Tag: gaming-strategy

Gaming Tips: Blackjack, Poker, Craps & More

If you love to gamble, but you don’t win as much as you’d like . . . check out these gaming tips to step up your game the next time you’re in Tunica!

The Ultimate Guide to Live/Table Poker vs Video Poker

Travelers to Tunica tend to want the odds in their favor. With a wide variety of gaming spread across six different first-class casinos, some folks may wonder if certain poker games are more winnable than others. Spending money with plans of making a profit is an investment, but like all investments, profit isn’t guaranteed. That’s… Read more »

When is the Best Time of Day to Play in Tunica?

Timing is Everything . . . If you’ve ever visited one of Tunica’s six casinos, you know that the action never stops. In fact, something about the bright lights, game sounds, and the allure of achievement make visitors require very little rest. It’s hard to ease excitement, but sometimes you need to eat, sleep, or… Read more »

First Timer Tips & Tricks for the Best Possible Casino Experience

Just like most sports and recreation, there’s etiquette involved in the casino experience. It can be daunting not to know the unspoken rules. So, we’ve put together the low-down for the soon to be high-rollers. If you’re new to the casino scene, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Sports Betting and Parlays

There are times sports bettors think they’ve zeroed in on multiple winners and are tempted to bet parlays — betting multiple teams, with all required to win for the bettor to collect.

The temptation is in the payoffs. Let’s use parlays on point-spread bets as an example.

Sports Betting on Baseball

Sports Betting On Baseball 101 Blog

When sports bettors turn to baseball, point spreads, or a “run line,” are available just as they are in football or basketball. If the Reds are playing the Cardinals in St. Louis, with the Reds listed at +1.5, then Cardinals bettors need them to win by two runs or more, while Reds bettors win if Cincinnati wins the game or loses by only one run.

More commonly, though, baseball bettors focus on the money line. The run line isn’t as popular as point spreads in football and basketball.

Is House Edge Affected by Length of Play?

Table games players have their own styles and preferences. One of the divisions is between those who will play all night and those who prefer short sessions.

Should I Double Down on 11 in Blackjack?

Blackjack basic strategy includes a number of decisions that can give a player second and third thoughts. One of those comes when you have a two-card 11 and the dealer has a 10-value card face up. Basic strategy calls for you to double down — you make a second bet equal to your first, then get just one more card on the draw. That second bet against a strong dealer card is what gives players pause. 

Sports Betting and House Edge

Sports Betting And House Edge With Money Blog

In a previous entry discussing the point spread, over/under and money line wagers at sports books, I mentioned that the house typically charges an extra 10 percent on point-spread and over/under bets. To win $10, you must bet $11.

Bettors are sometimes misled into thinking that gives the house a 10 percent edge, which would be very high casino standards.

Actually, the house edge is 4.55 percent. Here’s how it works:

Sports Betting 101

Sports Betting 101 Football Field blog

The legalization of sports betting no doubt will bring throngs of new players who need to know the ropes before they bet.

Old hands who have wagered in Nevada or online already know the basics, but for those finding a new betting experience in Mississippi, here are a few of the basic ways to bet.


Stories from the Casino Floor: Soft Hands in Blackjack

About a month ago, I told of being at a table with a blackjack player who insisted on standing on all 16s, including the soft ones, no matter what the dealer had.

In a common six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, basic strategy for soft 16 is to double down if the dealer’s up card is 4, 5 or 6, and to hit if the dealer has anything else. Never stand on soft 16.

My experience drew responses from others who have encountered players who have trouble with soft hands. Let’s share a couple of their tales.

Video Poker Strategy: Partial Flushes

Video poker decisions frequently come down to choosing between two viable options. Players who want to get the most out of the games learn early that a low pair is more valuable than a single high card, to use one commonly occurring example. Recently, a reader wrote to ask about the situation with partial flushes.

Are Side Bets Worth It?

Casinos often use side bets on table games — especially blackjack — to spice up the games and draw a little extra action from players.

The house edge on side bets almost always is higher than on the main game. That led a reader to write and ask, “Is there ever a time to make a side bet like 21 + 3 or Lucky Ladies at blackjack, the Dragon Bonus bet at baccarat or the Prime bet in Three Card Poker? [If the house edge is higher], why not just play the regular game and skip the side bet?”

Gaming Odds Explained: 30 To 1 vs. 31 For 1

A craps player wrote to me recently to say he’d found an automated game that looked like it had better odds than he found at table games.

Blackjack is the Game of Changing Odds

One thing I like to stress to players trying to learn the games is that the odds are unchanging. No matter how long it’s been since a 7 was last rolled in craps, the odds are 1 in 6 on the next roll, and no matter how long it’s been since the ball landed on 00 in roulette, the odds are 1 in 38 on the next spin. The exception is blackjack. There the odds change on every hand as cards are dealt and removed from play until the next shuffle. 

Would a Lower House Edge Prompt You to Change Games?

There are players who want to cut the house edge as far as they can, and will change games in order to do it.

Most players, however, have a favorite game or a few favorite and will stick to those even if one outside their range has a lower house edge.

Mississippi Stud Poker Straight Strategy

Mississippi Stud Poker calls on you to raise your bets or fold after seeing three cards and again after seeing four cards. 

The dividing lines can seem arbitrary, but they’re not. For those who play basic strategy for Mississippi Stud, the dividers are based in the math of the game.


When are Tax Forms Necessary in Video Poker Wins?

Unless they play at dollar level or above on single-hand games or quarter-level or above on multi-hand games, video poker players rarely reach the $1,200 threshold that requires a tax form before they’re paid. A royal flush with five quarters wagered brings a $1,000 jackpot — a nice bonanza, but well below the tax trigger.

Reel Power Gives You 243 Ways to Win

After 20 years of multiline video slots in casinos, I find most players don’t even look to see the shapes of the paylines anymore.

When there were five lines or nine lines, everyone wanted to check to see how the lines ran and how their winning symbols lined up. With 30, 40 lines or more, most players today just accept their total winnings and move on. The 243-ways-to-win slots with no traditional paylines are another matter. 

Winning Early vs Winning Late

When you go on a casino overnight trip, especially one that’s going to last two or three days, would you rather get a big win early in the trip or late? Early, and all the pressure’s off your budget. You can play to your heart’s content. Late, and you’re sure of bringing the big bucks home.

Live Table Games vs Video Betting

Alex is a regular reader, a blackjack player who long has played at traditional tables with a live dealer and real cards and chips. He tried out a game with video betting, and later had some questions about the experience.

Super Double Bonus Poker Strategy

There is a seemingly endless variety of video poker games, each with their own pay tables and strategy nuances. One Interesting game is Super Double Bonus Poker. 

Doubling Down on Blackjack

If you play enough blackjack, sooner or later you’ll see someone try to make every possible play, for better or worse. That includes doubling down on blackjack, a play most casinos won’t allow. That doesn’t stop players from trying.

Slots and Payback Percentage

Every month, the Mississippi Gaming Commission publishes statistical reports that tell us, among other things, how much slot machines are paying back to players.

Do Combination Bets Work in Roulette?

Players float roulette systems past me several times a year. The variety of wagers available opens the door to creating combination bets, with players hoping different bets will cancel out each other’s weaknesses.

Blackjack Strategy when Playing Head to Head with Dealer

There are blackjack decisions that are cut-and-dried, and then there are those that are closer calls. One of the closer calls comes when you have 13 and the dealer’s face up card is a 2. Basic strategy tells us the best play is to stand and not take a chance on busting, but the difference isn’t large.

Back-to-Back Royals in Video Poker

Some of my favorite tales from readers are those of back-to-back jackpots – or at least jackpots within a few plays of each other.  They don’t happen very often. A 1 in 40,000 chance of drawing a royal flush in video poker translates to a 1 in 160 million chance of back-to-back royals. But given enough trials, anything that can happen eventually will, and there are plenty of trials in casinos.

Slot Reels and the Frequency of Winning Symbols

Not all slot reels are created equal, regardless of whether you’re playing video slots or games with mechanical reels. Video slots were on the mind of a reader recently who asked if all five reels have to bet the same.

How to Use Odds in Craps

When players get serious about craps, they soon learn that the free odds have no house edge. You must make a pass or come bet at the full house edge in order to bet the odds after a point is established, but then the odds bet is paid at true odds.

Why Should You Follow Basic Strategy in Blackjack?

Last month I relayed comments from a blackjack player who had trouble convincing himself to follow the basic strategy play of doubling down on 11 when the dealer had a 10 face up.

That brought messages from other readers who had their own moments of queasiness over basic strategy.

$5 Single Hand Games vs $1 Triple Play in Video Poker

Sizing your bets properly and making sure you don’t overbet your bankroll are important parts of playing any casino game. Sometimes there are tax considerations, too. A video poker player wrote to me recently to ask advice on playing $5 single-hand games vs. $1 Triple Play.

Mini Royal Payoffs in Three Card Poker

Three Card Poker was designed with straight flushes as the highest paying hands.  The exceptions are at casinos that offer a bigger payoff on mini-royals – Ace, King, Queen of the same suit.

Why is There a Higher Payback on $1 Slots than Penny Slots?

As long as I’ve been paying attention – and this goes back to the 1980s – slot players have been told that higher denomination slots pay back a higher percentage than lower denominations.

Is Your Deal in Video Poker Random or is There a Pattern?

Video poker deals are as random as humans can program a computer to be, but one player thought he saw a pattern developing that could have worked in his favor if only there was a way to let it play out.

Two Deck vs Six Deck Blackjack Games

One of the first things blackjack players learn when they start to get serious about the game is that fewer decks are better for players.

Travel Tunica Learns How to Have a Poker Face

We’ve all watched poker on TV or walked past a poker table.  Maybe you’re even like me and have played poker with family or friends at home, but until today, I’d never been given a real poker lesson in a casino.  Travel Tunica decided Hollywood Casino’s poker room was the place to learn how to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

What Are The Chances of 1-2-3 Sequence in Roulette?

Events that are extreme long shots to you and me are certainties to casino operators. Given thousands of plays a day, every day, rare outcomes and streaks are inevitable. Take the roulette streak that prompted a reader to contact me via email.

Extra Bets in Super Times Pay Video Poker

Most of video poker games we play today have been around for decades. Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker Deluxe, Double Bonus Poker and others have stood the test of time. Most innovation in video poker comes in games that require an extra bet to activate a bonus feature. Of these, the most popular has been Super Times Pay.

With the Lowest House Edge, is Baccarat all it’s Cracked up to be?

There’s more to choosing a game to play than the house edge alone. For one thing, there’s the fun factor. No matter how well you play any game, there are going to be frequent losing sessions. You might as well choose a game you enjoy playing even in the tough times.

To Play or Not Play: Hot Tables vs Cold Tables

Do you believe in hot tables and cold tables? Do you think it’s luckier to play where other players are winning than to play where the spaces are wide open because players have been leaving with diminishing bankrolls?

Should You Play Off Your Credits When Lower Than a Max Bet or Cash Out?

Multi-hand video poker games are among my casino favorites, and have been ever since Triple Play Poker was introduced in the late 1990s. With the games, there is a temptation to players. On a quarter Triple Play machine, a maximum-coins wager is $3.75. What happens if your credits dwindle to less than that? Do you make a bet for less than full coins? 

How to Calculate House Edge in Roulette

A couple of months ago, I walked through the arithmetic for the house advantage on the pass line in craps.  It’s quite a lengthy calculation with a number of factors, but enough readers followed along that it brought a few questions. 

When to Take Bets Down in Craps

Craps players have dozens of options with all the different combinations to play. On many multi-roll bets, they also have the option of taking the bet down before a decision is reached.

To Spin or Not to Spin After a Hand-Paid Jackpot

When you do win a hand-paid jackpot, many casinos ask you to play once more, so the winning combination no longer shows on the reels or screen. One big winner recently asked what happens if you refuse to spin again. Can the casino refuse to pay you? 

Does Basic Strategy Apply to the Third Card in Blackjack?

Sometimes, things are so ingrained in experienced casino players that we forget newcomers haven’t yet learned all the ins and outs. Not long ago, I received email from a blackjack player who is working on learning basic strategy.

When Asking for Advice Gets Annoying

I may have mentioned before, I don’t offer advice while playing. If someone asks me, I’ll answer, but I’m not one to routinely weigh in on decisions that belong to others. But what do you do if someone is asking for advice on EVERY hand? 

Max Bets in Video Slots

One of the many differences between video slots and three-reel slots with mechanical reels is that three-reel games almost always have an incentive in the pay table to bet maximum coins. On three-reel games, a max-coins bet brings a disproportionate jump in the top jackpot, so betting the max brings a higher payback percentage than betting less.

Playing a System at Roulette Never Wins

Roulette has so many possible bets, players always are exploring ways to combine them in the hopes they’ll hit on a way to beat the house.

Tale At The Table

I’m always looking for tales of unusual things that happen in casinos. One came my way from a reader who wanted to share his experience with a big cash player.


Royal Flushes In Video Poker vs. Table Poker

Video poker is a much different game than table poker. In video poker, you’re playing draw poker, is rare to nonexistent on the tables. You’re not playing against other players, you don’t have to try to read anyone else’s hand and you don’t have to evaluate whether to raise, call or fold.

Slots Paying Early vs. Late In The Game

It’s not difficult to see patterns in wins and losses, and it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions based on small samples. Over the years I’ve fielded questions from readers who wondered if they should skip drawing to four-card straights because they missed several times in a row and from others who were convinced 20 was a losing hand in blackjack because they dealer drew a few 21s to beat them one night.

Getting And Giving Advice at the Table

Giving advice at the gaming tables isn’t for everyone. I’ve played with some who love to tell others what to do, whether the advice is welcome or not. Others never give advice, or give it only when asked.

Splitting 5’s In Blackjack And Why It’s a No-No

One of the absolutes in blackjack is that you should never split 5s. Most players aren’t even tempted, because they recognize they have a much stronger building block for a hand when they start with 10 than starting each of two hands with 5s.

Nontheless, I received an email recently from a player who challenged the notion. He reasoned that when the dealer had a weak card such as a 5 or 6 face up, he had an edge. If he was dealt another 5, he wanted the opportunity to get a third bet on the table.

What are Commissions in Craps?

At any game, players come in all levels of experience and knowledge. Some are more familiar than others with game rules, strategies or even the mechanics of how to make a bet.


How Does a Multi-Bet Format Affect the House Edge in Mississippi Stud?

Many poker-based table games involve an ante before you see your cards, and then a bet or multiple bets to keep playing. Caribbean Stud was the trend-setter, but we also see that format in Three Card Poker, Mississippi Stud and other games.

Electronic vs Live Table Games

Table games players have consistently shown a preference for live action. They like to play with real cards and dice and with human dealers.

Still, there has been an increasing acceptance of electronic table games, especially in roulette. Touch screens for electronic betting speed play as wagers are settled automatically, with no mistakes. There’s no down time waiting for dealers to pay winners and collect chips from losing bets.

Is It True Casinos Make Their Money From Winners?

It’s sometimes said that casinos make their money from winners. Of course, every time it’s said, there’s somebody who responds, “Then they should let everybody win and make even more money.”

Odds When Playing Roulette vs Slots

Players sometimes have difficulty with the idea that slot machine results can be programmed and random at the same time. So for many years, I’ve used a comparison to roulette, where you don’t know when any given number will turn up, but the odds of the game will lead to a 5.26 percent house edge – the same as a 94.74 percent payback percentage.

A Roulette History Lesson

Roulette is one of the oldest games still played in modern casinos. Recognizably modern roulette wheels, with red and black numbers 1 through 36 along with zero and double zero, were in play in Paris in the late 1700s. The game itself has hardly changed at all, but some of the trappings have. For one thing, most roulettes tables in American casinos have a tote board showing recent numbers. When the boards were introduced, most showed the last 12 numbers, but now 18 is common, and sometimes there are more.

Stop Getting Burned At Blackjack

Some of the most frustrating hands at blackjack come when the dealer starts stringing out low cards. You see the dealer with a 14, and think there’s a good chance he’ll bust. Then comes a 2, and with 16, he just HAS to bust, right? Then, boom! Here’s comes a 5, the dealer has 21 and the whole table loses.

New Trivia Slots

Sometimes, you just can’t keep a good idea down. And blending slot machine excitement with tests of knowledge plays right to my taste.

Busting at Blackjack in Tunica Mississippi

No blackjack player likes to bust and wind up with a total of more than 21 that’s a loser before the dealer even plays his hand. But if we’re going to take the best chance to win, accepting the risk of busting is part of the bargain.

Video Poker Are The Odds Against You

Video poker games are designed to be as random as humans can program a computer to be. The odds of drawing winning hands are the same as cards were dealt from a real deck.

Still, when odd streaks happen, players can’t help but wonder if something more is going on.

Best Ante Bet Strategy In Three Card Poker

Basic strategy for the ante-bet portion of Three Card Poker is to make the bet of equal to your ante any time you’re dealt Queen-6-4 or better, but to fold and forfeit your ante with lower-ranking hands.

That strategy led a reader to email me with two questions:

New Slots From Multimedia Games Tunica Mississippi

When you’re a smaller slot manufacturer trying to compete with the likes of IGT, Bally, WMS and Aristocrat, you need to be nimble, creative and innovative.

Multimedia Games has been all of that, and expects to keep bringing the innovation now that it has been acquired by Global Cash Access. The new company is in the process of rebranding, and will reveal a new name in late August.

How To Choose A Video Blackjack Machine

One thing I’ve warned blackjack players about is games that pay less than the standard 3-2 on blackjacks. If you play video blackjack, you have to be extra watchful, as one reader learned.

Should You Place A Fortune Bet In Pai Gow?

Pai-gow poker is known as an even-keel, extended play kind of game. The Fortune Pai-Gow side bet injects a little excitement for jackpot hunters, including a big payoff of 5,000-1 on a seven-card straight flush that does not include the joker. That’s about a 4.8 million-to-1 shot, but hey, we can dream.

Is The House Edge Lower In Baccarat?

On most casino games, the house wins more often than the player, and it’s easy for the casino to get an edge on the game. All it has to do is pay players less than the true odds of winning the bet, and random results will lead to profit for the house.

Should You Change Your Betting Strategy in Craps?

Just about every craps player has a favorite way to play. Some play the percentages and make sure they take the free odds offered when you back pass or come bets with additional bets. Some like the place bets on 6 and 8, to make sure they always have the most frequent non-7 numbers working. Some like to take their chances for bigger payoffs on the one-roll props such as yo-leven or any 7, and let the house edge fall where it may.

Recently, I got an email from a reader wondering if he should change his method.

Are Progressive Jackpots A Better Bet in Video Poker?

Video poker players in the know understand that on most games, payback percentages are changed by altering the returns on full houses and flushes. A “9-6” Jacks or Better game, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, returns 99.5 percent with expert play. If instead you see 8-5 Jacks or Better, meaning full houses pay 8-for-1 and flushes 5-for-1, then the average return is 97.3 percent with expert play.

However, when progressive jackpots are involved, even a game with a lower pay table can have high average returns.

New Slots Offer Entertainment And Extended Play

For gamemakers, attracting slot players is all about offering different play experiences to different segments of players. There are big jackpot games, high volatility games, second-screen bonus games, free-spin bonus games and more. 

Blackjack Changing Strategy As The Game Evolves

Blackjack basic strategy has been around as guide to when to hit, stand, split and double down has been around since the 1950s. It’s well-grounded in the math of the game, and it’s something anyone who’s serious about blackjack should learn.

However, the game itself evolves, and when the rules change, so does basic strategy.

Placing Bets In Roulette

There are so many different wagering options at roulette that it’s only natural that players would try to come up with combinations to try to overcome the house edge.

What A “Both Ways” Wager Means In Craps

Craps has language and terminology all its own, like “Yo,” or “yo-leven” for 11 and “hard way” for rolling a total with both dice showing the same number – 4-4 is 8 the hard way.

How To Bet In Craps For Higher Wins

Craps presents so many possibilities that players are continually exploring combinations seeing if they can find a magic formula for profit. One player asked me recently if he could combine place bets with hard ways for some giant-sized wins.

Hot Streaks, Are They For Real?

Not long ago, I received a note via email from a craps player who was taken aback when a shooter rolled five sevens in a row. “It would seem to me there has to be a makeup time to get the odds to come out right,” he wrote. “What’s the hidden factor that balances those five 7s in a row?”

Ante-bet Strategy in Three-card Poker

I remember when Three Card Poker was a new game in the 1990s, struggling to carve out a niche. It had failed to make enough money to satisfy the house in a trial at the Stardust in Las Vegas, but it was a hit in Mississippi. The success of the game in Tunica was enough to convince operators in other states that maybe the Stardust experience was an anomaly.

Setting Your Hand in Pai-Gow Poker

An e-mail brought me a tale of woe from a pai-gow poker novice:

“My friend told me to make my bottom hand as strong as I can,” the player’s lament began. “But when I put a pair of Kings in the bottom hand and a pair of 9s in the top, I was told I arranged them wrong, and the dealer took my money.”

In pai-gow poker, you’re dealt seven cards, which you arrange into a five-card “high” hand and a two-card “second-high” hand. Both must beat the dealer for you to win your bet, but you get your money back if one wins. The deck consists of 53 cards, with the standard 52 joined by a Joker that can be used either as an Ace or to compete a flush or straight.

How Stacked Symbols Affect Video Slot Play

Every year, the bag of tricks slot machine designers use to keep the games fun to play and the customers coming back grows a little. Second-screen pick’em bonuses, free spins, bonuses within bonuses, shared community style events, mystery jackpots — the list goes on and on.

Video Poker: Chance vs. Skill

Video poker is a game that mixes pure chance with a dose of skill. You don’t know which cards are going to dealt, but you need to know which ones to hold to have a fighting chance to win.

Adapt to the Ever-Changing Game of Blackjack

In his blackjack strategy post, John Grochowski tells us that players who learned basic strategy for stand-on-all-17s games need to make a few adaptations for today’s blackjack.

21+3 Side Bet in Blackjack

Side bets at blackjack come and side bets at blackjack go. Mostly they go when players discover their money is disappearing a little too rapidly. One that’s lasted, though, is 21+3, which combine blackjack with a three-card poker hand.

Mimic the Dealer Not a Viable Blackjack Strategy

I’ve mentioned in this blog before that mimicking the dealer is not a viable approach to playing blackjack. Dealers and players operate under different conditions. Players act on their hands first, and if they go bust, the house wins even if the dealer busts too.

Video Poker Players Need to Watch for Straight Flush Opportunities

One of my video poker games of choice is Double Bonus Poker, especially on versions that pay 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights. If full houses pay 10-for-1, then you have a full-pay 10-7-5 game that returns 100.17 percent with expert play. If they pay 9-for-1, then the 9-7-5 game is still a good one at 99.1 percent.

Superstitious Slot Play

I’m not a superstitious sort, preferring to trust the math of casino games rather than my brother’s family-famous jackpot dance. It’s harmless fun, and like many, he engages in superstitious behavior without really believing it makes a difference. He’s not alone. Take these tales from readers who have relayed their own superstitions:

Is It Best to Play Craps at a Table That’s Been Hot?

A craps table with a hot shooter on a roll is one of the most exciting places in the casino. When the shooter is rolling number after number without sevening out, players are winning together, celebrating and cheering the shooter. Big wins bring tips, so the dealers are happy, too.

Betting Ties in Baccarat

Baccarat offers players two of the best percentage bets among casino games, with house edges of 1.06 percent on banker and 1.24 percent on player. It also offers one of the worst bets in the house. If you chase the 8-1 payoff and bet on ties, you spot the casino a whopping 14.4 percent. The house keeps $1.06 per $100 wagered on banker and $1.24 on player. Then the house take soars to just over $14.35 on ties.

Sequential Royal Bonus on Video Poker

A reader wrote recently to ask me about a wrinkle she’d seen on video poker games, a little attraction that’s been around for quite a long time, but isn’t always available in every casino.

Is It Worth Bigger Bets To Get a Higher Slot Payback Percentage?

Casinos everywhere put their highest payback percentages on their highest-denomination slot machines. The Mississippi Gaming Commission report for October—the most recent available as I write this—showed that in northern Mississippi on non-progressive machines, payback percentages included 91.1 percent on penny slots, 93.3 percent on nickels, 93.4 percent on quarters and 94.5 percent on dollars.

New Table Games from SHFL Entertainment

The biggest name in new table games for the casino industry is also a new name. SHFL Entertainment changed its name from Shuffle Master this fall. By any name, it always has new poker-based games in its mix.

New Table Game, BJ-Bac

When the Global Gaming Expo rolls around every fall, the display floor is dominated by major slot manufacturers. You could spend days just trying new slot games — and I do spend most of two days doing just that.

But I like to reserve one day seeking out new table games. There are nowhere near as many new table games as there are slot games, and many of the table games designers have small booths on the back rows of the floor, far from the main action. But walking the floor sometimes allows you to uncover a gem.

New Video Poker Options from IGT

You always can count on International Game Technology for an interesting twist on video poker. In the coming year, the twists will include games with new Ace-based multipliers and a marriage of poker and keno.

Superheroes: Spider-Man from WMS Gaming and Superman from Aristocrat

Who’s it to be, Superman or Spider-Man? The Man of Steel from the planet Krypton, or the angsty young man with the radioactive spider bite? As a comic-book loving kid, it was Superman for me, but that was before Spidey really hit his stride.

When it comes to slot-playing time, either one can save your bonus in new games of heroic proportions.

Little Green Men: Cosmic Blaster from IGT

I love a little skill in my games. That doesn’t mean I’m particularly good at applying the skill, but I love the feeling that I have an impact on whether I win or lose. International Game Technology has taken its popular Little Green Men theme and added a test of skill in a bonus event on Little Green Men: Cosmic Blaster.

Video Keno And The Random Number Generator

When you play video keno, how do you pick numbers? Do you have lucky numbers, like family birthday and anniversaries? Do you try to outguess the machine, either staying with or picking against numbers that just hit? Do you just guess randomly?

New Betty Boop Fortune Teller Slots From Bally

The last time I saw Betty Boop, the iconic cartoon flapper was the center of attention of Betty Boop’s Love Meter. That was one of the first Bally Technologies slot machines to incorporate its iDeck touch-screen technology where the button panel is on most machines. In one bonus event, you’d touch a hand outline on the panel, and the Love Meter would rise in the top box. The meter would rise from lovable to romantic to sexy to wild to smokin’ and beyond — the higher your Love Meter score, the bigger your bonus.

Why Some Four of a Kinds Pay More Than Straight Flushes in Many Video Poker Games

Neither straight flushes nor four of a kinds are exactly common in video poker. But the foursomes come up more than 20 times as often as the straight flushes, and in games such as Double Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus Poker, Super Aces and more, all quads at least equal the straight flush payoff of 250 coins for a five-coin bet.

A Roulette Player Asks Odds of a Win Streak On Birthday and Anniversary Numbers

Picking roulette numbers rarely shifts into the realm of science. Much less than once in a blue moon, a player might discover a biased wheel, where some numbers come up more than you’d expect by random chance. But for all practical matters, roulette is a game of pure chance.

Can Enough Free Odds Eliminate the House Edge at Craps?

Those who are serious about craps probably have looked at charts detailing the house edge on the pass line as the amount of free odds permitted increases. With no odds bet, the house has a 1.41 percent edge on pass. That drops to 0.8 percent with single odds, 0.6 percent with double odds, on down to 0.3 percent at 5x odds, 0.2 percent at 10x and a miniscule 0.02 percent at 100x odds.

A Reader’s Good Fortune: 10 Royals at Once on Ten Play Poker

When you play multihand video poker games such as Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play Poker, part of the attraction is that you get multiple chances to make a high-paying hand on the draw. Hold two pairs, and maybe you don’t pull the full house on hand No. 1, but the possibilities are still there on the draw for the second hand, or third, or however many you play.

Playing a Betting Progression When Blackjack Games Use a Continuous Shuffler

When casinos use continuous shufflers at blackjack tables, they eliminate the possibility of counting cards. You can’t get a handle on the relative proportions of high cards vs. low cards remaining to be played when cards that already have been dealt are shuffled back into play.

That doesn’t affect basic strategy. For non-counters, your best plays for hitting, standing, splitting pairs and doubling down are the same regardless of the method of shuffling.

Can Casinos Control Jackpots?

Slot jackpots occur randomly. There’s no way to tell when one might be coming. That goes for casino operators as well as for players. The people who run the casinos don’t know when the big hits are coming.

Still, a reader was taken aback when she heard what a casino employee said one night.

Does It Help to Play Slower When Slots Are Cold?

Streaks happen on the slot machines. They’re the product of random chance and normal probability, but they happen.

Problem is, they don’t happen in any predictable way. There’s no way to tell when a hot streak is going to come, and once we’re in one, there’s no way to tell when it might end. If players could predict either, we could make a lot of money.

Olympic Spirit Lives on in Tunica – Tunica TV

Yesterday’s Closing Ceremony signified the end of this year’s Summer Olympics. You could wait four more years to experience the pageantry, drama and excitement of sport’s greatest showcase, or you could head on over to TunicaTravel.tv  for an Olympics extravaganza that is totally Tunica.

Splitting 8s vs. a Dealer’s 10 in Blackjack

Sometimes splitting pairs in blackjack is about playing offense, getting in strong position to win two hands. Splitting 8s against a 6 is like that, with two hands starting with 8 that both are stronger beginnings than the dealer’s 6.

Frequency of Royal Flushes in Joker’s Wild Video Poker

Nearly all video poker games are based on five-card draw poker. In licensed casinos, every electronic card in a 52-card electronic deck has an equal chance of appearing on every hand. That enables us to calculate odds telling us the big payoff on royal flushes occur once every 40,000 hands or so, depending on the game and our strategy.

Easy Betting with EZ Baccarat

For games with a low house edge, baccarat is about as easy as it gets. You choose whether to bet on the banker hand or the player hand. Whichever one comes closer to a total of 9 wins. The house edge of 1.06 percent on banker and 1.24 percent on player make it as close to an even deal as you’re going to get in a game that requires no strategy by the players.

In Dollars and Cents, How Much Better Is it for the Player When Blackjacks Pay 3-2 Instead of 6-5?

Among the common rules variations in blackjack, 6-5 payoffs on two-card 21s is by far the toughest on players. Paying only 6-5 instead of 3-2 on blackjacks costs 1.39 percent, an amount larger than the entire house edge against a basic strategy player at most blackjack tables. Take a run-of-the-mill six-deck game where the dealer stands on all 17s, the player is allowed to double down after splitting pairs and may resplit pairs up to three times for a total of four hands. The house edge is only 0.41 percent.

Is a Put Bet Plus Odds as Good as Placing a 6 or 8 in Craps?

The two most commonly rolled point numbers in craps are 6 and 8. Of 36 possible two-dice combinations, five add up to 6 and five add up to 8. The only more frequently rolled number is 7, with six combinations, but that’s a losing number to most players.

Casino Spotlight: Gaming, Resorts-Style

Last time in my casino spotlight, I shared with you all of the ways that Resorts Casino Tunica makes your hard-earned dollars go farther thanks to their generous promotions. This week, I’m telling you how to spend that money on the casino floor. Resorts has 35,000 square feet of gaming space, so if you can’t find a game that interests you, you might just need to give up gaming. From video poker to blackjack, you’ll find all the action at Resorts Tunica.

Can a Video Poker Game be Manipulated so That it Shows a 9-6 Game but Gives a Reduced Payout?

My email recently brought a question from a video poker player who sounded like he’d probably had a tough run of luck. “Can a video poker game be manipulated so that is shows a 9-6 game but gives a reduced payout?” he asked. “Is there a legal way for the casino to lower the payout or restrict certain hands from appearing and still display the traditional pay table?”

The “Fire Bet” at Craps

A craps player emailed to ask about a bet he hadn’t seen before. “Some of the others were playing something called the ‘Fire Bet,’”  he wrote. “When the shooter made a point, they’d put a fire disk on that point. Once the shooter made a couple of points, the guys started to get excited, but I think I only saw it pay off once. I didn’t know anything about it, so I stayed away, figured I’d learn something about it before I got involved. Is this a good bet, or something to ignore?”

Tunica’s Run for the Roses Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the Run for the Rose’s Giveaway – 

Stephen Shisler, Richard Buckner and Shanna Drake Orris!

The Kentucky Derby aka the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports will take place on May 5, and even though there is no sports betting in Tunica we have a way for you to get in on the action. Tell us who you think will take home the garland of roses and if you choose the correct horse your name will be entered to win a getaway to the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica. We will draw 3 winners at random from those that choose the winning horse. To enter, post your pick to the Tunica CVB Facebook page (Facebook.com/TunicaMS), Twitter page (@TunicaMS) or in the comment section below. 

Doubling Down for Less at Blackjack

Doubling down is one of the players’ most important advantages in blackjack. After seeing your first two cards, you can make a bet equal to your first in exchange for taking just one more card.

Does Playing Two Slot Machines At Once Help?

I once watched in semi-amazement as a woman played a whole row of eight three-reel slot machines by herself. She’d push the “max bet” button, and while the reels were still spinning, step to push the button on the next machine, and the next. When the reels started spinning on machine No. 8, she’d stride back to the beginning and start again.

To Hit or Not To Hit: 16 v. 7, Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack basic strategy sometimes calls on us to make plays that make players a little queasy. When dealt 16 while the dealer has a 7 face up, we know the right play is to hit, yet we also know we’re going to bust more often than not.

Does Stopping the Slot Reels Early Change Your Result?

It’s a pretty common feature on modern video slots that once you push the button to start the reels spinning, you can push it again to stop them. You don’t have to wait for them to stop by themselves.

That prompted a question from a reader who usually plays table games.

Close Call Blackjack Hands

While playing blackjack one morning, I ran into one of those situations we all see from time to time. One player was making unconventional plays. And it was driving another player nuts.

Sometimes Mr. Unconventional would stand on 12 against a dealer’s 4, as the basic strategy chart says to do, and sometimes he’d hit. Sometimes he’d hit 16 against a 10, and sometimes he’d stand.

A Craps System that Wins More Often Than it Loses?

In games that offer multiple wagering choice, it’s easy to design a system that will win more often than it loses. That doesn’t mean it’s to your advantage to play the system.

Why Do More Decks Increase the House Edge in Blackjack?

If you play blackjack, you’ve probably heard that fewer decks are better for the player. And if all other rules are equal, that’s true. The house edge is lowest on single-deck games, and increases with each deck added.

How Much Is Free Play Actually Worth?

Over the last few years, casinos have been transforming rewards programs so that instead of cash for rewards points or vouchers for cash via direct mail, many now give free play. That led a reader to ask via email just what that free play is worth.

Can You Count Cards On Single-player Video Blackjack Games?

When you play blackjack, you’re not restricted to the betting spot directly in front of you. You can bet on two spots and get two hands, or three, or more. I once saw a fellow with a much larger bankroll than mine betting all seven spots at table with $100 minimum bets. He wasn’t betting the minimum, either.

Can You Improve Your Odds at Blackjack?

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when video card games started to make their way into casinos, there was some thought that video blackjack was going to be the big hit game. After all, blackjack was and is the most popular table game in casinos. There was some surprise when video poker became a casino staple and video blackjack was left on the fringes as a niche game.

Should You Ever Disgard a “2” at Deuces Wild?

Ask any experienced video poker player, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing quite like seeing that “4000” light up for credits won on a royal flush. One of the most memorable days of my gambling life came when I drew a royal in spades on a $2 machine — an $8,000 bonanza. A woman and her daughter who were playing a few seats away added to the celebration when they went to the gift shop and bought me a lapel pin displaying a spade royal. I often wear it when I give seminars.

New Blackjack Variation

Most side bets at blackjack require you to wager before you see your cards, and they spot the house a big edge. At Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, table game developer Joe Awada showed a different kind of blackjack bet, called Free Draw.

Caribbean Stud Poker Strategy

A Caribbean Stud Poker player sent me an email to as about a hair-splitter of a hand.

“ I had Ace-King-8-5-2, and the card the dealer turned face up from her hand was an Ace,” he wrote. “I made the bet, because my Ace matched his Ace. Another guy at the table told me that was the wrong play, that you bet only if one of the other three cards matches the dealer.

Watch Out for Roulette Bets That Cancel Each Other Out

Nearly every wager on a double-zero roulette table gives the house a 5.26 percent edge. It makes no difference whether you bet single numbers or 18-number combinations such as red or black, or anything in between. As long as you steer clear of the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, where the house edge soars to 7.89 percent, the house expects to keep $5.26 per $100 wagered.

Pay Table Charges

I’ve mentioned in this blog that video poker payback percentages usually are changed by altering the returns on full houses and flushes. A 9-6- Jacks or Better game, which pays 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes, has a higher payback percentage than one that drops the full house-flush returns to 8-5.

Home Blackjack Rules

Practicing before you play for money is a good thing. I first learned the ins and outs of blackjack playing at home, and I learned video poker strategy in the days before home computers by dealing myself hands of cards and comparing to a strategy table.

Does Scouting the Slots Really Help?

Mary is an old slot-playing friend, one who’s a lot of fun to be around. She never met a good luck charm she didn’t like, and when she heard about my brother Jay’s jackpot dance, she devised one of her own. Hers is better.

Double Up Feature

Optional features come and go in video poker, just as they do in many casino games. One that’s been with us for a couple of decades is the Double Up option on video poker games from International Game Technology.

No Five-Card Draw in Poker Rooms?

My e-mail in August brought a question from a poker player who wishes he could play his favorite game when he goes to casino card rooms.

“I know Hold’em has been all the rage for years now,” he wrote. “I enjoy playing some. But the game I grew up with was five-card draw. I used to play with my parents and brother and sisters, not for money, just for fun. I played a lot of it in the college dorm, too. But I can’t find it in casinos. Why not?”

Different Games, Different Bankrolls

There are no guarantees in gambling, so when a player named George asked me how much money he should bring to play for a while without fear of an early exit, I had to put all kinds of conditions on it.

Playing for Straight Flushes in Video Poker

The late Lenny Frome, one of the first video poker analysts, was a friend of mine, and we often talked video poker. He was a really sharp guy who had a long career as an engineer in the aerospace industry before semi-retiring to Las Vegas. He was a good friend to video poker players, one of the first to give the public strategies for when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

Bonus Symbols on Slots

Not long ago, I watched from a couple of seats away while a woman played a bonus round on a Super Jackpot Party slot machine. If you play video slots, chances are you know the Jackpot Party format. The screen shows a grid of gift boxes while party music plays. You touch gift boxes to reveal bonus credits, and you get to keep picking until you pick a “Pooper” — perhaps a policeman or an irate neighbor putting a stop to the party noise.

Single Deck Blackjack

Single-deck blackjack is a different game than the multiple deck version, requiring some strategy adjustments if you’re going to get the most out of the game. That includes some extra double down situations, one of them coming when you have an 8 and the dealer has a 5 or a 6 face up.

Resetting Slot Machines After Big Jackpots

There’s nothing like a big jackpot to get the pulse racing and the adrenaline flowing. A little extra cash flow never hurts, and when it comes out of the blue, well, that’s something special.

Mystery Progressives on Slots

If you play video slots, no doubt you’ve taken a turn or two on games with mystery progressives. Often there are four or more levels of progressive jackpots, and getting into the progressive round doesn’t rely on the right symbols landing on the payline. The mystery comes in just when you’re going to be randomly taken to the progressive event.

Dragon Bonus in Baccarat

Baccarat is a game with a low house edge — 1.06 percent if you’re betting on banker, 1.24 percent if you’re betting on player. No skill is required. Extra cards are drawn or not drawn according to a chart. Players have no strategy options — this is strictly a guessing game over whether the player hand or banker hand will win.

Holding Aces in Double Double Poker

Double Double Bonus Poker is the one of the most popular video poker games around, largely because of the 2,000-coin bonanza for four Aces when the fifth card is a 2, 3 or 4.

Big Crowds’ Effect on Slot Machines

A regular reader wrote to tell me about her night playing the slots in a crowded casino.

“It was packed,” she wrote. “I heard somebody who worked there say, ‘Big crowd means we’ll be paying out a lot tonight,’ and he had a big smile on his face. I asked if he meant jackpots and he said, ‘Oh, there’ll be some jackpots.’

Betting Ties in Baccarat

Baccarat is a game with a low house edge — 1.06 percent if you’re betting on banker, 1.24 percent if you’re betting on player. No skill is required. Extra cards are drawn or not drawn according to a chart. Players have no strategy options — this is strictly a guessing game over whether the player hand or banker hand will win.

Blackjack Strategy for Soft 17

When I first started writing about casino games at the beginning of the 1990s, and really started watching what other blackjack players were doing, soft 17 seemed to be the most misplayed hand around. That 17 seemed to be a magic line that players would not cross, even the hand was Ace-6, or Ace-2-4, or Ace-3-3, or any other “soft” combination that included an Ace being counted as an 11.

The Number of Decks in Blackjack

On a casino trip with my dad Jerry and my brother Jay, we were scouting blackjack tables. We bypassed a single-deck game that paid only 6-5 on blackjacks, then chose a two-deck game over a six-decker.

Attack From Mars!

When the Martians get here — trying to take the Earth’s monumental treasures and a few few women, for good measure — can you stop them? Or do you even want to? Maybe you’d rather join the invaders.

You have the choice when you play WMS Gaming’s new sci-fi slot machine epic, “Attack From Mars/Revenge From Mars.”

Hedge Bets in Craps

Craps players like the idea that there’s a magic combination of bets that will overcome the house edge, a perfect hedge that will guarantee wins no matter what number comes in. There isn’t, but it’s an attractive idea that led to this e-mail exchange:

Q. What do you think of using C&E as a hedge?

Flush Strategy for Deuces Wild

On a busy night in a crowded casino, I sat at a coffee shop counter and overheard a man and a woman planning their roulette attack. One would bet red, the other black. Wins would balance losses. They wouldn’t lose any money, but they’d get their comps for free.

Or so they thought.

What they’d neglected to take into account that whenever the spin was 0 or 00 they’d lose BOTH bets.

Playing Opposites in Roulette

On a busy night in a crowded casino, I sat at a coffee shop counter and overheard a man and a woman planning their roulette attack. One would bet red, the other black. Wins would balance losses. They wouldn’t lose any money, but they’d get their comps for free.

Or so they thought.

Blackjack Surrender

I once was playing in a casino that offered late surrender in blackjack. What that means is that after the dealer has checked to make sure he or she doesn’t have a blackjack, you have the option of surrendering half your bet instead of playing out the hand and risk losing it all. There’s also a version called “early surrender” in which you have that option BEFORE the dealer checks for blackjack, but it’s very rare.

Mimic the Dealer Blackjack Strategy

While playing blackjack, I noticed a player hitting on ever 16 and under, and standing on every 17 and above, just like the dealers do. “If it’s good enough for the dealer, it’s good enough for me,” he said.

Stacking Chips in a Wager, Smallest Denominations on Top

The first time I ever played table games in a casino — and this goes back a few decades — I watched while another blackjack player pushed a stack of different colored chips into the betting circle. I’m not quite sure what he had out there, but if memory serves there were green $25 chips, red $5 chips and white $1 chips all willy-nilly in the stack.

Betting Less Than the Max at Video Poker

An old friend of mine is an occasional video poker player. He likes to play the game, but he doesn’t really like to risk money. In his lifetime, he’s drawn three royal flushes, one on a dollar game, and two on quarters. Every time, he’d wagered only one coin, meaning his jackpot was 250 coins instead of the 4,000 that comes with a five-coin wager.

Is There an Element of Skill in Playing the Slots?

A reader e-mailed a few weeks ago to ask if she could apply a little skill to the slots.

“Does the random results principle for slot machines change when you stop the reels yourself?” she asked.

“Casino Surrender” Option in Blackjack

If you’ve played much blackjack, you know the pain. You’re dealt a couple of face cards, and the dealer has a 6 face up. You’re feeling comfortable with your 20, practically counting the winnings to add to your chips.

The Slot Machine Cherries Myth

Here’s a slot machine myth I read in a personal finance newsletter, of all places. It quoted an “expert” as saying players should look for three-reel machines with a cherry on the middle reel sitting on the payline. That cherry supposedly was the tipoff that a bigger payoff was on the way.

Tips for Roulette Bets

My wife loves to play roulette. Mind you, she likes it best with low minimum bets and low chip values. She’s been in red or black heaven on trips when we’ve found tables with dollar minimums where you could break the chips down to 25-cent values. But even on a $5 table, if she can break her chips down to 50-cent denominations, she gets to spread some chips around the layout, making some single-number bets, some four-number corners and other combinations until her chips add up to the table minimum.

Hitting 16 against a Dealer 7 in Blackjack

If you play basic strategy at blackjack, you’ll hit 16 if the dealer’s face-up card is 7 or higher. But players often tell me they can’t bring themselves to hit 16 when the dealer shows a 7.

As one player put it, “I hit 16 against 10, but when it’s 16 against 7, I figure the dealer has a pretty good chance to bust.”

Are Results Really Different if You Only Bet One Coin on Slots?

Let’s take a spin through a long-standing slot machine myth, one that I’m asked about several times a year.

One recent e-mail started, “This always happens to me on three-reel games. When I play one coin at a time, I win, but as soon as I start betting maximum coins, I lose. Should I stick with one coin at a time?”

Crapless Craps?

The first time I ever encountered Crapless Craps, also called Never-Ever Craps, was back in the 1980s in Las Vegas, at a place called Vegas World that since has made way for the Stratosphere Tower. Since then, I’ve seen the game in Mississippi and Minnesota. It’s not a casino standard, but it pops up from time to time.

Betting Enough To Be Eligible For Progressive Slot Jackpots

One of the saddest sights I’ve seen in a casino came when I was just getting off an elevator, coming down from my hotel room. As I walked into the casino, a host I knew pointed to a player sitting, shoulders slumped, just staring at a slot machine. It was a four-reel mechanical game in which four blue 7s was the big winner for a progressive jackpot.

What’s Your Chance of Hitting the Jackpot at Caribbean Stud?

Caribbean Stud Poker gives table players a chance to go for the gold in a way that’s usually reserved for the slots. A $1 side bet qualifies you for a progressive jackpot that can be a lifestyle-changer — the largest I know of exceeded $700,000.

“9-6” Isn’t the Magic Number in Every Video Poker Game

The game that put video poker on the map in the 1980s was “Jacks or Better.” And as it gained in popularity, the word spread that the best games had “9-6” pay tables, meaning they paid 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes.

Betting the Zeroes at Roulette

Every roulette player has a system, ranging from complicated combinations to playing family birthdays. One player told me that since the house gets its edge from the zero and double-zero, his system was to bet on red or black, then make a two-number split wager on the zeroes and make them work for him.

“I feel like I’m betting with the house,” he said. “The count on the zeroes, and so do I.”

Blackjack Strategy for Pairs of Fives and Tens

When I first started writing about casino games on a regular basis for a newspaper just shy of 17 years ago, I wrote a column about when to split pairs in blackjack. One tip was that players shouldn’t split 10s, that the should just stand on their 20s.

A co-worker came to me with an opposite theory.

Don’t Chase Losses: Easing Off Losing Sessions

If you find yourself losing early in a day at the casino, what do you do? Do you back off and take it easy, or do you assume you’re “due” to win, and make bigger bets to try to recover your losses?

Comps at Craps Tables

I once was privy to a heated conversation between a table games supervisor and a craps player regarding comps. Actually, I should say the entire pit was privy to one side of the conversation, which involved a very loud, very angry player haranguing a supervisor who was trying to calm him down.

Does Placement of the Cut Card Really Matter in Blackjack?

Have you ever noticed that different casinos have their blackjack dealers place the cut card in different places in the deck? The cut card is a solid-color plastic card. After a player cuts the cards, the dealer then inserts the cut card into the deck. When he reaches the cut card while dealing cards, he knows it’s time to shuffle after the hand is completed.

Pushing Buttons Vs. Pulling Handles On Slot Machines

When my wife and I go to a casino together, we usually go our separate ways to play. We have different favorites, I do a lot of scouting around the casino to see what’s new while she gets right into playing.

We always take some time to find a couple of open seats side-by-side and play together for a bit. On one September trip, we settled into a couple of quarter three-reel slot machines. We each slid a $20 bill into the validator and started the reels spinning.

A couple of seats down the row, a woman was varying her play, pushing the button for a while, then switching to pulling the handle, then switching back. She caught me looking, and said, “You have to change your luck once in a while, don’t you?” I smiled, and went back to my own game.

Eligibility and Multipliers for Bonus Events on Community-Style Slots

Video poker players who have been around a while might remember a game called Flush Attack. Every so often, the game would go into “attack” mode, and the next flush on the bank of machines would pay as much as four of a kind.

In the beginning sharp players would play until they were dealt a flush, or four parts of a flush, then  wait for the attack before drawing. The sharps would collect the big bonuses. The tourists didn’t stand a chance.

Travel Tunica Learns How to Play Craps

Everyone who has ever been to a casino has most likely seen craps tables.  If you’ve not gotten close enough to see them, you’ve definitely heard people cheering at them because it’s usually the loudest place in the house.  So Travel Tunica decided to get in on the action and learn how to play one of the most intimidating games for beginners on the casino floor.

Slot Tournaments

Have you ever played in a slot tournament? I have, and I think they’re a blast. I once played in three in one week, in different casinos and had a great time. In two of them, there were welcome gifts, prize banquets and other perks. The third was just a little daily tournament I decided to play on a whim while out for a walk.

I won one tournament — the whim — placed in the top 5 and won some cash in another, while in the third … well, I had a good time.

Hedge Bets in Craps

A craps player told me he likes to make $6 place bets on 6 or 8, but also hedge with $3 bets on 7. That way, a roll of 6 or 8 wins $7 and loses just the $3 on 7. And if a 7 wipes out the place bets, he makes it up by winning $12 with the 4-1 odds on any 7.

Relative Speed of Play

Blackjack games are not all created equal, as experienced players know. There’s a mix-and-match set of rules, and different casinos match different mixes. Does the dealer stand on all 17s or hit soft 17? Can you double down on any starting hand or are doubles restricted to a few totals, such as hard 9, 10 and 11? How many decks are in play?

Going For Straights in Video Poker

Have you ever listened in as a couple of video poker novices tried to figure out just what to do with a hand? I couldn’t help but overhear one evening when a woman playing Bonus Poker was dealt 5-6-7-9 and a Jack.

“What do you do here?” she asked the fellow accompanying her.

He looked at the hand, and looked at the pay table. “Look here,” he said. “You’d get five coins back if you draw another Jack, but you have four parts of a straight. Straights pay 20. You probably should go for the straight.”

“Buy” Bets in Craps

Making a place bet on 4 — betting a craps shooter will roll a 4 before the next 7 — is a weak bet, with a house edge of 6.67 percent. Same deal if you place 10. The house edge is still 6.67 percent, and there are several bets at the craps table that are much better percentage plays.

Choosing a Coin Denomination on Video Slots

A reader e-mailed me with her take on playing video slot machines.

“I like to cover all the lines, although I can’t afford to bet $3 or $5 at a time on a ‘penny’ slot machine. I can’t bet 25 coins a line, but sometimes I’ll bet five a line. On a penny machine with 20 lines, that means I’m betting a dollar a spin.

The “Even Money” Option in Blackjack

In blackjack, if the dealer has an Ace face up when you’re dealt a blackjack, the dealer will ask if you want “even money.” If you wager $10, you’ll win $10 even if the dealer also has a blackjack. “The only sure thing in the house,” I’ve had dozens of dealers tell me.

It’s a form of insurance, which is really a bet that the dealer has a blackjack. You’re offered insurance whenever the dealer has an Ace up. That allows you to make a wager half the size of your original wager. If the dealer has a 10-value card face down, your insurance bet pays 2-1.

Holding Low Pairs in Video Poker

Payoffs in most video poker games start at a pair of Jacks, so many players underestimate the power of low pairs.

If you’re dealt a single Jack along with a low pair, such as two 5s, what are you going to do? It’s tempting to keep the single Jack and draw four cards, each with chance to bring a second Jack that’ll at least get you your money back.

Splitting 8s in Blackjack

Sometimes in blackjack, the best offense is a good defense. And splitting pairs is often a form of defense.

Take a pair of 8s, especially when the dealer has a 10 face up. If we play it as a 16, we bust too often if we hit, and if we stand, the dealer beats us all 79 percent of the time he makes 17 or better.

The Free Odds Wager in Craps

The free odds wager in craps is a rarity, a wager with no mathematical edge to the house. To make it, you have to first make a bet that DOES have a house edge — the pass line, where the 1.41 percent advantage to the house still makes it one of the better bets in casinos.

Slot Tech’s Test Program Doesn’t Change the Odds

A slot machine player wrote to say she was intrigued to watch two slot technicians open a three-reel machine. They flipped a switch, hit the play button — and every combination that showed on the reels was a winner, in order. First game the jackpot symbols, then the 7s, then the triple bars on down to the lowest winner, a single cherry.

Choices Make a Difference in Video Slot Bonus Rounds

Among the prime attractions of video slot machines are interactive bonus games that are a fun way to pile up credits without making extra wagers. Land three noisemakers on the screen in Jackpot Party, for example, and you get to touch the screen to choose gift boxes containing credits until a “Pooper” ends your party. On many games with free-spin bonuses, you’re first asked to touch an icon to reveal how many free spins you’re getting, and sometimes to touch an icon to reveal whether your winnings will be multiplied.

Hot Number at Roulette

A roulette player e-mailed to say he likes to stay with a hot number — if a number is on the board three or more times in recent spins, he’ll keep betting it.

“I’ll bet the surrounding numbers, too,” he said. “If my number is 17, I’ll also bet 16 and 18.”