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We are all familiar with the phrase, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” This quote is quite important to the world of gambling.

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As I discussed in last week’s column, even when the player has an advantage over the casino in a particular game, it does NOT mean he will always walk away a winner. In similar fashion, not every bad gambling idea leads to an immediate loss.

Even if you choose to hit a 20 while playing blackjack, every so often you WILL hit an ace and it will help you win when you would otherwise lose. (Well, technically it can only help you push when you would have lost or win when you would have pushed). But, the bottom line is, even if it works out once in a while – it still isn’t a good idea.

This week, I’m going to look at a few “common” bad ideas you will see when you walk into a casino.

Splitting 10s into a bust card

The dealer has a 4, 5 or 6 up and you’ve got a pair of 10s. The dealer is going to bust anyhow, so why not split up your 10s and draw two more 10s and crush the house. Well, first of all, if you split the first two 10s and draw two more, you’d split again! If it’s a good idea the first time, it must be a good idea the second, too!

What makes this one so dangerous is in the end, it IS a winning proposition. The problem is, relative to just holding the 20, it is a TERRIBLE decision. If you were dealt 100,000 pairs of 10s (against a 6) and were to just stick as you are supposed to, you would win 67,600 units. This means you win the hand almost 84% of the time.

If you decide to get split happy and keep splitting 10s, you’ll win a total of about 30,700 units or less than half as much – all while risking more than three times as much money.

It might feel good once in a while when the dealer busts and you win three or four hands at once. But when the dealer winds up with a 17, 18 or 19 and you realize you blew a good hand for two or three or four lousy ones, the euphoria will quickly disappear. No matter how you slice it, your bankroll will suffer in the long run.

Playing jack high in 3-card poker

Several years ago, I was sitting at a 3-card poker table when a woman told another player that generally she plays only a queen high, but once in a while you can beat the dealer with a jack high hand. Actually, NO, you can’t.

If you have a jack high, the only way you win is if the dealer does not qualify. In this case, your play wager will push and your ante bet will win. This will happen 5,277 of the 18,424 possible dealer hands. You will be wagering two units in the hopes of winning one and it will occur far less than 30% of the time.

With 18,424 possible dealer hands, if you fold, you will lose 18,424 units. If you play, you will risk 36,848 units and win back only 15,831 for a net loss of just over 21,000. It may be painful to fold and if you do you will NEVER get paid any winners for a jack high hand, but your bankroll WILL thank you because it will last that much longer.

Betting 4x on pairs in UTH

Proper strategy for Ultimate Texas Hold’em calls for betting 4x on a significant number of hands. The strategy DOES include pairs of 3s or better, but also includes any hand with an ace and a variety of suited and unsuited hands with a jack or better.

You have heard of players playing properly while dealers tell them they are playing too aggressively. The payback of UTH is 99.25% when you use Expert Strategy. If you choose to bet 4x ONLY when you are dealt a pair of 3s or better, the payback goes down about 3% to 96.25%. Put another way, the house advantage increases 400%!

One could say casino games are developed with these types of traps. But the reality is they are only traps if you fall into them. The proper strategy is readily found for virtually every casino game. You can either choose to learn them or follow your own bad idea.

Check out my website at for tips on how to play many table games.


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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