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Ask the Wizard #155

Great site! I would call it the best among all the gambling sites I have seen on the web. A question about surrender in blackjack. Some casinos (for example Foxwoods) give match play coupons for blackjack. One good thing about the coupon is that when you surrender, you only lose half of your own money, and are allowed to keep the whole coupon. (But you lose your coupon no matter you win or lose.) I guess you want to surrender more in this situation, but was wondering what is the correct strategy? Thanks!

Austin from Cambridge, MA

Thanks. You should be doing a lot of surrendering if you can keep the match play. My blackjack appendix 9 is good for questions such as this. A match play is worth just about half of face value. So if the expected value of the hand is less than -1/3 you should surrender. Assuming the dealer hits a soft 17 here are those times.

  • Player 6 vs. 10-A
  • Player 12 vs. 9-A
  • Player 13 vs. 8-A
  • Player 14 vs. 8-A
  • Player 15 vs. 7-A
  • Player 16 vs. 7-A
  • Player 17 vs. 8-A
  • Player 8,8 vs. 9-A

The strategy is the same if the dealer stands on a soft 17, except the player will not surrender 6 against an ace.

I’ve been a huge fan for many years (even before you got interested in poker and sports betting) and looked forward to every Ask The Wizard column. It’s great to see you’re doing them again! My question is this: at my local card room, they offer Aces Cracked, Win A Rack during certain hours. That is, if you have pocket Aces in one of their 3-6 or 4-8 Texas Hold ’Em games and you lose the pot, the casino will give you a rack of chips ($100). I’m trying to figure out how often a)I get pocket Aces b)how often they would lose if I played them aggressively as I’m supposed to and c)whether it’s not better to just check all the way down and hope to lose, as $100 is usually better than what the pot would have been anyway. Any stats you may have at the ready would be wonderful and forever appreciated! Thanks again and keep up enlightening the masses!

Shane from Santa Rosa

Thanks for the kind words. The probability you will get pocket aces in any one hand is 6/1326, or once every 221 hands. According to my 10-player Texas Hold ’em section (/games/texas-hold-em/10players.html) the probability of winning with pocket aces is 31.36%, assuming all players stay in until the end. However that is a big if. If forced to make a guess I’d estimate the probability of winning with aces in a real 10-player game is about 70%. So the probability of getting pocket aces and then losing is 0.3*(1/221) = 0.1357%. So, at $100 per incident that is worth 13.57 cents per hand. Over ten people that costs the poker room $1.36 per hand on average, which cuts into the rake quite a bit. I tend to agree with your strategy of calling, which will keep more players in the hand, and increase your chance of losing.

First of all I’d like to thank you for an awsome site. Now here’s my question: We’re playing Texas hold’em and flop a flushdraw with two small cards. We all know the % of hitting the flush. but what we really want is the % of winning the hand. And let’s say that we are sure that somebody has a higher card of that suit than us. So my question is what are the % of only one card of that suit shows and not two? Regards

Henrik from Sweden

You’re welcome. So you have four to a flush with two on the board after the flop. The probability of getting exactly one of the needed suit is 9*38/combin(47,2) = 342/1081 = 31.64%.

I play a lot of video poker, but I don’t understand why the pay off is much higher for 4 aces than 4 tens? Also why do 2’s thru 4’s pay higher than 5’s through kings? After all there are only 52 cards in a deck and 4 of each card, therefore the odds should be the same for each.

Gerald from Coal Valley, IL

In games like Bonus Poker and Double Bonus I assume they pay more for certain four of a kinds to give the player a better chance at a big win, at the cost of smaller small wins of course. It makes sense to have four aces as the premium four of a kind, because aces are the highest card in regular poker. The reason I think that four twos pays more than four kings is because players don’t hold low cards as often, and thus four twos comes up less often than four kings. So although the probability of each card is the same, player behavior causes less of the low four of a kinds, thus it makes it easier for the game maker to pay more for the low four of a kinds.

In your article on Texas Hold’em Bonus I noticed that you’ve mentioned the only part of the strategy I have quantified is that the player should fold unsuited 2/3 to 2/7 under either set of rules, and unsuited 3/4 under the Atlantic City rules only. Are these the criteria you’ve created for your simulation? I would also be interested in how you determine whether to bet on the turn or river. I am trying to figure out what exactly would be "optimum" play. I also would like to know what exactly you mean by "expected" value of the initial hands. I guess in short, my question is how did you determine the optimal strategy for this game?

Benjamin from New Brunswick, NJ

I realize it must be frustrating when I declare the house edge of game under optimal strategy but don’t state what the optimal strategy is, as is the case in Texas Hold’em Bonus. The reason for that is I don’t know what the optimal strategy is either. The number of combinations in most poker-based games is so vast that it would a very tedious and time consuming task to quantify exactly what the proper strategy is. Instead I program my computer to cycle through every possible set of cards and make the play with the highest expected value. The expected value is how much the player can expect to win (positive) or lose (negative). That greatly reduces the number of lines of code required. So there is no random simulation. My program looks into the future my looping through all possible combinations of cards and going with the play that results in the greatest win or least loss.

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of a little over two years, pretty much because i wasnt happy anymore and i had a lot of trust issues because he has lied to me a lot in the past mostly about his smoking pot, but once he was really drunk and admitted to me that he went to the movies with a nother girl, he swore nothing happened but we broke up for about a month and a half at that time and then tried to work things out we were back together for about 5 and a half months but he had been acting very shady and i know he had been spending a lot of time talking to one of my female friends who i knew he was attracted to. basically i have a few questions one is do you think he physically cheated on me meaning even just kissing someone else. also i forgot to mention in that 5 and half months we were back together we only had sex once. also my other question i really have no interest in getting back together with him but whats the best way for me to get closure and move on with my life as quickly as possible, and lastly did he ruin me for other relationships am i going to be able to trust other men? thanks for your time.

Shayna from Philadelphia

Yes, I would say that kissing qualifies as cheating. However it doesn’t really matter because you don’t owe it to him or yourself to build up a case to justify leaving. In my opinion the best way to break up is to do it fast and clean. Forget the friendship nonsense, just tell him you’re unhappy and are moving on, and that the two of you are not to have any future communication. Then give yourself a cooling off period. Don’t lose faith in all men. There are millions of nice guys out there who would treat you like a queen (to quote Peter Brady). Rather than faulting all men I think you should fault yourself for the choices you make.

I deal a blackjack game for friends every now and then using only 2 decks. I was wondering what the best house edge is in regards to how many hands to deal to and splitting and doubling down rules. Thanks in advance. Hope you have the time to answer my question. If not I understand.

Nick from Bronx, NY

In my opinion the dealer should set the rules on the liberal side in home games. Screwing your friends with stingy rules is just not cool. If you use double decks I would recommend double on any first two cards, double after a split, and dealer stands on soft 17. Otherwise standard rules. That will result in a house edge of 0.19%. However player mistakes should give you much more than that.

Your site and strategies are play books for when I gamble. Thanks to your advice on the lowest house edge bets I have enjoyed many hours of casino entertainment at minimal cost. My question involves a new boyfriend. I only consider myself having been in love twice in my life. My college boyfriend had a palindrome for a birthday 9/7/79, a man I fell in love with, but it didn’t work out after college had a birthday of 1/8/81. Now I am dating and quickly falling in love with a man born on 7/7/78, almost a palindrome. Do you think this means anything? Could it mean that he’s just different enough from the other two to be the one? I was born in 1979, my birthday is not a palindrome.

Brie from Chicago

You’re welcome. I’m always happy to teach people how to play smarter in the casinos. This sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. Like how some people keep dating others with the same first name over and over. Having a palindromic (is that a word?) birthday is cool in a math geek kind of way, but nothing more. Personally I’m proud to be born on 5/23 at 5:23 PM, which are both primes I might add. Anyway, I wish you love and happiness with the 7/7/78 guy. [Ed. note: Wizard, give me her email address. She sounds hot. -- M. Bluejay]