QUESTION: The Michigan Lottery offers a game called PokerLotto. It includes a draw poker hand from the machine against a poker pay table. Then, there is a 7:30 pm drawing in the evening where if the cards on your ticket match the exact poker hand shown on TV, you win $100,000. My question regards the second chance of winning. To me at least it makes the game exciting, otherwise, I would not play. Does the second chance of winning make for a good bet? Nancy C.

ANSWER: PokerLotto, Nancy, is simple enough. You start by visiting your lotto retailer to get a printed PokerLotto ticket. Each play will cost you $2. Five easy-pick cards are then randomly selected from a standard 52-card deck and are printed on your ticket. If the five cards drawn create a winning poker hand, you can instantly win “up to” $5,000. If not, your same cards participate in a nightly drawing for more prizes, like that $100,000 you mentioned.

So, what are the odds of your poker hand matching that of the nightly drawing?

There are 2,598,560 possible five-card combinations in a standard 52-card deck. That makes your second chance of winning one in 2,598,560. Those are pretty long odds, Nancy, especially when a $100,000 payout is nowhere near that figure.

The Michigan lottery coins PokerLotto as “two great games in every hand.” I disagree, not only because of the very long odds of matching five-of-five cards but also because the probabilities on every other winning hand versus the payout, make for a tough beat.

Granted, we are encouraged to believe that it is OK for the lottery to rob us blind because so much of the money goes towards a good cause; still, Nancy, I would recommend passing on PokerLotto.

QUESTION: Roulette can be won in the following manners. One, every spin need not be bet (there are bad times and good). Two, Red-Black, Even-Odd, and High-Low will eventually break you. Three, if you have more than three repeats (back-back) numbers in last 20 rolls, walk away. Verron M.

ANSWER: Let’s begin, Verron, with “every spin need not be bet. There are good times and bad.” Because every spin is a random event, nobody knows the whereabouts of where that ball is going to drop next. Yes, you are correct that there are hot and cold cycles, but, unfortunately, only Nostradamus can predict those future hot and cold runs. See also my answer to three.

As for advice on No. 2, all bets on a double-zero roulette table hold the same 5.26 percent house advantage, with one exception: the five-number bet (0, 00, 1, 2, 3). The casino edge on that wager is 7.9 percent. This house edge does not discriminate against your mentioned wagers of black/red, even/odd and high/low, or a single chip on Black straight up.

No. 3, Verron, does have some merit. Although each spin is an independent event, if you are not physically gambling, you are not losing money. The 5.26 percent house edge cannot work against you if you don’t have chips spread on the layout.

Leave it to the Greeks, Verron, to believe that gods influenced the outcome of games of chance.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Researchers have discovered that rats are very similar to humans in many ways, except they are not stupid enough to purchase lottery tickets." – Dave Barry

Mark Pilarski is a nationally syndicated gaming writer. Visit him online at or follow him on Twitter @MarkPilarski.

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