Ask The Wizard #104

Brilliant Site. My question is whether or not free online demo games follow the same system as their money playing counterparts. I ask because I was playing Netgaming's free roulette and it appeared as though the system was purposely letting you win in order to bait you into playing for money. Do online sites do this? I was basically trying the Martingale, which I know is false, but I turned the 1,000 very quickly and easily into 10,000.


To answer your question I gave Netgaming a try. In their single zero roulette game I placed 200 bets on red. My results were 133 wins and 67 losses. The probability of 133 or more wins in 200 spins is 1 in 3,788,515. So obviously they were letting me win. Let the record show I do not approve of manipulating the odds for any reason. So to, and any other casinos that do this, I say shame on you. For this and other reasons I have added the software provider Elka System Casinos/Oyster Gaming to my blacklist.

I am a dealer in a small rural casino and disagree with your comments against tip sharing (April 4 2004 column). The reasons tip sharing would not work here are:

  1. A dealer works the same game for an entire shift. There is a big disparity in how players tip depending on the game. For example Caribbean Stud and Let it Ride players are very bad tippers.
  2. Some shifts tip better than others. 75% of tips are earned on the swing shift.
  3. Our casino is close to the Canadian border and if a dealer gets stuck with Canadian players for the shift then he will go home broke for the day.
  4. The dealers who are friendly with the pit bosses will get the good games and good shifts.

Furthermore I disagree with calling tip sharing "institutionalized favoritism." If dealers share their tips, every dealer receives the same pay for putting in the same hour of work. Thus, it seems to me that tip sharing reduces institutionalized favoritism, rather than contributing to it as you allege. Letting people keep their own tips would mean the good looking woman would earn more than someone else doing the same job, simply because she is a good looking woman. That would be a policy of institutionalized favoritism.


Thank you for your comments but I stand by my opinion that tip sharing should be optional. That attractive women get tipped better may sound unfair but it is the free market at work. I would argue that a beautiful female dealer is performing a better service to the public just by giving people something to look at. I definite institutionalized favoritism as an institution (such as the casino) taking money from one class of people and giving it to another. Players may not tip fairly but as long as it is according to their own free will then it is not institutional but voluntary favoritism.

In the case of your casino if tip sharing were optional I would expect only the men who are not friendly with management would opt to join the pool. If the casino didn’t do a better job at rotating dealers and treating them equally then some dealers would quit, forcing the casino to take action. It may also lead to more female heavy workforce through attrition but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Men have a competitive advantage at other jobs, like lifting heavy objects.

It is hard to study economics, as I have, and not have a healthy respect for free enterprise. Tip sharing is a form of socialism, which will obviously benefit some, but as a whole will only results in inferior public service due to insufficient incentives.

I trust you Let it Ride advice is correct but I still like raising on a low pair with three cards. Often I have seen these turn into paying hands. So how much is it costing me to raise on low pairs?


With a low pair your expected value on the initial bet is -7.40%. So if your original bet was $10 then letting it ride with a low pair will cost you an extra 74 cents.

Hello! I was recently playing 50-way 20-cent video poker in Detroit, and was lucky enough to hit 2 four of a kinds on the deal- both hands were two deuces and a pair- and resulted in a jackpot and W-G. Not that I was complaining, but it occurred to me that because both pay outs were only slightly over the $1200 limit, that I could have avoided the jackpot tax if I were to play a few less hands. So my question is this: what is the maximum number of hands I should have played to minimize getting hit with the tax burden when getting dealt four of a kind on the deal? Keep up the great work with the site!


W2G forms are definitely something to think about when playing video poker at the larger bet amounts. Although you are obligated to pay taxes on your net win at the end of the year regardless of how many W2G forms you have, a payout of $1200 or more will necessitate a wait and obligate you to tip the person paying you. In less classy casinos a hand pay will also cause the tip vultures to start hovering around you. To avoid all of this sometimes the player should consider deviating from optimal strategy. For example with AAA88 in 10/7 double bonus the odds marginally favor keeping the aces only. However in a $2 to $10 game hitting four aces will pay over $1200, necessitating a W2G form, while a full house will stay under the limit. Considering the tax implications keeping the full house is the better play.

To answer your question I’ll assume a four of a kind pays 25 times the bet. Then a four of kind on the deal in a $0.20 50-play game will pay $0.20 * 5 * 50 * 25 = $1250. You will get a four of a kind on the deal once every 4165 hands, on average. If you were to drop the number of hands to 47 the win for a four of a kind on the deal would be 47 * $0.20 * 5 * 25 = $1175, staying under the W2G threshold.

First, great site. During a recent visit to Harrah’s, they gave me an option of either $100 match play or $50 in slot play. In your opinion with which is the best to take. (I took the match play). Also, for the match play would it be better to play all $100 on one hand, or multiple smaller hands (10 x $10 hands). Thanks

Wally from Houston

Thanks for the compliment. I recommend taking the match play. I’m sure the $100 in slot play was on specially designated machines. From anecdotal evidence I believe these free play slots are extremely stingy, set to pay back about 25%. That match play is worth about 48 cents on the dollar. I recommend betting in on the don’t pass in craps. The reason I favor that over blackjack is that blackjack has a lower probability of winning, thus reducing the value of the match play. For further explanation please see my October 30 2001 column.