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Deal Me In


One coin is fine on a multi-coin/multi-line

Dear Mark: On a multi-line/multi-coin video slot machine, how many coins do you recommend per line? Also, on a slot machine where you can push a button to stop the reels when I do decide to stop them, does it make any difference as to my chances of winning? Susan L. 


On multi-line/multi-coin slots, I would recommend playing one coin per line. The reason, Susan, is that more than likely you are playing on what is called a Straight Multiplier or an “equal distribution” machine. The payouts on additional coins per line are just straight multiples of the one-coin payout on most of these machines. Hence, there is no advantage to playing more than one coin per line.

Pressing the stop button at your choice of intervals, Susan, has no effect on your chances of winning, or losing for that matter. What pressing the ‘Stop Spin” button does do is cut out the “round and round she goes…” fun factor that many players enjoy. 


Dear Mark: We are offering a Las Vegas Night this year for our charity. There will be two blackjack games, both single deck. Chips will be valued at $1 with winnings that can be turned in for prizes, not cash. Although we will be using standard blackjack rules, I am questioning burning a card after the shuffle. Should we, and what is the reasoning behind it? Henry P.


With blackjack, Henry, the top card or cards are typically discarded after the shuffle. When these card or cards are discarded from the top of the deck, they are called burn card(s). The reasoning for this security measure is to reduce the chances of a player or players getting advance information about future cards.

There is a good chance that as you swap out dealers at your charity event most will forget to burn a card every time. Even newbie dealers in a casino sometimes forget, added Yours Truly to that list when I broke in.

Worry not, Henry, as this security measure is certainly not imperative with casual play, especially if your top prize is a gigantic stuffed teddy bear.


Dear Mark: I have two questions regarding home-play poker ethics. First, what are your thoughts on a player who “chip dumps?” Some of my poker buddies find it acceptable to do, but I don’t. I find it unethical. What are your thoughts? Also, is it okay to talk about your poker hand while playing? Pete J. 


To clarify for readers who don’t know, chip dumping is when a player makes large bets and raises, only to fold later to a much smaller wager, a bet that any legitimate player would typically call.  

Another example of chip dumping is two players who are collaborating; one making large wagers with an inferior hand and expecting to lose to the accomplice, which gives the co-conspirator more chips.

Players who chip dump think it’s ethical. I believe it’s out-and-out cheating. 

Talking about your hand, especially with the disingenuous intent of deceiving other players, is called coffeehousing. Again, is it ethical? Personally, Pete, I don’t think it is. My suggestion here is that house rules with respect to coffeehousing and chip dumping should be established at the outset of kitchen table play.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The only man who makes money following the races is one who does it with a broom and shovel.” – Elbert Hubbard


Disclosure of slot return percentages not guaranteed

Dear Mark: Are casinos required by law to inform the customer what the slot return percentages are for their slot machines? Mary Ellen P.


Because slot machines hold some of the highest percentage returns for the casino, yes, Mary Ellen, consumers should be granted those numbers so they can shop for value by comparing percentage returns. Unfortunately, Mary Ellen, it strictly depends on the state where you are playing.


Disappointingly, some casinos are NOT required by their state to release information on slot machine percentage paybacks; other states break down casino returns by geographic area, and in some states, it’s easy to find out the average slot payback percentage on all slot machines for an individual casino. It’s posted right in the newspaper.


Nevertheless, no matter where you play, every slot machine has an accounting system built in that contains the data needed to make that hold percentage calculation. Whether the casino releases that information to the general public is based on whether the state requires it to, or not. 


Dear Mark: Basic strategy states that when you have a soft 18, and the dealer is showing a 9, 10, or an Ace, you are supposed to hit that hand. If I have more than two cards that make a soft 18, should I continue to keep hitting? Zach S.


You are correct, Zach, that when you have a two-card soft 18, basic strategy dictates that you stand against a two, double down versus a three through six, stand if the dealer is showing a seven or eight, and hit against a nine, 10 or ace. Having a soft 18 consisting of more than two cards doesn’t change that strategy. You should continue to hit it. 


Yes, Zach, it does seem odd, but you are still slightly better off by hitting a soft 18 with multiple cards than you would be by standing pat. 


Dear Mark: Based on your suggestion, I avoid machine-shuffled blackjack games. Fortunately, where I play, they still offer some hand-shuffled games; both cards that are dealt face-up and face-down.  What is the casino’s rationale for cards being dealt face-up? Rob B.


I am glad, Rob, that you are heeding my suggestion of avoiding automatic shuffling machines. Even though the built-in edge the casino holds on your play is the same whether shuffling is by hand or by machine, with machine shuffling the game is played at a much faster pace – more hands dealt per hour – to as much as 25% more hands per hour. Why give casinos those extra hands per hour when they already hold an edge on your play?


As for the rationale behind the cards being dealt face-up, once again, it speeds up the game. Dealers can instantly announce hand totals without themselves handling the cards. Another reason, Rob, is for security purposes, in that it eliminates the potential for cheating by a player marking or switching cards.


 Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Look high, look low, and we see that gamblers actually form the majority of the world's inhabitants.” - James Runciman, Side Lights (1893)