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Blackjack-style card counting won't work in poker-based games

Blackjack-style card counting won't work in poker-based games

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A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. Can you get an edge by counting cards in the games that use poker ranks, like Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride or Mississippi Stud? Are there any good counting systems out there?

A. As long as the dealer is doing his job well, there is nothing for you to count in poker-based games. Cards are shuffled fresh for every hand, so there is no change in the balance of low and high cards in the deck, as there is in blackjack.

Players are not permitted to show each other their cards, and assuming this is enforced, there is no extra information that would change basic strategy on when to bet or fold. Casinos are sometimes lax in procedures. I’ve played in a Mississippi Stud game in which players showed each other their cards and neither the dealer nor supervisors moved to stop it. When that happens you can use information on whether cards you need have already been dealt.

Sometimes dealers are a little sloppy in procedure and expose a card or cards of their own. In Three Card Poker, where cards usually are dealt in stacks of three from an automatic shuffler, it’s sometimes possible to see a dealer’s bottom card as it’s moved from shuffler to the dealer’s spot.

That can mean a big advantage to players who know how to use the info.

Eliot Jacobson, PhD, is an advantage play expert wrote about Three Card Poker hole card play in 2012 in his A.P. Heat blog, now distributed at 888 Casino Blog. Instead of following the basic strategy of making the play bet with Queen-6-4 or better, Jacobson calculated these adaptations when you can see a dealer card:

**If the dealer hole card is Jack or lower, always make the play bet no matter what’s in your hand. Starting with one of those cards decreases the chance the dealer with qualify with Queen or better and increases the chance you’ll win the ante by default.

**If the hole card is a Queen, bet with Queen-9-2 or better. Queen-6-4 is no longer strong enough when you know the dealer has Queen to start.

**If the hole card is King, bet with KIng-9-2 or better.

**If the hole card is an Ace, bet with Ace-9-2 or better.

Much more often than not, dealers won’t expose their cards. This is not like blackjack card counting where anyone with the skill, knowledge and temperament can count as long as a continuous shuffler is not in play. Blackjack-style counting is not possible in poker-based table pit games.

Q. Do you have a thought on slot strategy when you choose how many free spins you take? I was playing one online that had five choices, You could take 20 free spins and wins would be multiplied three, four or six times. You could take five free spins and have the multipliers be 13, 20 or 25 times your win. Three choices were in between.

Which is better, more spins or bigger multipliers?

A. These are called “choose your volatility” games. If you hit one big winning combination with a 25x bonus, rewards can be far bigger than a longer round with lower multipliers. Taking fewer spins also increase the risk of no winners at all.

I like to start in middle with multipliers large enough so win big win makes a real difference on my credit meter, but enough spins to chase those big wins.

Neither way is “better.” It’s all down to your risk tolerance and preferences for many spins vs. a shot at less frequent big wins.


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