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Ask the Wizard #25

How is the house edge derived in Three Card Poker (ante/play bet)? I haven't played yet, but my guess is that the edge comes from the fact that the player must decide whether to fold before the dealer. If the player folds and the dealer does not qualify, does the player get paid on the ante anyway? Otherwise, it would seem an even game (which is obviously not the case). Thanks in advance.

T.T. from Clarkston, Michigan

You're right, the house edge comes from the player having to act first. If both the player and dealer fold, the player loses.

Hello, Michael... I've played a variation of video poker recently called "Triple Play". This machine allows one to play three hands at a time where the cards one holds are carried forward from the first hand to the other two. If one is dealt, say, four of a kind on the initial draw of five cards, one will be paid on all three hands. My impression is that one's chances are more favorable on this machine versus standard jacks-or-better. Is this simply an illusion? Thanks in advance for your reply.

Peter from Ottawa, Canada

Your expected return are the same on a triple play machine as a single hand machine, assuming the same pay table.

In your experience, which sites actually pay their affiliates for traffic. Am especially interested in Unified Gaming 10% deposit/lifetime. Thanks.

Kevin from Bay, St. Louis, U.S.

I used to be a Gambler's Palace and Sportbet affiliate, as well as some other Unified Gaming casinos. Both Gambler's Palace and Sportbet seemed to pay me on a regular basis. These two had the most prominent positions on my site at the time. However, it was hard to tell from which casino I was being paid. They all issued checks though the Bank of Nevis, without any details about from who or why you were getting the check. Checks based on my own gambling winnings also came without explanation from the Bank of Nevis, making things even more confusing to keep track of.

First of all, I would like to add my name to the growing list of people who love your web site. Your information is quite valuable to both the beginning and expert gambler, and you present your findings in a pleasant, understandable, and even humorous manner. I always check out your site before I head to Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe just to remind me how to play smartly.

Anyway, on to my question. Well, more of an observation: when the dealer pulls a 5 on a 16 for their sixth consecutive win, there's always someone who gets up and leaves the table, muttering that the dealer is a mean cruel heartless soul, and goes in search of a "hotter" table. But is there any truth in this? Obviously the dealer is inconsequential to the cards dealt (I like to say the dealer is "simply a messenger of the cards") but are streaks in an 8-deck shoe inevitable, and even predictable? Or is it more like your roulette example, where the odds of each new round are exactly the same? Thanks once again for your web site.

Dave K. from Beverly Hills, California

Thanks for your kind words. Streaks, such as the dealer drawing a 5 to a 16, are inevitable but not predictable. Blackjack is not entirely a game of independent trials like roulette, but the deck is not predisposed to run in streaks. For the non-card counter it may be assumed that the odds are the same in each new round. Putting aside some minor effects of deck composition, the dealer who pulled a 5 to a 16 the last five times in a row would be just as likely to do it the next time as the dealer who had been busting on 16 for several hours.

I want to play blackjack at Lasseters Casino. They use Access software, whose rules are an infinite number of decks, split any pair and re-split once, double on any two cards, double after split and European hole card rule, and dealer stands on soft 17. Please supply me with the relevant Basic Strategy chart. Thank you.

Peter from Hemel Hempstead, United Kingdom

Here is my Lasseter's basic strategy.

I found (and played at) two casinos that offer free cash for creating a real account. There is no purchase required. The two I found were 7 Sultans ($10) and Geisha Lounge. Are there any others like this?

Jay S. from Columbia, U.S.

I have seen several free money offers like these. Two that come to mind are the Colosseum Casino and the Grand Opry Casino. Both of these offer $20 for free. Personally, I don't get too excited over these offers. It isn't worth the fuss of downloading the software and the hard disk space it takes up for only $20. However, I have played at the two casinos I mentioned because they also had a deposit bonus in addition to the free money.

Concerning the Cash Splash progressive slot game played on Microgaming sites... Is the jackpot paid by all participating casinos? If so, does each casino have the same payout percentage set for these machines or is it set by each casino individually? What about mid-level payouts on these Cash Splash machines? Thank you very much.

Helen from Memphis, U.S.

I would assume that the odds are the same at all Microgaming casinos. All casinos probably contribute money to the same account from which the jackpot is paid. This way, the individual casino from which the jackpot was hit does not have to reach into their own pocket when somebody wins. Mid-level payouts are probably paid by the casino itself.

Your explanation of virtual versus physical slot machine reels was most informative.

  1. Given the random number generator stops on a virtual Cherry say, how does the machine make the physical reel stop on a visible cherry? I mean technically speaking.
  2. Does this explain how pachinko machines from Japan can electronically alter payout percentages without altering the physical reel symbols?
  3. Suppose the machine decides its time for a BAR, the only BAR on the third reel, just as one passes the pay-line. Does it let the reel go one full turn and catch it on the next go-round?
  4. Suppose a physical reel stops on a paying combination by mistake, i.e. a symbol other than the virtual one pre-ordained. What happens then?

Thanks much.

Larry H. from Redwood City, California

Let me answer each question individually.

  1. It is just programming code that dictates to the machine that if the virtual reel stops on a cherry to make the actual reel stop on a cherry. There are actual notches on the reels which may help the machine to stop in the right place. If you peer through the glass at and angle you can sometimes see these notches. However, I am not an engineer and am not sure exactly how the machine knows to stop at just the right moment. It just take it for granted that it can.
  2. Theoretically, the casino could change the payout on a slot machine with just a remote control. The remote control could tell the machine to use any previously programmed virtual reels. Practically speaking, the major casinos need to get approval from the gaming authorities to change the payback of a machine. If they did get such authorization all a slot technician has to do is replace a chip inside the machine, known as an e-prom. This happens infrequently and would not warrant the expense of a remote control.
  3. It seems to me the reels spin at least several times before stopping.
  4. In the unlikely even that happened, then I think it would trigger a malfunction and the bet would be voided.

What are the odds of rolling the same number with six dice in one roll?

Kyle Hill from Colstrip, Montana

The odds of getting six of the same number with six dice is 6*(1/6)6=1/7776 =~ 0.01286%.

Where is the best place to find loose slots in casinos, if there is any?

Bill G. from Austin, U.S.

According to my research, there are no good or bad areas. Most casinos have a consistent return for all slots of a given denomination.

When a local gaming authority sets a minimum payout for slots does that minimum apply to each individual machine or a casino average payout? I know some games are set from the manufacturer higher than other and some lower. For example, if the minimum is 87%, then can one machine be set to 60% and another set to 120% for and average of 90% thus exceeding the minimum, or does each machine must pay at least 87%.

Jim from U.S.

The minimum applies to every machine. Someone with the Gaming Control Board in Carson City, Nevada, told me that every machine in the state must meet minimum payback percentages. The only exception, he said, are on some antique machines in Virginia City.

What other options are open to an online casino player if they are dissatisfied with an online casinos response to a problem? My particular gripes are removal of a bonus for inactivity and requiring a copy of a credit card statement to cash out winnings.

Rod from Newburgh, U.S.

There is not much you can do in the way of complaining to a higher authority. Some of the better jurisdictions have a government body to oversee the online casinos. However, if you ever bring a specific complaint to their attention, then they seem to either do nothing or side with the casino. It is much more effective to raise a stink on Internet bulletin boards. Even if it doesn't work, at least other players will be warned.