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Test yourself: Craps, roulette, blackjack

| Friday, Oct. 22, 2010

OK, players, it's time for that dreaded classroom assignment: Pop quiz!

The first 16 installments of Player's Advantage covered ways to have a better shot at winning at blackjack and other casino games. Here's a chance to test yourself on some of those lessons.


Q: You're dealt Ace-Seven and the dealer's up card is a 10. What do you do: hit, stand, double or demand even money?

A: You hit, because it's the secret of life. An ace, two or three improves your hand, while a 10-value card leaves you at 18. Seven of the 13 possible cards you can receive either increase your total or keep it the same. You hit because your 18 probably isn't enough to win anyway. Demanding even money won't get you anything beyond a patronizing smile from the dealer.

Q: When do you stand while holding Ace-6?

A: Never. With Ace-6 against a dealer's up card of two through six, you double; against a seven through Ace, you hit. The only way you win with 17 is if the dealer busts. You don't stand on Ace-Six because you can't hurt the hand.

Q: You're dealt 9-7 and the dealer shows a face card. Do you hit or stand?

A: Trick question. In Pennsylvania, the correct play is to surrender, giving up half your bet without making a play. I just returned from a "research trip" to Tunica, Miss., where none of the nine casinos allows surrender. Many times, I wished I had that option. I would have saved a lot of money.

Q: You're dealt 9-9 and the dealer shows an 8. What do you do?

A: Put out enough extra money to match your original bet and split. You're better off starting with two hands of 9 than with your original 18. The object is to win, not push.


Q: The display at the table shows that a red number has hit on each of the past five spins. The dealer puts the ball in motion and you have only seconds to place your bet. Do you bet red because it's been hot or go with black because it's due?

A: It doesn't matter. What happened on the last five, 10 or 100 spins has no effect on what happens this time. The ball can land in one of 38 spots on the wheel; 18 of them are black, 18 are red and two are green. The odds don't change from spin to spin. Whether you bet red or black, your chances of being right are 18 out of 38.

Video poker

Q: You're playing Jacks or Better and are dealt the 6 of spades, 7 of diamonds, 8 of hearts, 9 of clubs and 6 of diamonds. Which cards do you save?

A: Keep the pair of 6s. You have a better chance of hitting two pair or better than you do of hitting the straight.


Q: What's the best bet in craps?

A: The one that's not marked on the table: the odds bet behind your "pass" or "don't pass" bet. The odds bet is paid at the "true odds" of rolling that number vs. rolling a 7. If you take the maximum odds allowed in Pennsylvania -- 10 times your original bet -- you cut the house edge on your total bet to less than 0.2 percent.

Q: The shooter has rolled a seven on four straight tosses. Do you bet "any seven" because he's on a streak?

A: No. "Any seven" is a lousy bet, with a house edge of almost 17 percent. Besides, dice have no memory. No matter what was rolled on the last toss or the last thousand tosses, the odds of rolling a 7 on the next are unchanged: six out of the 36 possible combinations of the dice. If you see the similarity between this answer and the roulette answer, give yourself extra credit.

Question of the week

How many slot machines does Pennsylvania have?

As of Oct. 17, players could choose from 26,897 slots at the state's 10 casinos, according to Gaming Control Board records. Each machine averaged $229.29 in taxable revenue per day for that week. For comparison, Atlantic City's 11 casinos had 28,297 slot machines at the end of September. Nevada has the most of any state, with more than 191,000. California is second and Oklahoma is third.

Meadows to add tables

The Meadows plans to add two Let it Ride tables, four more blackjack tables and another roulette table, all in the main casino. The additions, to be completed within a month, will give The Meadows 69 table games.

Money trail

For the week ended Oct 17, Pennsylvania's 10 casinos generated $43.17 million in gross slot machine revenue on bets totaling $551.5 million. The statewide payout rate was 90.36 percent. Gross slot revenue, which is used to figure the state's tax take, was up by 14.2 percent from the $37.82 million generated by the nine casinos open in the comparable week last year. Gross slot revenue in the week ended Oct. 17 for Western Pennsylvania casinos:

• $4.8 million: Rivers, on bets totaling $58.69 million. Payout: 90.1 percent.

• $4.68 million: The Meadows, on bets totaling $61.15 million. Payout: 90.58 percent.

• $3.16 million: Presque Isle in Erie, on bets totaling $41.56 million. Payout: 90.61 percent.

Free-play error

A computer error mistakenly credited several slot machine users at Rivers with $1,000 worth of free slot play on Monday, the casino said.

A casino statement said the source of the error was being investigated. An undisclosed number of players received the credit. The casino quickly corrected the error, the statement said.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board representatives were on site at the time and provided a preliminary report, board spokesman Doug Harbach said. He said the board is investigating the incident and complaints from customers.

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