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Deal Me In


Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

Dear Mark: Is it appropriate to tip a Casino Host? When I hit, the dealer, bartender, server(s), and the slot attendants are automatic. I see very few people doing it. I was just curious. Mike B.


Speaking, Mike, on behalf of all casino employees, I can assure you they sure do appreciate your spreading the love around. Casino employees need those gestures of gratuity to make a decent wage. If the casinos had to pay a true living wage, they would have to figure a way of making up for lost revenue, like changing the rules of the game, increasing table minimums, and even altering paybacks.

As for tipping a casino host, it is voluntary, but not expected. In many casinos, it is not even allowed, but still happens. The reason is that hosts are compensated according to the player’s action vs. how much in goodies they hand out.

That said, Mike, tipping a host, especially if you are asking for perks beyond your level play, can be worth it. One example would be getting into tournaments and events that you might be marginally qualified for. If a host gets you into a tournament where you needed their help getting you in, and you win a boatload of money, then you might consider tipping both the dealers and your host generously.

Yes, I have tipped casino hosts in the past, discreetly by using an envelope that had a gift certificate in it, or occasionally, I will make a sports bet for them. One wager that paid handsomely for the host was back in 1999 when I made two $100 bets on Kenny Brack to win the Indianapolis 500 at 25/1, and handed the host one of the tickets before the race began. It was the least I could do for the royal treatment – suite, food and beverage that in all probability I didn’t deserve – that I received that Memorial weekend. If I recall correctly, he told me he was going to take his family to Disneyland with the $2,500, whereas I bought a new Mac laptop with the winnings.

The bottom line, Mike, and yes, here comes some contrary advice, is that you should never feel obligated to tip for perks that you are entitled to. Yet, I believe I am on the plus side for having done so.


Dear Mark: On a Jacks-or-Better machine, with the screen showing an A, K, Q, J, and a 6 off suit, do I draw one for the 10, or do I drop the A and 6 and draw two? Also, with a three-card flush, all low w/two low off-suit, do I draw two or draw five? Kevin F.


My video poker strategy card offers a simplified strategy, which will reduce the house edge to less than one percent. Learning the complete Jacks-or-Better strategy will tighten the screws on the casino even more, and you will experience better results. For the two hands you mentioned above, this would be the correct strategy.

The four high cards off suit as described (A, K, Q, J) should be kept intact. Just draw one. As for the three-card flush, all low cards w/two low off suit, if you are looking at a three-card, double inside straight flush, yes, keep it; otherwise, draw five.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Play is a hand-to-hand encounter with Fate.” – Anatole France, The Garden of Epicurus (1926)


Sloppily placed chips might not cut it

Dear Mark: After a Saints pre-season game the other night I went to Harrah's in New Orleans. I played poker most of the night but as I was leaving I played a little roulette. It was late, and there were only two other people playing at the table. I placed my bets on several numbers but on the third spin, I hit a 17. The problem came when the dealer paid me. She paid me like a split. The chip was not even across the line it was only touching the line. I argued it was a straight bet, so she called the pit boss over and he saw it her way. I've lost at a casino plenty of times before, but I never left feeling cheated. I have never had this happen before since most dealers will square up any chips put down sloppily. Am I crazy? Nathan V.


Of all the table games that I dealt, Nathan, I thoroughly enjoyed dealing roulette the most. In addition to finding it the least stressful to deal, I loved the light conversation with patrons between spins. Heck, just about every recipe I have, from the Eggplant Parmigiana at Original Joe’s (San Jose, CA) to the Anchor Inn’s (Buffalo, NY) chicken wings secret sauce are written on the back of a drink coaster, coming from some Chatty Cathy employee who worked there.

Still, after the Saints game, I first envisioned a packed casino with a jam-up roulette table to boot. On these frenzied games, you get to see how the dealer works his or her magic with so many chips placed in what at first would appear to be a muddled mess. When I dealt 10¢ roulette in downtown Reno, a bazillion chips would appear on all the corners, split possibilities, with straight up bets that towered a foot high. Fortunately, each player gets a distinctively colored chip when “buying in” which helps to avoid confusion and disputes.

Yes, Nathan, I agree, when the game is not chaotic, and particularly in your case with just two players at the table, dealers should try their best to clean up the layout before the next spin. Nonetheless, Nathan, the accurate placement of all your chips is still your responsibility. If the number you want to bet is covered with chips, it is permissible for you to stack your chips on top of the others like a barber pole. This is another reason each player has his or her individual colored chips. Also, when the size of the table may make it difficult for you to reach some of the betting areas, simply put your chips on the table and ask the dealer to place them on the appropriate spot for you.

As for the ruling from the pit boss, it is strictly a judgment call. You, weren’t cheated, and in your case the decision was most likely made without malice. You will never get total consistency from all pit bosses as to any decision, as some would award the patron the straight-up payoff; 35-1, whereas others would assess that your wager is not placed dead center on the number, so the split payoff, 17-1, is what you will receive.

In the three joints where I dealt roulette, just touching the line with your chip in two of the three was considered a split bet. When I was a pit boss, had you complained, I would have looked at your past performance, noted that you were playing a straight-up wager on that particular number during previous spins, and paid you accordingly. Moreover, even if you were not on that number beforehand, I probably still would have paid you anyway figuring we’d get those 18 additional chips back on the next spin.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The roulette table pays nobody except him that keeps it. Nevertheless a passion for gaming is common, though a passion for keeping roulette tables is unknown.” – Bernard Shaw