This list does not yet contain any items.

Deal Me In


The best bet without using brain power is….

Dear Mark: When it comes to making the best bet in a casino, your advice has been playing perfect strategy at either blackjack or video poker. Here’s my issue with that. I am not interested in learning a new skill in any game that I will probably play once a month, for only four hours at best. But I also don’t want to make stupid bets that have a high house edge. So, what is your recommendation for either a game or wager where I don’t have to use my wits and still get a fair shake against the house? Cliff W.

Fortunately, Cliff, the good news there are alternative wagers so that you are not just limited to perfect play at blackjack or video poker when it comes to getting a “fair shake against the house.” 

The best bet in the entire casino where you don’t have to use your noggin is to walk up to a crap table and make a bet on the Pass line, and double odds underneath. It gets even better if you can get even higher multiple odds.  

For instance, if you have a $5 Pass line bet and the point is 4, if you win, your pass line bet is paid at even money (1:1), bringing you $5 in winnings. Your Pass line bet alone has a house edge of 1.4%. The Pass line wager alone is somewhat competitive against perfect play at video poker or blackjack, but NOT equal to or better than. So, Cliff, let’s enhance the wager to give it equal footing. By taking double odds ($10), you are paid at true odds (2:1) on that portion of the bet, bringing you $20 on the win. 

The house edge is tied to the odds of the bet. At double odds the house edge drops to 0.6 percent, 10x odds to 0.2 percent and 100x odds, all the way down to 0.02 percent. 

Bellying up to a crap table and joining the euphoria of this fast-paced game need not be intimidating, Cliff, as long as you stick to a simplified strategy of betting the Pass line and taking odds.  

Also, Cliff, there are two bets on a Baccarat game that offer a somewhat higher edge, and again, with no need to use your gray matter; especially since you don’t even have to know the rules as the hitting sequence is predetermined. The house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the Bank hand or 1.36% with a Player hand wager.


Dear Mark: Are dealers allowed to give you advice with your hand while you’re playing blackjack? Jack K. 


It pretty much depends, Jack, on where you are playing. 

All casinos have their own internal rules and regulations. Where I either pitched cards or managed, it was either forbidden, frowned upon, or ignored, or they didn’t give a damn, just as long as when you peeked under your Ace you didn’t advance advice to the player. As to where you play, Jack, all you can do is ask to see if it is allowed.

And as for trusting any advice you get from the dealer, well, that’s another story. 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I have seen a pregnant woman stand at a 21 game, oblivious to labor pains, until we thought we were going to become midwives, and leave only when we summoned an ambulance.” - Harold S. Smith Sr., I Want to Quit Winners (1961)


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