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Players share unconventional strategies and choices beyond house edge optimization

By John Grochowski


One of the things I had to learn when I started to write about gambling 30 years ago was that it’s not the goal of every player to get the lowest possible house edge.

Some players will choose other directions because they want to increase chances at a big jackpot, because a bankroll shortage forces non-optimal plays, because they had a bad streak with correct strategies and want to try something else, or any number of reasons important to them.

Every year, a number of messages arrive from players detailing specific plays where they stray from perfect strategy. Let’s share a few without comment to let players have their say. These aren’t plays I make or recommend, but these players aren’t looking for advice.



When I play blackjack, it’s usually at a $10 table. Those are the lowest minimums near me. I buy in for $200, and I will not go beyond that in one session. If it’s a short session, then it is.

I run into a strategy thing sometimes when I’m running short of chips. If doubling down or splitting pairs means I have to break a new bill, then I don’t do it. I don’t care if it’s two 8s against a 6, I’ll just play it as a 16.

If I bought more chips, it would be too easy for me just to lose more money. My limit is a line in the sand, and I don’t cross it.



I love Double Double Bonus Poker, I love Ten Play Poker, and my casino has 9-5 Double Double Bonus on Ten Play for quarters.

I know the strategies and I follow them to the letter. I’m a good player. But there’s one play I just can’t bring myself to make when I’m playing 10 hands at once.

When I have a full house with Aces up, like A-A-A-7-7, I break it up and hold just the Aces on single- hand games, but I hold the full house on Ten Play.

I know the math says this is not a close call and I should stick with Aces and hope for the fourth Ace and maybe even a kicker for that 2,000- coin jackpot. But in Ten Play, holding the full houses means 450 coins, $112.50 worth of quarters. If I break it up, I could wind up with 10 threes of a kind, 150 coins or $37.50.

With a payoff of more than $100 on the line, we’re getting into big enough money that I don’t want to take the risk. So I make a play that I know isn’t the best.

I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person.



I’ve been playing Three Card Poker probably for 10 years or so, and I always make both the ante- play and the Pairs Plus bets. In fact, I usually bet twice as much on Pairs Plus—maybe a $10 ante and a $20 Pairs Plus.

I’ve had some big wins that way. You really can get the straight flushes and three-of-a-kind payoffs that make your day. Once, I found a table that paid extra on a mini-royal, paying 50-1 instead of the 40-1 you usually get on straight flushes. Not only did I get a mini-royal that day, I got a straight flush, too. With $20 bets, that was some really nice money.

I know they say the house takes your money faster on the Pairs Plus, but I play for the big wins. I can shake off the losses, but big wins make me happy.



I know the recommended strategy is to hit hard 16 when the dealer has a 7 or higher, but I can’t bring myself to do it. OK, I can bring myself to do it when the dealer has a 10 or Ace, but not against lower cards.

I’m probably going to lose no matter what I do, but at least I get to stay in action while the dealer plays out his hand. You never know, he might bust.

My friend at work who is a serious blackjack player tells me I have it exactly wrong, that it’s even more important to hit against 7s or 8s than 10s or Aces, but I don’t see it. I’ll do it my way.



I hedge my bets in craps, especially if the point is 4 or 10. I have my pass bet, but once there’s a point, I’ll make a small bet on any 7. I want to get SOMETHING and not just seven out with those numbers.

There’s another one that everybody tells me is wrong: I bet on Big 6 and Big 8. I get that payoffs are better if I place 6 and 8 instead, but I have to bet more to do that. At a $10 table, I can bet $10 on Big 6, but would need to place for $12. I don’t want to have to make bigger bets.

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