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Ask the Wizard #137

If dynamite is introduced as an option in the game of rock/paper/scissors, where dynamite beats rock and paper, but scissors beats dynamite, what should the optimal strategy be if two perfect logicians are playing?

"Anonymous" .

First, we can rule out ever playing paper. Regardless of what the other person throws you will make out equal or better by throwing dynamite over paper. Once paper is eliminated, dynamite essentially becomes the new paper, beating rock and losing to scissors. So the perfect strategy is to pick randomly, and with equal probability, between rock, scissors, and dynamite.

If you have a sloppy Three Card Poker dealer who shows one of their cards, how does this change the house advantage? For instance, you are holding a Q-8-6 and you see that the dealer is holding a Queen or higher, the player would most likely fold the hand thereby affecting basic strategy and the house advantage.

"Anonymous" .

If the dealer exposes one of his cards, which happens frequently, the player has a 3.48% advantage if the information is used properly. I explain the proper strategy in my book Gambling 102. However, to answer your question, you would fold Q86 against a queen.

I do my best to make only "smart bets" and to avoid machines with lousy pay tables. I must admit I just don’t have the time to memorize the ever increasing number of different configurations out there. I do know that casinos ban photo equipment, but is it ok to bring in, say, a pad and paper so you can record the pay tables of certain machines and look them up at home? Or better yet, bring "cheat sheets" right into the casino? Right now I’m afraid to do so because I don’t see anyone else doing it and would be afraid that they’d 0ify my payout if I were to hit a jackpot based on some rule that I wasn’t aware of. Any insight? Thanks!

"Anonymous" .

Yes, I take notes in the casino all the time. The only time I have had trouble was when the Suncoast prohibited me from playing slots and writing at the same time when I was taking notes for my Las Vegas slot machine survey. Camera usage seems to be much more tolerated lately, so lately I have been taking pictures of rule screens and pay tables when I have my camera available. I also usually have cheat sheets in my possession when playing video poker, in case I run across a hand I don't know how to play, which is rare. I keep the cheat sheets hidden but have never had a problem whipping them out in a pinch. The reason you don't see other players with cheat sheets is about 99.54% of video poker players don't know what they are doing and the rest have the strategy memorized.

Would you tell me the probability of a 19% chance coming in exactly 18 out of 34 trials?

"Anonymous" .

That would be combin(34,18)*.19^18*(1-.19)^(34-18) = 0.000007880052468.

I've been counting cards and things have been going okay. I’ve logged almost 200 hours. I only go to casinos on the East Coast, but last week I was on vacation in Vegas. Well I went to the Barbary Coast where they had two-deck blackjack with pretty good rules. So I'm counting with a 10 to 50 incremental spread and all seemed okay, but then I put out a $50 bet and a pit boss pushed it back and said "no more 21 for you!" (or something like that). I got busted! Anyway I didn't say anything took my chips cashed out and left! Now do I have to worry about them having identified me with any kind of face recognition software or anything? I won’t be going back to Vegas for a least a year and certainly won't go back to the Barbary Coast . Do I have to worry on the East Coast?

"Anonymous" .

The Barbary Coast is notorious for having a low tolerance for counters. I wouldn't worry about the incident going past the memory of that pit boss. What happened to you is known as a "back off", which is nothing more than a warning. To get in the Griffin Book of undesirable players you need to be a much more serious threat. I don't know Griffin's secrets but in my estimation you need to be a black chip counter and have been backed off or read the trespass act several times before you make it in the book for the reason of card counting.

I was playing blackjack online. I bet all of my money on a single hand, and was dealt a pair of eights versus the dealer’s three. Since I could not split, I exited the game, went to the cashier, and bought more chips. However, when I returned to the hand, my newly purchased chips were not at the table. I spoke with customer support, and was told that once a hand is in progress, additional chips may not be brought to the table. However, there is nothing on this casino’s site stating that rule.

Patrick from Jersey City, New Jersey

If I had written the software I would have allowed this, as it is allowed in the land casinos. However remember that in most casinos Internet gambling is unregulated and the player has essentially no rights. The terms and conditions always seem to say that the casino is always right in any dispute. In cases where a rule is not addressed make no assumptions that it will go your way.

I signed up at the one of the biggest and most recommended online poker sites. In the beginning I could not lose. I am not that good and almost got the impression they were letting me win. After a few winning sessions, I could not win to save my life. Moreover, it seemed like in a number of instances after I threw away lousy cards pre-flop, the flop would have been a gold mine. It happened more times than one would expect. When I was down to my last nickel, I miraculously got good cards which enabled me to play longer (although I eventually lost). I saw this happen to someone else at the table. There are a couple of other things that seemed suspicious, e.g., more times than not if I or someone had a pocket pair, there always seemed to be another pocket pair. I was playing for not alot of money in a $2/$4 game. I just could not shake the feeling that something was off. I am not going to mention the site name but it is one of the largest premier sites that everyone recommends. Am I paranoid?

Jeffrey from Coral Springs, Florida

I think you’re just paranoid.