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Deal Me In


Three speeds – three different results  

Dear Mark: I’m confused as to your answer last week to George R. regarding shuffling machines. You stated “What continuous shuffling machines and non-continuous shufflers alike will do is to cause the average player to lose more, simply because more hands are dealt per hour.” I always assumed that playing on an automatic shuffling machine was different than continuous shufflers and were okay to play on. Dan L. 

Agreed, Dan, there is difference between a continuous shuffling machine and a non-continuous automatic shuffler. A CSM randomly shuffles the discards after every round played, making for a game that flows faster, try 20% more hands per hour, which in turn increases your theoretical loss by the same measure.  

But non-continuous automatic shufflers will also cause the average player to lose more – again, simply because more hands are dealt per hour. With shuffling machines of any kind, the built-in edge the casino holds doesn’t change, yet the speed of the game does. 

On average, Dan, plan on losing more money per hour against continuous shufflers, followed by non-continuous automatic shufflers, followed by what you should want to play on in the first place, hand-shuffled games. 

Dear Mark: I have been playing cribbage for 27 years and have yet to get a 29 hand. I saw my first one last week but unfortunately it was not mine. What are the odds of getting a 29 hand? Is it harder than a royal flush? Lyle H. 

Cribbage involves the playing and grouping of cards in combinations to gain points, 29 being the highest. There are four perfect hands in cribbage, one of each suit, which can produce 29 points. To accomplish perfection, your hand must consist of three 5s and a Jack, and the card turned up must be the fourth five, and must be the same suit as the Jack in your hand. Here is how the hand is scored: Eight combinations of "15" for 16 points, four-of-a-kind for 12 points, and a matching "nobs," the Jack, for 1 point, equaling 29 points.

As someone who has always held a cribbage board at arm’s length, I seldom play the game. Instead, I use the crib board as a scoring apparatus for dominoes. But my Dad, a lifelong player, who, believe me, plays a lot of cribbage, was the first person I called to see how many 29’s he’s had in his 70-plus years of playing. Answer: NONE, and “never seen one, either.” Considering that countless games he played against my Uncle Albin, that seemed odd. Which leads me to wonder how anyone could spend a lifetime playing a game and never attain the perfect hand. You at least saw a perfect hand, Lyle, but there sure must be some long odds of actually holding one.  

According to the American Cribbage Congress, the odds of being dealt a perfect hand while playing against a single opponent are 216,580 to one. And if you are playing against two or three opponents, where you are dealt five cards and not six, those odds rise to one in 649,740. Now compare that to a royal flush on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine, where a royal flush appears, on average, once in every 40,390 hands. 

Keep playing, Lyle, maybe your day is coming. Oh, and if you ever do achieve the highest-scoring cribbage hand, please send me a picture for my Gambling Wall of Fame.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Man is not a born gambler but, from his experiences in life, he acquires a fascination for the elements of chance.” - J Philip Jones, Gambling Yesterday and Toady 1973







The Gentle Art of Tipping

Dear Mark: What would be the appropriate amount to tip someone that pays you your slot jackpot win? It was a thousand dollar jackpot.  Nancy F.

Credit Samuel Johnson for establishing the tradition that has evolved into the present-day tip. In the 18th century London coffee houses, Johnson and his friends would hand their server a slip of paper with coins attached. On the paper was written, “To Insure Promptness.” The modern acronym of this phrase,” tip”, apparently derives from the handy strategy of that band of cronies.

Fast forward a couple hundred years and even Sammy probably couldn’t come up with a set amount of what you should tip slot personal on a hand pay. In a casino restaurant with good service, upwards of 15 to 20 percent is the norm. But table service is different from counting out 10 Ben Franklins; moreover, the $1,000 jackpot doesn’t take into consideration that it may have cost you $800 to get your windfall.

That said, most front-line slot employees get paid minimum wage or close to it. Additional income comes through the gratuities of casino patrons, like you, Nancy. Slot employees need those gestures of gratuity to make a living.  

Whether you tip or not, Nancy, and how much, is essentially up to you. As one who over tips, my 2¢ worth would be wide of the mark. So I called a friend who has worked for over 30 years in the slot departments of five different casinos to get his take. He recommended $15-$25 to the slot attendant who made the hand pay if the individual had been helpful and pleasant towards you, and you didn't have to wait forever to get your winnings.

The bottom line, Nancy, is to tip only what you are comfortable with, and tip only for good service. Even I, with 20 years on the inside, won’t tip a put-out casino employee.

Dear Mark: I have been playing video poker for about a decade now and have yet to hit a royal flush. I get to the casino about four times a year, usually play on quarter machines, and typically stay about four hours. Shouldn’t I have hit a royal by now? Sherry C.

Scarce as they are, Sherry, hitting any royal, even with a draw, is a rarity. Even with identifying machines with a decent payback, and employing perfect play, those elusive royal flushes appear, on average, once in every 40,000 hands.

Let’s crunch your individual numbers. Sounds bad, but it’s painless. Four hours of play per session, multiplied by four times a year over a decade, and let’s say 200 hands an hour, would put your hand total at 32,000 hands. That’s still a bit short of the 40,000-hand average of hitting one.

Will you eventually hit a royal? I can't say with 100% certainty that you will. I know plenty of players who have hit way more than their fair share of royals, others who have hit far fewer than they should have. What I can say is that the more you play, the more you increase the likelihood that you will hit one.

In the meantime, Sherry, the house edge, without hitting a royal flush on a 25 cent Jacks-or-better 9/6 machine is, 2.5%, all while you’ll keep yearning for that royal. 

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: The most sensible advice that may be given to would-be gamblers, or inventors of systems to be used at Monte Carlo, may be summed up in a single word: ‘Don’t’. - Francois Blanc (1806) the nineteenth-century entrepreneur who established the Monet Carlo Casino