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Blackjack best bet

It’s only the second week of 2008, but no doubt there are many already lamenting how hard it will be to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Then again, what’s so great about dieting, exercise and smoke-free lungs?

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The casino is always a good panacea for whatever ails you, assuming you know what you’re doing and can control your play.

Toward that end, here are some tips about playing in a casino, as well as a list of the Top 10 games in which the player actually has a fighting chance to win (or to not lose too greatly).

First, realize that most casino games simply cannot be beaten in the long run. If you’re not an expert and you won — it was a pure stroke of luck.

Next, understand that playing your streaks, progressing your bets or recording past outcomes has absolutely no effect on your overall results. If it had anything to do with that, casinos would be sitting ducks.

Finally, know that some games are worse than others — a lot worse. So if you’re going to gamble, play a game that wouldn’t practically take an act of God to bring you out on top.

The following list of casino games is printed in the order of your chances to win, from the best down to the worst:

Blackjack: Twenty-one is undoubtedly, the easiest game to acquire the skill that will give you an overall edge. First, you need to learn the correct way to play all your hands. Then you must gain some awareness of available high vs. low cards. Your advantage will be very small, but it still beats the heck out of losing just like everybody else.

Poker: Become an expert poker player, and you’ll have an edge much larger than is possible anywhere else in the casino. Problem is, poker strategy runs very deep and the higher your stakes, the more experts you’re likely to have for opponents.

Video Poker: The percentage payback on video poker has eroded over the years. Machines with 100+ percent returns for perfect strategy decisions are nearly extinct. But 99+ percent machines or close to it are still around if you can decipher their listed payout tables. Remember though, you’ve got to make the strategically correct draws.

Craps: The human element in craps boils down to simply knowing which three or four of its 30 available bets will keep the house edge down to a bare bones minimum. You can get your disadvantage down to well under 1 percent at craps, but you can never gain the upper hand in the game. The best bets are the pass/don’t pass, come/don’t come and the odds wagers.

Baccarat: For an absolute no-brainer game, baccarat has only a 1.2 percent house edge. Sorry though, there’s no way to improve your chances beyond that. Your only skill is looking like a high-stakes player if you don’t own a tux.

Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride: These three "specialty" table games all have a 2 percent to 2.8 percent minimum house edge. As card games go, that’s poor.

Roulette: The house will end up keeping 5 percent of all the money you wager at roulette. James Bond could beat it, but you’re not James Bond. Nonetheless, the game is fun if you don’t try to hit the moon with those high odds, low percentage bets.

Slots: Every year the casinos replace more table games with machines. In locals oriented Las Vegas casinos, up to 80 percent of all casino revenue come from gaming machines. And in the state of Nevada, the casinos’ average profit per machine was more than 6 percent of its total action. If you’ve got money to burn, there’s a slot machine waiting just for you.

Of course, sports betting, which is legal only in Nevada, offers huge returns for astute players. It didn’t make our list because it isn’t standard fare throughout the country. But, you can profit, despite the 10 percent vig.