Video Poker

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I read something you wrote about never betting four coins at a time on a video poker game with a five-coin max. That made sense. You don’t get the full royal flush payoff when you bet less than five, and when you bet four you’re risking the most money you can without the full royal.

Can I add a corollary to that rule? Another thing you should never do is make that one last bet on a Triple Play or Five Play video poker machine when you don’t have enough credits to cover the maximum bet.

On Triple Play, the max bet is 15 coins, five for each hand. If you get to the end and have only 10 credits, Triple Play won’t let you play one or two hands at max coins. If you hit the bet button, you get a four-coin bet on the first hand and three-coin bets on the other two.

Now you have bets on three hands, all without getting the full pay table. Yet you see people making that bet all the time.

A. Players sometimes make non-optimal bets at the end of a session. This is one of them. Another is making a final blackjack bet without enough chips or cash you’re willing to spend to take advantage of double down or pair splitting situations.

Let’s take the video poker example first. Royal flushes account for about 2 percent of the overall return on most video poker games. Betting less than the max will take a 99 percent game to about 97.5 percent, with exact figures depending on game, pay table and strategy adjustments.

Making a 10-coin bet at Triple Play means accepting a reduced payback percentage.

There are better options. One video poker possibility is to take the ticket to a single-hand game in the same coin denomination. At least you get two hands with the full pay table.

If you’re going to play a while but move to a different game, you could add the ticket to your buy-in. And you can always cash out and keep the change.

Any of those options beat wagering 10 coins on a short pay table.

As for blackjack, let’s say you’re at a $10 table and you’re down to $10 in chips. Are you tempted to make one last bet?

Don’t do it. Players win about 48 percent of decisions in blackjack and lose 52 percent. That basic strategy players can get the house edge below 1 percent is partly due to premium pays on blackjacks and partly due to proper strategy in splitting pairs and doubling down.

Splits and doubles require extra bets. If you can’t make them, you’re not getting the optimal return on the game.

Chances are you play blackjack because the house edge is lower than on most games. Why put yourself in a situation where the house edge is raised? Keep the $10.

Q. What is the best one-roll bet at craps? I know multi-roll bets like pass and don’t pass and place bets on 6 and 8 are better, but what’s the best one and done?

A. Among standard craps bets, the one-roll bet is the field. You get even money if the shooter rolls 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11. You also win on 2 and 12. If both of those pay 2-1, the house edge is 5.56 percent. If one or the other pays 3-1, the edge is halved to 2.78 percent,

With standard U.S. paybacks, no other one-roll bets have edges of less than 11.11 percent.