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Ask the Wizard #9

First of all, thanks for providing reliable gambling info. You are one of only about four or five sites on the net doing so. In your opinion, is it possible that a mathematically sound method (card counting etc.) could ever be devised to give a positive expectation in baccarat? There has recently been some speculation (and wild claims) on the bj21 and other gambling forums.

Gavin P. from Bury, St Edmunds, England

Thanks for the compliment. I address the vulnerability to card counting in my baccarat appendix 2. To make a long story short, no, baccarat is not countable unless you use a computer.

What is the value of the blackjack system called "Mastering the Flow?" It's marketed via an infomercial, and the website is www.changetheodds.com. It claims not to be a counting system, yet the vague description of the system that the website gives makes it sound like counting to me. The claims are pretty out-there: "Win every time" etc. I count cards (using the KO PREFERRED), and understand that this new "system" has to be either a simplistic count strategy, or a scam. Would you look into it for us, the gullible public?

Michael G. from Henderson, Nevada

I had a look at the web site and also found what little he says about the theory behind his system makes it sound like card counting. However I'm deeply skeptical of anything that claims to "blow old fashioned card counting away." I think we can file this under "If it sounds too good to be true is probably is."

Update: The web site in question vanished sometime after the publication of this question.

Recently, I visited one of the Indian casinos in our state (had an out-of-towner visiting.) They have Let It Ride. However, the payoff is only 500 to 1 on the Royal Flush. I would like to know what that does to the house edge on the game?

Gary from Albuquerque, New Mexico

This increases the house edge from 3.506% to 3.737%.

One thing I don't notice on your site about online gambling is the legality of it. I understand that in some locations it is illegal to gamble online and many of the online casinos are actually offshore.

Dave from Gaithersburg, Maryland

I have yet to see a federal law that states it is illegal to gamble on the Internet. However, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 does prohibit U.S. banks from facilitating moving to and from Internet casinos.

I was recently told a story that I could not believe!! A friend of mine told me that at a friendly poker game at his house, he and his friend both pulled a natural straight flush in the same hand without drawing any cards!! (in five card draw) I find this hard to believe and from your site I computed the odds of one straight flush to be approx 65,000 to one, what would the odds of 2 in one hand be with 6 players in the game (without drawing any cards??)

R.E. from New York

I'm going to give an approximate answer by assuming that each player was dealt a hand from a separate deck. This should not change the odds much. The probability of any one player drawing a straight flush as found in my section on probabilities in poker is 36/2,598,960. Lets call this probability p. The probability of two players drawing a straight flush is combin(6,2)*p2*(1-p)4 = .0000000028779. In other words, the odds against this happening are 347,477,740 to 1.

Any tips on money management in blackjack? I usually double after a win, go back to my original bet after three wins (or any loss), and play the game according to the book. I usually do pretty well, but it's slow and steady and not very exciting. Any tips?

Jackblack from New Jersey

I don't put a lot of emphasis on betting systems. In the long run you will lose the same percentage of money bet no matter what system you use. So my advice is use a system that maximizes the fun of the game.