QUESTION: What are your thoughts about using a betting progression method in playing blackjack against a continuous shuffling machine? Is playing against shuffle machines ever a good idea? Tim R.

ANSWER: Raising or lowering your wagers without the knowledge of the composition of the deck – card counting – does not change the house edge. In this respect, a betting progression will not help you regardless of whether the shuffle is continuous or hand shuffled. At the end of the day, Tim, house edge will stay the same irrespective of your betting patterns.

As for playing against shuffle machines, consider me not a fan. My beef against a continuous shuffler is that they invariably favor the house because more hands are dealt per hour when the dealer does not have to stop and shuffle the cards. From the casino’s perspective, time is money. The more hands per hour, the better for the house. From a player’s perspective, speed kills in a casino environment. The longer you are exposed to the house advantage, the more mayhem on your bankroll.

The deal here, Tim, pun intended, is that you are already spotting the house an edge against your play; a faster game helps them, never you.

QUESTION: My game of choice is video poker. Typically, I bet quarters, but if I am having a bit of luck, I bump it up to dollars. As you often mention, I try my best to identify the best pay tables along with using basic strategy. It seems lately that I am having much better luck on dollar machines, more so than playing quarters. Do I see better cards because of the coin denomination that I choose? Tom S.

ANSWER: The coin denomination of the machine that you are playing on has no effect on what you are drawing in video poker. The random number generator that determines what cards you will see on the screen is the same chip in a quarter machine as it is on a dollar game. Playing dollars versus quarters has noinfluence on the “frequency of winning.”

Your luck on dollar games, Tom, could simply be because the pay tables where you play are probably better on the dollar machines than the quarter ones. For instance, on a Jacks or Better machine and employing expert play, a 9/6 Jacks or Better game returns 99.5 percent. If you drop the full house and flush payoffs to the 8/5 that you probably see on a quarter game, that return drops to 97.3 percent.

The two plus percent difference might not seem like a whole lot, Tom, but it is plenty enough to give you more than just the illusion of winning on a dollar game.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Casinos don’t like to use the word “gambling” anymore. The euphemism of choice is “gaming.” But you’re not there to play games. You’re there to gamble, with all the inherent risks. Don’t be fooled by the casinos little word games.” – John Gollehon, "A Gamblers Little Instruction Book" (1994).

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

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