Doesn’t work in poker? Card counting in blackjack

Q: Can you get an advantage by counting cards in a poker-level game? Is there a good counting system?

A. Poker is a great game–it’s no coincidence that it’s the most popular casino game in the world. As long as the dealer does a good job, there is nothing to be expected in the game of poker. Every hand is reshuffled, so the balance of low and high cards in the deck doesn’t change, just like blackjack. Players are not allowed to show their cards to each other, and assuming this is enforced, no additional information will change the basic strategy about when to bet or fold. Casinos sometimes have lax procedures. I’ve played Mississippi Stud where players show each other their cards and neither the dealer nor the supervisor stop it. When this happens, you can use information about whether the cards you need have already been dealt.

Sometimes the dealer is a bit sloppy in procedure and will reveal one or more of his cards. In three-card poker, the cards are usually dealt in groups of three from an automatic shuffler, and sometimes the dealer’s hole cards may be seen moving from the shuffler to the dealer’s position. When that occurs, it becomes possible to figure out which card is the card down. This can mean a big advantage for players who know how to use this information.

Dr. Eliot Jacobson is an edge game expert who wrote about the three-card poker game in 2012 on the A.P. Heat blog, now published on the 888 Casino Blog. Instead of following the basic strategy of betting games with 6-4 or better, Jacobson calculates these adaptations when you see the dealer card:
1.If the dealer’s hand is Jack or lower, always bet no matter what your hand is. Starting with one of these cards lowers the dealer’s chances of qualifying with a queen or better, and increases your chances of winning the bet by default.

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

3.If hand is king, bet King-9-2 or better.

4.If holding an Ace, bet Ace-9-2 or better.

Many times, dealers don’t reveal their cards. It’s not like blackjack counting, anyone with skill, knowledge, and temperament can count, as long as the cards aren’t shuffled in a row. Blackjack-style points are not possible in poker-based table games.

Q: When you choose the number of free spins, do you think about slot machine strategy? I’m playing a five-choice online game where you get 20 free spins and the wins will be multiplied by three, four or six times. You can play five free spins with a multiplier of 13, 20 or 25 times your win. Three choices fall in between.

Which is better, more spins or bigger multiplier?

A. These are called “Choose Your Volatility” games. If you hit a big winning combination with a 25x payout, the prize could be much larger than a longer round with a lower multiplier. Decreasing spins also increases the risk of no winners at all.
I like to start in the middle with a big enough multiplier so winning big wins would really make a difference to my credit meter, but there are enough spins to chase those big wins.

Neither way is “better”. It all depends on your risk tolerance and preference for multiple spins rather than less frequent big wins.

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