A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I get that basic strategy in Three Card Poker is to play with Queen-6-4 or better and fold with less. What if you can see one of the dealer's cards.
A couple of years ago, I was playing in a casino where the shuffler at a Three Card Poker table was out of order. I don't know how long it took them to get another shuffler out there, but they didn't shut down the table. The dealer just dealt by hand. It's a little slower that way, but really, there was no disruption to the game.
I played for maybe 45 minutes, and the dealer was a nice guy, got all the players talking. He had this habit of dealing from way high, and I could almost always see his bottom card.
If I knew he had a King or an Ace, I wasn't going to bet my Queen-high hands. There were a few of those, so he saved me some money.
But I was wondering, is there a strategy for when you can see a dealer card? Some dealers must tip their cards now and then, even if the machine is working.
A. Several years ago, Michael Shackelford published a strategy for that situation at wizardofodds.com.
If the card you see is a Jack or lower, bet any hand. The presence of a lower card decreases the probability the dealer will have a qualifying hand of a Queen or better. If the dealer doesn't qualify, you win on your ante. With that, making a play bet equal to your ante is a better move than forfeiting your ante by folding with hands of less than Queen-6-4.
However, if you see a Queen or higher, it increases the chances the dealer will beat Queen-6-4. That leads us to look for better hands before making the play bet.
If you see a dealer Queen, bet with Queen-9-2 or better and fold with less.
If you see a dealer King, bet with King-9-2 or better and fold with less.
And if you see a dealer Ace, bet with Ace-9-2 or better and fold with less.
There is more detail at Shackelford's site, tackling situations including being able to see a card is a face but not being able to distinguish rank, or being able to tell a card is not a face but not being able to tell the Aces from the 2s through 10s.
But assuming you can identify Aces and each of the faces, that strategy gives players a 3.48 percent edge if the ante bonus uses a 5-4-1 pay table or 3.02 percent at 4-3-1.
Q. My wife and I were talking about slot machines and the wheel bonuses like on Wheel of Fortune. It seems like they've been around forever now, and Wheel of Fortune remains a favorite. Were the wheel bonuses invented to fit that game when the manufacturer got the rights?
A. The first slot system to use a spinning wheel with number segments was Wheel of Gold, which hit the casinos in 1996.
Wheel of Gold was devised by Anchor Gaming, and first used atop Bally Technologies slant-top slots. Players immediately flocked to the games, even stopping to watch when they couldn't get a seat.
International Game Technology knew a good thing when it saw it. It licensed Wheel of Gold from Anchor and made the wheel the centerpiece when it licensed the Wheel of Fortune TV theme in 1998. IGT later acquired Anchor, and IGT, the wheel, Wheel of Fortune and players have been happy together ever since.