Ask The Wizard #60

Wizard, I have just read an article on another site that was talking about Three Card Poker. The author called the "Pair Plus " bet a sucker bet ,compared to the "ante" bet. Of the two bets , I thought the "ante" bet was more of a sucker bet because of its higher house edge. Also, what is the element of risk in Three Card Poker , compared to Let it Ride , assuming the player is starting with $5 bets in the three betting circles for Let It Ride, and $5 in the Pair plus and ante bet in Three Card Poker?

Eddie from West Memphis, Arkansas

Good question. In full play Three Card Poker the house edge on Pairplus is 2.32% and on Ante & Play is 3.37%. However the element of risk on Pairplus is still 2.32% while in Ante & Play it is 2.01%. I believe if comparing one game to another the element of risk is more appropriate. In other words comparing the expected loss to the total amount bet. In this case Ante & Play has the lower element of risk and is thus the better bet. So I would disagree with the writer of the article you mention. According to my house edge index the element of risk in Let it Ride is 2.85%, higher than that of Ante & Play.

What is the difference between making a come bet then taking the odds and a put bet? They sound the same to me in your explanation of put bets. Since you recommend against put bets you also recommend against come bets followed by the odds or am I not understanding you correctly?

Mitch from Hopkins, USA

A put bet is like a come bet on a particular point. In other words the put bet does not get the benefit of winning on a 7 or 11 on the first roll, but the bet immediately gets "put" on the point of the bettors choice. The bettor may also immediately take odds on the put bet. Put bets are generally not a good idea because the player is twice as likely to win as lose on the first roll of a come bet, and the player is voluntarily forfeiting that roll with a put bet. However if the odds allowed are high enough a put bet, backed up with maximum odds, can have a lower house edge than a place or buy bet. My craps section states how high the odds need to get for this to happen. My craps advice in general is to stick to the line bets (pass, don’t pass, come, and don’t come) and backed up the odds.

While it is widely reported that casinos put their better paying machines in high traffic areas, do they also put the highest paying machine in these areas as well? I envision the following scenario: for a casino to have a sign saying payouts up to XX% (usually 97%+) only one machine needs to pay that percentage, and that machine will be tucked into a low traffic area (or frequently moved) to keep the amount of winnings on that machine low. While the machines paying significantly lower (though still better paying than the rest of the casino) say 90% are kept in the high traffic area, with the low paying 85% machines throughout the remaining areas. Is there any reason to believe this is how casinos operate? From your review of slots how often do you see different payout % for machines of the same type in the same casino? Sorry for the lengthy questions, love the site and the absence of silly cant lose strategies/advice.

Mitch from Hopkins, USA

Based on my own research I have found that the theory about the correlation between return and slot placement to be untrue. I do believe that oversized novelty machines in high visibility areas are set lower, but that is as far as I’ll go. Most casinos are very consistent and all slots of a particular kind and coinage will be set to the same percentage. Those that do mix up loose and tight machines seem to do so randomly. You are right that if a casino advertises "Our machines pay up to 99%" then only one in the entire casino has to be set that high. However some casinos will have certain carousels or banks that they claim are all set to a certain percentage. Wherever me or my associates have seen such claims, and tested them, we found the claim to be true. So my advice to slot players is to look for particular machines that are guaranteed to pay a high return, and don’t pay any heed to the guessing games.

The Question I have is about Microgaming Blackjack. I have played the for fun version of about 10 online casino trying to determine the best one and I run into a question I have yet been able to understand. Out of about 1000 games or more at each casino I found out some days using the basic strategy for the casino from your web site I stay just about even with the dealer and some times show a small credit profit. But other days I am lucky to win 20 hands out of 100. And I never stray from the strategy and just bet an even bet. Is this normal that some days the random generator is set up to sway the dealers way for a long period of time and if so does it ever sway the players way that much too? I sure would like to know more because I really enjoy the game and am not wanting to make a lot of money but when you are betting min. and it eats away 200 credits in no time this does not seem normal odds. Please if you can educate me on this I would think you very much.

Dean from Winston Salem, USA

In my strong opinion the variation you’re observing is the result of random variation in the cards, not where you’re playing. I suspect you are exaggerating about sometimes only winning 20 hands out of 100, that would be very unlikely. Some people believe that Microgaming has a "take down" mode in which the player will lose like crazy for a period of time. It is to be expected that in any game the player will occasionally have bad losing streaks, as well as good winning streaks. So these alleged "take down" periods I think are just normal bad luck and that all Microgaming casinos deal a fair game.

In blackjack and/or in Caribbean stud poker, does it make a difference if you are the only player seated at the table versus if the table is full?

Patrick from New York, USA


Just read your latest ’Ask the Wizard’ section. You said that sport betting would be one of the ways to earn a living. Could you elaborate a little bit? Does it have similar edge over the bookmaker as blackjack with card counting does over the casino? Thanks.

Daniel from Hong Kong

Unfortunately I can’t elaborate much. Sports betting is not my strong point, although I plan to learn more about it when I have the time. I will say it is hard to compare the profitability of sports betting to card counting. Card counting is very technical and by the book. Making money sports betting requires more judgement and is more subject to opinion. There are various strategies one can employ to make money sports betting, for example looking to arbitrage games by taking both sides at different casinos under different point spreads, looking to exploit unusual proposition bets, or going after correlated parlays. I would recommend ’Sharp Sports Betting’ by Stanford Wong for more information on winning at sports betting.

My friend and I are debating two blackjack issues that arose from his Caribbean Vacation. (1) What shift in odds does the dealer NOT drawing the second card have? House favor or player favor? (2) in your simulations, what impact does the number of players have on the accuracy of the odds?

Beau from Toronto, Canada

(1) It depends what happens if the dealer does have a blackjack. If the player is guaranteed to lose no more than the original wager then it doesn’t matter if the dealer takes a second card or not. If the player stands to lose the total amount bet after doubling or splitting and the dealer gets a blackjack then that works to the dealer’s advantage. (2) I don’t have to simulate this because the number of players makes no difference.

Thank you for all the excellent information that you provide. My question concerns your recent answer to the question about gambling for a living. Specifically, making a living from internet casino bonuses. Do you think that this is still possible? Back in 2000, I made a good deal of money from Internet bonuses. If I had worked on it full time, I probably could have quit my job. However in 2001, I only made about 4 grand all year from Internet bonuses. The reason for that is the fact that casinos have gotten so stingy with their bonuses. Many of them require a player to play a deposit five or more times before withdrawing. This of course cuts down a player’s advantage and also makes a streak of bad luck a decent possibility. Even with a 100k bankroll, it does not seem that this could work. Am I wrong? Is there something else I don’t know about?

Tim from Chicago, USA

The days when it was easy to make good money gambling on the Internet are over. Players can still make $50 here and $100 all over the place but the $500 or more bonuses are hard to come by any more. It isn’t the play requirements that are ruining bonus hunting, it is caps on the size of bonuses. To give an example, consider a 20% bonus with a 5 times play requirement, up to a $100 bonus. If you deposit $500 then the expected loss of $2500 in action playing basic strategy blackjack is only $10, assuming an 0.4% house edge. Even if you play ten times through the deposit the expected loss is still only $20, which is much less than the $100 bonus. The problem, in my opinion, is that it isn’t worth the fuss for only $80.

Dear Wizard, In video poker, what are the odds of drawing the following cards to a royal flush?

1. one card
2. two cards
3. three card
4. four cards
5. Dealt a royal flush

I am asking the question because I recently hit a royal flush after holding 2 cards the ace and jack of diamonds and then drew the ten, queen and king of diamonds. I know the odds of drawing 3 cards to the royal must be very high. Then last week , I was sitting next to a man who held the Ace of diamonds and drew 4 cards to complete his royal. I was amazed. Thanks for your answer.


1. 1/47
2. 1/combin(47,2) = 1/1081
3. 1/combin(47,3) = 1/16215
4. 1/combin(47,4) = 1/178365
5. 4/combin(52,5) = 1/2598960