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Speed Kills!

Dear Mark,
What do you think of shuffle machines? Susan C.

Personally, Susan, I do not like them at all, in spite of these shuffle
mechanisms finding wide acceptance by casino operators and players alike.

With a shuffle machine, dealers do not have to waste time manually shuffling cards. From the casino perspective, time is money. The more hands you are dealt per hour, the better. From a player's perspective, your perspective speed kills in a casino environment. The more time you are
exposed to the house advantage, the more it will wreak havoc on your bankroll. I recommend playing each hand correctly with the lowest table limit you can find and with the fewest decks possible. These conditions force the dealer to shuffle more, which, with smart play, keeps your
exposure to the casino's edge at a minimum.

Dear Mark,
Is there any value in counting cards at video poker? I figure that if I count down the 10s and face cards, I will better my chances of when to bet five coins for the royal flush. David M.

In past columns, David, I have exhausted in depth the reasons why you should always play all the coins required to get the bonus money. As for counting the cards down, spare yourself the effort. Each hand is dealt from a freshly
randomized deck. No card counting strategy can yield a higher payback for video poker, since each hand dealt is independent of all preceding events.

Your advantage against the casino comes from knowing how to select the best cards to hold and to discard.

Dear Mark,
Next month I am going on my first cruise. Do you happen to know what the
return is on the slot machines? Do cruise ship slots have the same payback
as casinos in the US? Carl C.

Before setting sail, Carl, know that you are over your head in such waters,
as your chances of winning on a cruise ship are less than in most casinos in
all major U.S. gaming jurisdictions.
Because no gaming commission nor other governmental agency oversees gambling
on cruise ships, there is no way of knowing how much cruise ship slot
machines return. In speaking with some friends who were former casino
executives on cruise ships, the inside scoop is that most machines return
between 80-92 percent. Besides selling a sailing vacation experience, these
flotillas of chance increase on-board revenue by maximizing the amount of
money taken in from the casino. The casinos, Carl, are one of the biggest
money makers for the cruise lines. The sinking feeling you may experience
while on the briny deep will most likely come from the lower (than
shore-based casino's) payout on slots.

Dear Mark,
Is there ever a case where you would break up a hand that had four cards to the royal flush? I was dealt one but instead kept a straight flush (9, 10, J, Q, K of spades). Did I play it right or should I have dumped the 9 and gone for the Ace? Karen S.

You made the correct move, Karen. If you have a hand that contains four cards to the royal flush, you should always discard the lone aberrant card and draw to the royal with two exceptions: 1) a naturally dealt straight
flush or 2) four-of-a-kind. Your "pat" straight flush is considerably more valuable than four cards to a royal.

Gambling thought of the week: "My advice to the unborn is, don't be born with a gambling instinct unless you have a good sense of probabilities."

Jack Dreyfus of Dreyfus Mutual Fund

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