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Ask the Wizard #203

Hi, I Recently won a large slots jackpot in Vegas. Had around $38k deducted for taxes. I’m a New Zealand citizen & tax resident. New Zealand has no gambling tax. The United States and New Zealand do have a joint tax agreement but I still had money deducted. I do believe I can get all or some back. I'm getting conflicting advice from tax people here. Can you recommend a good US tax accountant, or offer any advice? Enjoyed your site (esp. tipping re dealers & hosts)

Mike from Wellington, New Zealand

This is getting out of my area, but I'll try to help. The IRS web site says that for this purpose, the U.S. has tax treaties with the following countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Note that New Zealand is not on the list.

If you are a resident of one of the listed countries, and you hit a jackpot of $1,200 or more, then you should ask to fill out a form W8BEN. That should reduce, or in most cases, eliminate the withholding.

Even if you are not from one of the listed countries, or don’t fill out the form, you can still get the withholding back by filling out form 1040NR, or the simplified version the 1040NR-EZ.

My own tax accountant is Marissa Chien EA, author of Tax Help for Gamblers. She does an outstanding job, but some might consider her expensive. For a 1040NR she says she charges about $1,000. She adds this form is usually incorrectly filled out by most others. Her e-mail is .


Marissa is on Twitter at @taxpro4gamblers, where she occasionally answers tax questions to followers.

I’ve heard in poker games the term "strangle the blind" or similar to that. What is that?

Michele from Pocatello

I asked my friend Jason about this one. Here is what he said:

"I think what she means is a blind straddle. What that means is the person who acts after the big blind makes a raise of two times the big blind, before looking at his or her hand. This is usually done to stimulate action at a table where the pots have been small with lots of pre-flop folding. Let’s say it’s a $6-$12 limit hold ‘em game, with the small blind $3 and the big blind $6. I am in the position next to the big blind and I straddle the pot by making it $12 before I look at my cards." — Jason

Hi, I have developed a card game I believe would be ideal for casino use. I am about to put a patent on it. I need to know how to get it into a casino. I think I need to find someone to partner me.

Richard from Brisbane, Australia

I answer that question in my article Marketing New Casino Games. Eliot Jacobson also has a good article on this subject, titled The Elements of a Successful Carnival Game.

I was reading your section on the difference between the element of risk and house edge. Firstly, I assume that the element of risk is based on the correct strategy according to house advantage. I have an argument that the correct strategy for some games would be different if you are trying to minimize the element of risk. In Texas Hold 'Em Bonus, surely you should play hands like 5/2 off-suit. My intuition would think that if you played every hand you could reduce the element of risk below the quoted amount of 0.53%.

Paul from London

You're right, you can lower the element of risk by deviating from my strategy, and raising on hands with expected values of slightly less than -1. In your example, 5/2 has an expected value of -1.019987, under the Las Vegas rules. That means if you raise on that bet on average, then you can expected to lose about 1.02 times your original bet by the time the hand is over. After the initial raise, and possible additional raises after the flop and turn, the average wager on that hand will be 3.627374 units. The way I would look at it, making the raise bet is worth -0.0109987 units to the player, over 2.627374 additional units bet. The ratio of marginal additional win to marginal additional bets, by raising, is -0.0109987/2.627374 = -0.00761. That is less than the overall expected value of the game of -2.04%. So, if your goal is to minimize money lost to total money bet, including raises, then, yes, you should deviate from my basic strategy and raise on that hand. Other examples could be made in lots of games that involve raising.

To summarize, if you are trying to minimize money lost per hand, then you should follow the house edge minimizing strategies on this site. If you are trying to minimize money lost per total amount wagered, then you should opt to bet more on very borderline plays.

Hi, In Australia we have Lotto, where the major cash prize is paid if your six numbers are drawn from a possible 45 numbers (1-45) A lot of people purchase a "Slik Pik," where you get 12 games, each of six, allegedly random, random picks. My friends and I are always amazed that in the 12 games, the same number may appear up to 6 or 7 times out of the 12 games. Surely this is not random!!! My question is what is the expected number of times any number will repeat 6 or 7 times, assuming the selection is random?

Kevin from Perth, Western Australia

The expected number of times any number will appear exactly n times in 12 games is combin (12,n)×(6/45)n×(39/45)n-12. The following table shows the expected number of occurrences from 0 to 12.

Expected number of repeat numbers

Repeats Expected
0 8.0804888027
1 14.9178254818
2 12.6227754077
3 6.4732181578
4 2.2407293623
5 0.5515641507
6 0.0989986937
7 0.0130547728
8 0.0012552666
9 0.0000858302
10 0.0000039614
11 0.0000001108
12 0.0000000014
Total 45

So, to answer your question, you will see the same number exactly six times about 0.099 times per set of cards, or about once every 10.1 times. The same number appearing exactly seven times will happen 0.0131 times per set of cards, or once every 76.6 times.