A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I play 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, and I held a King and 10 of diamonds and drew a royal flush. Yay!

The player next to me said, "You were really lucky. King-10 isn't a hand you hold."

I told him I'll take the luck, thanks. He wanted to bend my ear some more, but I wasn't hearing it.

But tell me, did I really make a bad play?

A. Congratulations on your royal! Those always feel great, and I can assure you, if I'd been playing next to you, I'd have offered congratulations and left it at that.

Should you have held King-10? That depends on what else you had in your hand.

There are lots of hands we'd hold instead of King-10. Some are so obvious I'm just going to assume you didn't have them. You wouldn't throw away a winning hand, and you certainly didn't toss two more parts of the royal or straight flush or those royal cards wouldn't have been available to you.

Here are some other hand that would have been possible that you'd hold instead of King-10:

**Four parts of a flush, if you were dealt two lower diamonds with your royal start.

**Three parts of a straight flush with no more than one gap. If, for example, your King-10 was accompanied by 6-7-8 or 6-7-9 of clubs, the better play would have been to hold the clubs.

**Four parts of an open-ended straight, such as your 10 along with 7-8-9 of mixed suits.

**Four parts of an inside straight with at least one high card, such as and Jack and 9 to go with your King-10.

**Two or three unsuited face cards, such as a Jack and/or a Queen to go with your King.

**An Ace.

With lesser hands, holding King-10 is the correct play. In an ordinary hand such as King-10 of diamonds, 9 of spades, 6 of hearts, 4 of clubs, the average return for holding King -10 is 2.17 coins per five wagered, while holding the King by itself brings only 2.11.

Your neighboring player was at best incomplete in saying King-10 is not a holding hand. There are many better plays, depending on your start, but in some hands, holding suited King-10 is your best play.

Q. If slot machine results have to be random, then why do I get the low-paying symbols so much more than the high-paying ones?

A. "Random" does not mean "equal."

On some slots, there are more low-paying symbols than high payers. On others, such as slots with three mechanical reels, a virtual reel is used and more random numbers are assigned to low-paying symbols than to high-payers.

Either way, random results will naturally lead to low-payers having the higher hit frequencies. If I have a reel with 12 low-paying symbols, six mid-payers and two high payers, then even if each symbol has an equal probability of appearing, you'll see low payers the most, middle payers next and high-payers least of all.

If I have a reel with 10 low payers, 10 middle payers and 10 high payers, but use a virtual reel in which I assign 60 random numbers to low payers, 30 to middle payers and 10 to high payers, the result also is that low payers turn up most often.

Each random number has an equal chance of being generated, but more of those random numbers are assigned to low-paying symbols, so it's the low-payers we see most.

Results are random, but the odds of the game lead to more low-pay hits than high pays.

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