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Separating the wheat from the chaff

Dear Mark: A few weeks back you had mentioned both the math and rules for the table game Let-it-Ride. You also recommended not playing the game. But there are other table games that seem interesting, for instance, Three Card Poker and Caribbean Stud. Compared to Let-it-Ride, which would you recommend between these two other games? Nicolas C. 


Personally, Nicolas, I would recommend Three Card Poker, both for the fun factor and because the casino advantage is lower on selected bets among the three games (Let-it-Ride, Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker) your question mentioned.

With Caribbean Stud, the best you can hope for is a casino edge of about 5.2% based on the player's ante wager, or, 2.6% based on the ante and call bet. As for the progressive wager, the average house edge is over 26%, depending, of course, on the size of the jackpot. 

As for Let-it-Ride, even if you played the game flawlessly, the casino's edge on Let-It-Ride is 3.51%. As for those Let-It-Ride side bets where for $1 you are offered an additional payoff with certain paying hands you really get snookered; these bets carry a double-digit casino advantage so definitely scratch this offer. 

With regard to Three Card poker, it depends on your cards. Allow me to rephrase that: on whether you should play your cards. The house edge is 3.37% against the Ante alone, but only 2.01% against your Queen-6-4, that is if you decide to make the Play bet. With a Pair Plus wager, the casino advantage is slightly higher at 2.32%. 

So, Nicolas, among these choices, Three Card Poker is the way to go as it offers better wagers for the player. Although the casino advantage is above my suggested “never make a wager that has higher than a 2% house edge,” of the three it has the best return, is easy to learn; and plenty of players find it fun to play.

My true suggestion here would be to give Mini-Baccarat a try. Not only is Mini-Baccarat one of the easiest casino games to play, but you don’t even have to know the rules because the correct hitting sequence is predetermined. Additionally, stakes can be relatively low when you play on a Mini-Baccarat table. With Mini-Baccarat the house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the Bank hand or 1.36% with a Player hand wager.


Dear Mark: I disagree with one of your assessment/strategies that you should always hit a 16 against a dealer with a 7-10. Sorry, but I am from the school that you should always let the dealer bust instead. What is the basis of your recommendation? Alex A.


You give me credit I don’t deserve, Alex. Hitting a 16 against a dealer with a 7, 8, 9, 10/face showing isn’t my personal assessment of how to play the hand correctly. I don’t own the math on this play or trust my back of the envelope figuring. The correct strategy for this particular hand comes from a set of computer-derived rules for playing every hand against every possible dealer up-card.

Here’s the arithmetic based on a kazillion computer calculations. If you hit this lousy hand, you are going to bust over 60 percent of the time. By giving the dealer a chance to bust out instead, you will lose approximately 70 percent of the time. 

The dealer’s chances of having a 17 or more when he or she shows a 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace is between 74% and 83%. It is for this reason that the correct basic strategy dictates that you should always hit your lousy 16. 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Eat your betting money but don’t bet you’re eating money.” – Horseracing Proverb

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