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Through the years, I have suggested to many inventors of table games that they should provide new players with information regarding basic strategy.

To me, the biggest peril of doing so should be a legal one. What if you provide the player with a good, but not perfect strategy? Would you open yourself up to any lawsuits? I’m sure there are lawyers who could help you with the proper wording to protect against this. But it never gets this far. Most inventors think I’m crazy for even suggesting the idea.

One of the companies that has done what I’ve suggested is Shuffle Master/Scientific Games. It varies depending on the game. But many tables will have a card explaining the rules of the game and then give ‘good’ to ‘perfect’ advice.

Many years ago, I recall reading their suggested strategy for Four Card Poker. I was skeptical back then as to how good of advice could they give. As it turns out, it was a pretty solid and simple strategy — which is what they said it was. I developed a more complex one that shaves another bit off the house edge. But they did not claim their strategy was perfect.

Poker’s future filled with exciting possibilities

What is the point of giving players the strategy for a game? Most table games have a payback of about 98 — 99 percent of the total wager. Casinos have realized that taking in 1.5 percent of the total wager makes them a lot of money.

Throw in the fact that even if the strategy is flashing in neon lights, a fair number of players won’t bother to use it anyhow. Add to that, more importantly, that for many games, the real profit is in the sidebets. You can’t get much simpler than the strategy for Three Card Poker. Play a Q-6-4 or higher.

In fact, in looking for a topic for today’s column, I was researching online casinos as I figure that many of you may be looking in this direction while virtually all real casinos are shuttered. I came across a site that advertises heavily for online casinos and it provides the strategy for Three Card Poker right there. Play Q-6-4. Fold Q-6-3.

My research was geared towards figuring out if the online casinos offer the same paytables as the real-world counterparts. For Three Card Poker, they do. Part of me was almost surprised. Especially now, while the online casinos have a near monopoly, I thought perhaps they would take advantage.

Of course, since the most common Pair Plus paytable pays only below 93 percent, there is no need to lower it any further. A player playing both wagers at $5 minimum is going to lose about 65—70 cents per hand or about $20 per hour. If we throw in the 6-card Bonus, which can range from 82—93 percent or so, we can add another 35—90 cents per hand into the casinos take.

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All of this made me wonder how ‘honest’ some of the online casinos are. I’m asked this question frequently about live casinos and real-world video poker machines. Rigging an on-line casino is even easier. Those that are offshore many not even legally be required to use true random number generators.

But my gut tells me that the vast majority of online casinos use the same thought process as the real casinos. There is no need to cheat given they already make so much money off the standard house edge and the human error.

So, what is a player to do? Very simple, stick to the wagers with the highest paybacks. Playing online is essentially no different than playing in the real world. In fact, it might be easier to shop around for paytables online than it is on the Strip.

Do some research when you find different paytables to determine what the paybacks really are. If 6-Card Bonus has paybacks from 82—93 percent — do your best to find the one at 93 percent or maybe just stay away from it.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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