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Ask the Wizard #64

You wrote, "The double up feature is truly fair and has no house edge. This is one of the few times I say you can go either way and just do what you want." The same, of course, is true of true odds bets at craps. So, why promote taking odds at craps and not promote doubling up? Just as you can drop the house edge to essentially nothing at craps, you can do the same thing at video poker or blackjack...My own reasoning is that cutting cards against the casino for fair stakes is just boring, but I'd be interested in your opinion.

Jonathan from New York City

You are of course quoting me from my March 24 column. This is a good and fair question. I should point out that taking or laying the odds in craps does not help the player to win more, only to bet more at no additional expense. The reason I encourage craps players to bet on the odds is that it is the cheapest bet on the table and is truly a craps bet. All odds, as well as place, buy, and lay bets win if one number is thrown before another. This is a very fundamental aspect of the game. It only makes sense for the player to make the bet with the lowest house edge. Refusing the odds in craps to bet on something else instead is like refusing a free coffee refill in a restaurant and instead buying another cup.

As I pointed out in the last column some video poker games allow the player to make a double or nothing bet with no house edge. The reason I am not as forceful about taking this bet is that it does not follow the flow of video poker. The video poker player is generally not there to make a mindless even money bet. Gambling should be thought of as entertainment, for which the player should expect to pay for. If the player doesn't get any entertainment value out of the double up feature then he shouldn't pay for it, even with no house edge. So my advice to the video poker player is make the double up bet if you enjoy it, otherwise don't.

Is there a computer game of blackjack that I can purchase that features both double exposure and spanish 21 bkackjack. I would like to practice both.

George from Cresskill, USA

You can play both of these for free at any Unified Gaming casino. See my casino index for a list of them.

You stated that Unified gaming used to have a player advantage a few months ago but no more. How did they change their software?

Janice from Muskego, Wisconsin

They used to allow early surrender against an ace.

I am playing blackjack with unified gaming software. They claim they do not shuffle after every hand especially in the six deck, yet I have never seen it stop to shuffle. When I called the company to ask they said it is indicated when shuffling but I have never seen anything written on the screen that it is shuffling. After playing for usually 45 minutes to an hour it does freeze up and one can not even use the exit..everything shuts down.

Janice from Muskego, Wisconsin

It is my understanding they shuffle after every hand in the single deck game. When I have played the six-deck game you can hear a shuffling sound and the bottom of the screen says "shuffling" from time to time. Perhaps you were only playing the single deck game. It seems like they do this at random times. The lost connection is a known annoyance with Unified Gaming software. I mention it myself in my review. Some people say if you disable your sound card it helps with this problem.

You give a standard deviation for a 9/6 Jacks or Better VP is 4.417542. I’m trying to figure out what that means. If I have played 100 hands, does that mean that 2/3 of the time my result would be within 441 Wagers? It seems counter to my experience playing the game.

Ray from Maple Glen, Pennsylvania

The standard deviation of 100 hands of 9/6 Jacks or Better is 1001/2*4.416 = 44.16. You can then use this information to determine what is the probability of winning or losing more than a specified number of units. For example the winning or losing within two standard deviations, or 88.31 units, is 4.55%. There is more to it than this. Please see my part on the standard deviation in my section on the house edge.

Is there an advantage in playing same numbers in caveman keno, or playing different numbers every time. or changing one number at a time?

Mike from Mesa, USA

It doesn’t make any difference.