A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. My sister-in-law wins on slots a lot, and I mean big money. She won two \$20,000 jackpots last month, and this isn’t the first time she’s had runs like that. I don’t know how many big jackpots she’s had, but it has to be a dozen or more of \$10,000-plus in the last three or four years.

I asked her how she does it, and she said she was just able to recognize the machines that were ready to pay off. There was nothing she could tell us to look for. She just KNEW.

What do you think the story could be? Is there something to look for that would help you to know?

A. My best guess is that your sister-in-law plays a lot, and that she plays at \$1 and \$5 slot machines. Even though she’s won many jackpots, she’s probably lost money overall.

It’s possible for someone to get lucky, be in the right place at the right time and win a big jackpot or two or three that leaves them ahead of the game. Possible — but rare.

To have such large jackpots appear a dozen or more times over a few years suggests repeated play. Maybe she’s had jackpots a little more often than the odds of the games would usually yield, but even so, my best guess is that she’s invested a good deal of time and money.

Playing to win or playing for fun?

Different players are looking for different things in casinos.

Results are as random as humans can program a computer to be, and there is no method for recognizing a machine that’s about to pay off. Every play is a fresh trial. There is no way to know a jackpot is coming until the random number has been selected and the results are on the reels.

Q. I was looking at the strategy for Mississippi Stud at WizardOfOdds.com, and what caught my eye were straights after you’ve seen four cards.

It says that if your four-card straight, open on both ends, is at least 8-high, you should bet three times your ante, the maximum. If the straight is lower, you should bet only one times your ante.

I don’t understand the distinction. If I have 4-5-6-7, I can get straight with any of the four 3s or any of the four 8s. If I have 5-6-7-8, I can get the straight with any of the four 4s or any of the four 9s.

Either way, I have eight ways to make the straight. I don’t understand the strategy division.

A. While completing a straight is a major hope, you also have a chance to get your money back if you pair up any cards from 6 through 10.

With 4-5-6-7, you have only two cards that could pair up for a push — the 6 or the 7. With 5-6-7-8, you add the 8 as a third card that could pair up and avoid a loss.

The situation gets better if your four-card, open ended straight includes a Jack, Queen or King. Any of those could pair up for an even-money payoff, giving you extra potential winners instead of potential pushes.

Happy Anniversary, online gaming!

Nov. 21 marked the fourth anniversary of online gaming in New Jersey. The state currently has 23 authorized Internet gaming websites.

Four-card open-ended straights are a close enough call that having at least three cards that could pair up to get your money back is just on the 3x side of the border, while two or fewer of those mid-level cards are on the 1x side.

You didn’t ask, but four-card inside straights are in the 1x-raise area. With inside draws, there are only four draws to complete the straight, and that’s not enough to be the max.

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