Can poker be beat?

Dear Mark,
On the radio over the weekend a gambling expert (sorry, I did not get his name) stated that the only game you can truly win at in a casino is poker. Is it true that poker can be beat? David R.

Many would argue that counting cards at blackjack, sports betting, even video poker with lucrative paytables, are casino games that can be beat. But concentrate we will on this authorityšs statement regarding poker, and wešll see why it is a beatable game.

Let us start, David, with two casino gambling truisms.

You will lose if the odds are against you. This truth applies to the majority of casino wagers. You will win if the odds are in your favor. This is why casino owners sleep easy. But, if the odds are dependent on your playing ability, you can affect the outcome by using skill. If proficiency affects the odds in any way, then skillful poker players will eventually fare better than inept players will.

This feature is what makes poker so appealing to the really keen players. They realize they are not playing against the casino. For all practical purposes, poker is offered as a loss leader by the house, only giving the casino an inconsequential share of the pot. The card shark plays against fellow patrons, well aware that through his skill he will consistently and repeatedly devour weaker opponents.

Consequently, David, it all depends where on the food chain your playing ability ranks whether for you poker is a winnable game.

Dear Mark,
What is your thought on the winning progression method when playing blackjack? Chad R.

Convinced that aliens have implanted "smart gambling" probes in my brain, or maybe I feel asleep with the X-Files on- in any event, I now firmly champion the 50% winning progression method. The progression would work like this for a $2 wager: $2, $3, $5, $7, $10, $15, $22, etc. You keep increasing your bet until you lose, then start over with a flat bet (table minimum) of $2.

Moreover, Chad, there is nothing wrong with being conservative, i.e. winning your first bet, pocketing it, and then starting the winning progression formula. Example: $2, $2 again, $3, $5, $7, $10 etc.

Dear Mark,
On the top (jackpot) line of one particular slot, the machine returned 500 for one coin inserted, 1,000 for two coins and 1,500 for three coins. Does that mean I do not have to put in the full amount to get the full value from this machine? Jeff J.

For most slot machines today, regardless of denomination, you need to put in the maximum coin amount to yield a better payback percentage. However, eagle-eyed as you were, Jeff, there was no need to play the maximum amount of coins because you read the paytable at the top of the machine prudently. It was not a machine in which the number of coins played made a proportional difference to the size of your payoff.

Dear Mark,
I'm the guy that threw the first legal dice at a crap table in Canada in 611 years. Eight was the point and we made it. I know, "no big deal," but hopefully my grandkids will talk about the nutty old man. Bob K.

Bravo, Bob, even if you lack an official certificate of authenticity on throwing the "eighter from Decatur" so the rest of us can now enjoy craps in Canada.

Tossing dice was outlawed in England centuries ago when his majesty discovered one of his trusted guards indulging in the art of throwing bones. A prohibition was promptly written and finally rescinded just months ago with Bob-on-the-spot tossing the first "Ozzie and Harriet," or square pair.

Gambling thought of the week: "I believe in luck. How else can you explain the success of those you dislike?" - Jean Cocteau