A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. My friend told me I was wasting my time at video poker because it can change cards on you. He says if you draw a card, two cards are really chosen, and then the machine decides which of the two can show you. So if I have four cards to a royal missing only the Ace, and the Ace is one of the cards chosen, I won’t necessarily get the royal.

A. Your friend has bad information. Such a system would involve a “secondary decision,” and secondary decisions are illegal in American gaming jurisdictions.

Nevada set the tone in 1989 with a regulation applying to all electronic gaming decisions. Regulation 14.040 includes this sentence: “After selection of the game outcome, the gaming device must not make a variable secondary decision which affects the result shown to the player."

The catalysts were slot machines from Universal Distributing Company. Their random number generators would first select a game result. If the result was a winner, the machine would display the winning combination selected. However, if the selected result was a losing spin, then a secondary decision would be made to determine the losing combination to be displayed.

Note that the secondary decision applied only to losing spins. It affected neither the percentage of winners nor the payback percentage. The system remains legal in many overseas jurisdictions.

The reason Nevada banned it and other U.S. jurisdiction followed suit was a concern that the Universal system would show a disproportionate number of near-miss combinations. If the result on a three-reel slot was going to be a loser, why not make two 7s and a blank, with the third 7 just above or below the payline and raise player hopes that the big hit is coming?

If the Universal system were adapted to video poker, the scenario your friend describes would not come into play. The secondary decisions were not used on winning plays. But if a different system was devised that would bring an RNG choice between two winners or a winner or a loser, it would be illegal under the overall ban on secondary decisions.

Q. I’m a firm believer in splitting 10s when the dealer has a 6. I know the basic strategy tables say different, but to me, when you have 10 against 6 you have an advantage, and when you have an advantage you should get your money on the table.

Every time I do that, I get stares, groans and complaints from other players. The dealer calls out “Splitting 10s,” and sometimes a supervisor comes over. It seems like the way to go to me.

A. It’s your decision to make, and if another player splits 10s while I’m playing, I don’t say a word or give them any grief.

I will give you some numbers, though.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, if you stand on 10-10 vs. 6, your average result is a 67.66-cent profit for each dollar wagered.

If you split the 10s, your average result is 50.06-cent profit for each dollar of your original wager.

Imagine you’re betting \$10 per hand, and the 10-10 vs. 6 decision comes up 100 times. If you stand, your total risk is \$1,000 and with average results your profit is \$676.60.

If you split, your total risk rises to \$2,000, but your profit decreases to \$500.60.

Twenty vs. 6 is a stronger starting point than 10 vs. 6 and will lose fewer hands. Splitting the pair is profitable, but not as profitable as standing, and it carries more risk.