers of times. You say it’s because of strategy. Does your strategy change how often royal cards are dealt? That doesn’t seem random to me.
A. Optimal strategy differs from game to game because of pay table differences. Different strategies can affect how often you give yourself a chance do draw for a royal flush.
To make up an example, let’s say you’re dealt Ace-King-8 of spades along with a 5 of hearts and a 3 of diamonds.
If you’re playing 9-6 Jacks or Better, the best play is to hold Ace-King. That gives an average return of 2.87 coins per five wagered, and it leaves open a chance at a royal. Holding Ace-King-8 would bring an average return of 2.73 coins.
But if the game is 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker, the 7-for-1 payoff on flushes leads to holding three cards of the same suit more often than in other games, and sometimes even if it costs us a chance to draw for a royal.
In our sample hand, Holding Ace-King-8 brings an average return per five coins wagered of 2.82 coins, compared with 2.74 if you hold Ace-King and discard the 8.
We’ll occasionally draw a royal when holding Ace-King, but never draw one when holding Ace-King-8. There are many such strategy differences, and together they lead to a lower royal frequency on 9-7-5 Double Bonus than on 9-6 Jacks or Better.