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Ask the Wizard #131

I would like to know how to test an online roulette game, to know the odds and if the odds are honest?


First let me say how not to test any game. You should not record all your play and when you are done look for any kind of anomaly, and then write to me complaining that the casino is cheating. The correct way is to state a hypothesis for how the casino is cheating FIRST, then gather data, and finally see if the data fits your hypothesis. If you don’t know what kind of hypothesis to state I would suggest simply testing for the number of wins and losses, and then bet the same thing every time. If you do the first two steps properly and need help on the third then feel free to write me.

At a friendly home game of poker we were down to two players in a hand of Texas Hold ’em. I was out of the hand at looked at my neighbor’s cards. He was about to fold when I blurted out that he had a straight, which he obviously didn’t notice. The other player, with a weaker hand, said this was a breach of poker etiquette. Was he right?


Yes, he was. When playing poker if you are out of the hand, stay out. I don’t make an issue over players still in the game voluntarily showing their cards to other players, but I still don’t like it. However if you are out of the hand and see other cards you should keep your mouth shut. What is even more annoying is when somebody folds a hand and then proceeds to advise his girlfriend still in the hand. Offering advice is a major breach of etiquette if you are privy to information the player doesn’t have, namely the cards that you folded.

What is the probability that a particular dealer will commit an error while dealing casino games? Is there such a standard?


That is a good question. In general the nicer the casino the lower the probability of dealer errors. Dealer errors are also much more likely in new games as opposed to the old classics. Also, in my opinion dealer errors go in favor of the dealer about ¾ of the time. I have never heard of any standard. To make a rough approximation I would say dealers make an error on average once every 1 to 4 hours.

You have inspired me to analyze some games myself. However I don’t know how to program a computer. What language would you recommend I learn?


C++. To know C is to love C. Java, Perl, and Visual Basic are similar to C but in my opinion are not as elegant or powerful.

I have a Blackjack question that I did not see already answered on your site. How would the house edge change if the player always got a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card and changed his strategy accordingly?


According to my calculations this would give the player about an 8.8% advantage under optimal strategy. The optimal strategy is the same as that of double exposure in most cases. However if you think the dealer will expose his hole card again I would recommend not making it obvious that you know and not make plays that normally look ridiculous (like hitting a 19 against a 20) .

I read your recent article on Anything’s Wild. Just curious: How is it possible to get a Natural Royal Flush if the player chooses a 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace as his wild card? If T,J,Q,K or A are chosen, how does a "natural" royal differ from a "wild" royal?


I don’t recall this in the rule but I would assume they are the same as in One Eyed Jacks, in which a wild card is not forced to be wild if the player would otherwise have a natural royal flush.

Thank you for the education! I appreciate it. One thing you must get asked a lot, but is absent from your site is... How much have you made from gambling? With such a life's dedication, has it paid off? Or is there still an edge to the house, even with your experience and knowledge? Or do you make money but your winnings are still not enough to produce a significant cash flow (i.e. enough to happily live on)? Further, if you had all the money you desired, would you still teach, consult and educate?

Kelly B.

I spend a lot of time analyzing bets and do okay at it but it isn't enough to live on. Last year for example bets I made won $26,843.14. However I lost $9,491.50 backing other gamblers where I thought I had an advantage. I'm working on increasing my bankroll and more research in profitable areas to hopefully making gambling a greater portion of my income in years to come. It should be emphasized that gaining an edge over the casino is possible but requires a lot of hard work for fairly small advantages. Assuming I do reach the day where I can live off of gambling I still plan to keep the website going and teach my casino math class at UNLV. However I'm trying to phase out of consulting and hope to give that up completely as soon as other income replaces it.