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Ask the Wizard #68

The Mohegan Sun casino here in Connecticut recently added a limited number of blackjack tables that don’t seem to be addressed in your synopsis. It is a 4 deck shoe dealt from a Shufflemaster that, essentially created an infinite deck, inasmuch as the dealer puts the dead cards back into the machine for reshuffling pretty much as the completion of each round of decisions. The game allows splitting to 4 times, double down on splits, dealer stands on all 17’s, early surrender, and double on any first 2 cards except 10’s and face. I have had some very good luck at this game and was wondering if it is one I should continue to play or switch back to the conventional 6 or 8 deck shoe.

Ray from Shelton, Connecticut

There is a common misconception that a continuous shuffler is equivalent mathematically to an infinite deck game. It is not. If the first card dealt is an ace, for example, the probability that second card is an ace is slightly less than 1/13, because one ace has already been removed from the shoe. As I have explained in great detail in my blackjack appendix 10 a continuous shuffler actually lowers the house edge marginally compared to a cut card game. However the dealer never stops to shuffle so you are being exposed to more hands per hour, so expect to lose more per hour. I doubt very much they allow early surrender at the Mohegan Sun, if they did the player would have an edge of 0.28%. Assuming you really meant late surrender the house edge is coincidentally 0.28%, according to Blackjack Edge software.

My friend owns a bar and has a "shake of the day" where there are ten dice in a Tupperware container, what are the odds of matching 8 out of the 10 in one shake. Thank you for your time.

August from Oshkosh, USA

The probability that if you roll 10 dice and exactly 8 numbers are the same is 6*combin(10,8)*(1/6)8*(5/6)2 = 1/8957.952. The probability of matching at least 8 is 6*[combin(10,8)*(1/6)8*(5/6)2 + combin(10,9)*(1/6)9*(5/6) + (1/6)10] = 1/8569.469.

Did old slot machines, that were not computer operated have greater chances of winning? If so, how did they work?

Sarah from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

I don’t know whether the chances of winning were better or not. They worked the same way as they do now except each stop on each reel had an equal chance. The very early ones didn’t pay money but chewing gum, which explains the bar symbols (sticks of gum) and fruits (flavors) on some modern slot machines.

In your lottery probability chart for the MD lotto game you make no allowance for the probability of a split jackpot. What effect does this possibility have on expected value?

Bob from Falls Church, Virginia

No, I didn’t account for splitting the jackpot. That definitely does depress the value, the more people that play the more it reduces the expected return. I didn’t have enough information about number of players when I wrote that article to properly factor that in.

With correct playing strategy, do you know the break-even point on Microgaming’s "SUPAJAX" game? Thanks.

Michael from Erie, USA

The Crucial Casinos web site presents an analysis of this game, in which the writer claims the break even point is at $53,000. You can read all about it at www.crucialcasinos.com/progressive_slots/supajax.

When playing Three Card Poker what is the optimal ratio of the Pairplus bet to the ante/play bet? (Since if you have a Q/6/4 or better but no-pair and the dealer does not qualify - you lose the Pairplus bet but win the Ante. In this case a equal bet on both with be a push - but doubling the Pairplus bet on the Ante - would give you a win of the Pairplus bet amount)

Arthur from West Orange, New Jersey

The optimal ratio is to bet 100% on the ante and 0% on the Pairplus. Assuming full pay rules the element of risk is 2.01% on the Ante and 3.37% on Pairplus. Your goal should be to minimize the element or risk as much as possible. Be warned that every other player will bet on the Pairplus and will ridicule those who don’t go along. Once I bet $50 on the Ante only and got a straight flush, which would have paid $2000 on the Pairplus. The other players had a good laugh at my expense but I had no regrets.

Do you have any advice/thoughts on Spin Poker? The company that makes the game says to use the same strategy as you would use on jacks or better (if playing jacks or better SP). I've played it at the Claridge and it seems like the placement of the cards you are holding, makes a difference, such as if they are bunched up or spaced out. Also, I think you should expand your coverage on the n-play machines since it is getting more popular everyday and some people are losing a lot of money on these. I've also seen some triply play draw poker machines at 6/5 which really clean you out, such as the ones at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, which is not the place to play video poker in AC! Thanks for the great site!

Jef from Atlantic City, US

IGT was right when they said you should use the same strategy for Spin Poker as single line video poker. Mathematically speaking the odds are the same. However Spin Poker has greater volatility since 9 different lines share many of the same cards. The same is true of multi-play video poker, the strategy and return is the same for a single line game. I do get into the volatility of multi-play video poker in my video poker appendix 3.

Which of these ways to play jacks or better video poker has the greater risk of loss, assuming the payoff schedules are the same (9/6): 1000 plays of a dollar machine ($5 each play) or 1000 plays of power poker ($.25 each of 4 games, total $5 each play)

Ray from Maple Glen, Pennsylvania

For those who don't know Power Poker is a Microgaming term for 4-play video poker. $1 video poker has much more volatility than 25 cents 4-play. With more volatility the probability of ruin is greater, but so is the probability of a big win.