Not all the important information is hidden

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In our state, we don’t have access to slot payback percentages so we as players don’t have a clue what that percentage is. Your advice in a past column called “slot tips” was to play video poker instead of slots, and yet, wouldn’t that also be bad advice in that video poker is just as random as slots are? Theresa P.

Here’s what I wrote in that column, Theresa: “If you are going to choose between video poker and slots, play video poker. Even poor play on a video poker machine will have a better payback than most “reel” slot machines.”

Here’s why, Theresa, there is such a big difference. Slots are programmed by the manufacturer to pay back a certain percentage, but video poker is based on, yes, Theresa, you are partially right, a random deal from a 52-card deck, but it’s still based on true mathematical probability that you can determine in advance of playing.

In your state, casinos do not make slot machine payback percentages public, but by standing front and center in front of a video poker looking at its payable, you can easily distinguish a good video poker machine from a bad one, and can calculate precisely the true payback for each.

All you need to do is learn what payables to look for, learn proper playing strategy — basically which cards to hold or discard — and you can play against the house almost dead even. Compare that to playing a slot machine, which can be gobbling up to 20 cents of every dollar inserted, and hopefully you can now appreciate the distinct difference.

I saw something this past weekend I’ve never seen happen before in a casino; a natural royal flush at a Caribbean Stud table. What are the odds of a royal flush in Caribbean Stud? Another thing I noticed besides the royal is how many times the dealer didn’t qualify and I wasn’t able to get paid on my call bets. What percentage of the time does the dealer NOT qualify in Caribbean Stud? Jake S.

Caribbean Stud Poker is in essence a game of five-card stud poker, without the luxury of a draw, so seeing that natural royal flush over the weekend is a rare event indeed.

How rare you ask? Well, there are 2,598,560 possible five-card combinations in a standard 52-card deck. With four ways to make a royal flush, the true odds of hitting a natural royal are 649,640 to one.

As to your second question, the dealer will NOT qualify 43.68 percent of the time, which I’m sure leads to fits on your part when you have a good hand and the dealer doesn’t qualify!

That said, Jake, don’t interpret the dealer who doesn’t qualify 43.68 percent of the time as some golden opportunity to always make call bets, so at least your ante will get paid, especially when you have a weak hand.

The hole in this strategy is that when the dealers do qualify, and they will almost 56 percent of the time, you will not only lose the ante bet, but also the call bet, which is twice the amount of the ante wager.

If you mistakenly bluff with a weak hand, you will lose 25% more of your ante over the long haul than if you had folded your shaky ones.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Poker is seductive to compulsive gamblers because they think their skill has not only leveled the playing field, but given them an advantage.” –Andy Belin

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