Winning Tips

BLACKJACK: What Would You Do?

How would you play the following four blackjack hands? The dealer’s upcard is a 6.


Even though all four hands have a count of 18, they are not necessarily played the same way against the dealer’s 6 upcard. Often the playing strategy depends upon the makeup of the cards in your hand.

For example, look at the first hand (our baseline hand). You are dealt a two-card hard 18, and the playing strategy is straightforward; you stand when the dealer shows a 6 upcard. I would venture a guess and say that virtually 100% of players would play this hand correctly.

The second hand is also a hard 18 but it consists of a pair of 9s. I’ve seen many players stand on this hand, figuring a count of 18 is good enough. Standing might be OK for 10-8 against a 6 but when you have a pair of 9s, the correct play is to split. The reason you split is that you will win more money starting with two hands of nine against a dealer’s 6 upcard than you will starting with one hand of 18.

The third hand is also an 18 but it contains an ace counted as 11; therefore, the hand is a soft 18. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen players stand on this hand against a dealer’s 6 (presumably, because they think an 18 is a good hand against a weak dealer’s 6). Yes, when you stand you’ll win money in the long run; however, you will win even more money if you double down (e.g., 10 percent more money if it’s a six-deck game with double after pair splitting permitted and dealer standing on soft 17).

Actually, we aren’t trying to better the count of our hand when we double a soft 18. In fact, many times we’ll wind up with a count less than 18 after the draw of one card. However, the point of doubling a soft 18 is this: we have a chance to double our bet when the dealer has a 42 percent chance of busting with a 6 upcard. Furthermore, we can’t bust when we draw one card because if the count of the hand exceeds 21, we then count the ace as one. Therefore, we have no risk of busting with a one-card draw and a good chance the dealer will bust, which makes doubling soft 18 against a dealer 6 a more profitable play
than standing.

The fourth hand is also a soft 18 but it is a multi-card soft 18. Since the playing rules don’t allow you to double down on a hand containing three (or more) cards, the correct playing strategy is to stand against a dealer’s 6. (As a general rule, you should always hit multi-card soft hands that total 17 or less regardless of what the dealer’s upcard is. With soft 18, you stand if the dealer’s upcard is 8 or less and hit if it’s 9, 10, or ace.)

Look at the following three hands. Suppose you are dealt them and the dealer is showing a 4 upcard. How would you play each hand?


All three hands have a starting total of 12. However, each hand is played differently against a dealer’s 4 upcard.

Hand #1 is a hard 12, consisting of 8-4. Against a dealer’s 4 upcard, the correct play is to stand.

Hand #2 is also a hard 12 but the hand contains a ten-value card. By having one ten-value card in your hand, you slightly lower your chances of busting with a hit just enough to make hitting 10-2 a better play than standing when the dealer’s upcard is a 4.

(Note: This effect decreases as the number of decks increases; therefore, for six or fewer decks, you should hit a 10-2 against a dealer’s 4 upcard but in an eight-deck game, you should stand.)

The third hand consists of a pair of 6s. You should never stand (or hit) against a dealer’s 4. Depending on the playing rules, if you split you’ll either lose less money or turn a losing hand into a slightly wining hand.

The above are just some examples of where not only the count of the hand is important, but also the makeup of the cards that determines the best playing strategy. Until next time, play smart and win.


Craps: Mommy’s Manners

My mother always believed in proper manners. She wanted me to be respectful of others’ feelings and to keep my mouth shut if I didn’t have something decent to say. Of course, she didn’t think I should just roll over if someone were nasty to me but you get the picture, I shouldn’t be the “bore in the room” without strong provocation. (more…)

Slots: Put Me In Coach

P29_Boyd Slot Tourname_optI recently was a guest on Southern Gaming Radio to talk about both video poker and slot tournaments. The host, Southern Gaming and Destination’s managing editor, Joseph Grove, made casino special events sound so tempting that many listeners were champing at the bit to join in. While I wouldn’t advise taking WD-40 to spritz the buttons for faster play, there are a few legal things you can do to gain an advantage and really be “ready to play” come tournament day.

Getting off the bench. Tournaments for slots have been around for a long time but as they evolve some of the old rules have changed. Here are some tips in keeping with the latest trends so you can maximize both your odds of qualifying to play and your score once you’re selected.

Entry equity. In the past players filled out entry tickets by hand, a tedious process, and placed them in the drum. Some even increased their odds of having their name drawn by folding their entry forms certain ways. Nowadays, however, you usually earn tickets based solely on your “coin-in”, meaning the amount of money you’ve run through their devices for slot and VP players. To maximize the number of tickets you have in the virtual drum you should stick to low variance games.

Rules. One of the most important things to do in preparation is to read the tournament rules several times and ask questions about anything that is still unclear. Your feet will be held to the fire when it comes to enforcing the rules, even if you are a frequent player and have a host. One requirement that inexplicably disqualifies players is getting to the designated spot on time. If you’re told you have just two minutes to get to the slot club desk why play a device three minutes away while they’re calling names?

Arrival. On tournament day you should plan on getting to the casino significantly ahead of time. That’s because you’ll want to watch several rounds preceding your own to learn the ropes.

For example:
A). Can you select your own machine? If so, which ones have the loosest buttons?
B). Are there special requirements, like popping virtual balloons on a touch screen for
bonus points?
C). Are the rules stated by the MC accurately, since some announcers aren’t gamblers?

In addition, you’ll be able to calm your nerves by knowing what’s expected.

Perseverance. Just like Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Joe DiMaggio, mentioned in the song, you can’t give up because you’re feeling some pain. Believe it or not you’ll walk away with sore fingers and hurting wrists after playing in most of these events. I even had small blisters on my fingers after the third 2-minute session in the “Tournament of Champions.” Also, block out the announcers naming the people who are in the lead and focus solely on playing as fast as you can and earning bonus points if they’re available.

Making the cut. You’ll never see PGA golfers leaving town when they’re on the bubble for making the tournament cut, nor should you. Even if the odds of making it to the next round are long you should hang around. Sometimes you’re the last one in because players in the final few qualifying rounds do poorly and sometimes qualifiers leave and the tournament provides for replacement players.

Final thoughts. You may not make it into a free slot tournament the first time out, but be a careful spectator anyway. Like the song says, “Well, I spent some time with the Mudville Nine, watchin’ it from the bench,” but one day you will surely make the tournament lineup and you will want to be ready. Your enthusiasm and tournament expertise will definitely help when you finally get the chance to say, “Look at me, I gotta be center field!”
You can find all episodes of Southern Gaming Radio at Look for the “Radio” tab at the top of the page.


by Linda Boyd

Linda Boyd was a long-time table-game player before turning to video poker You can see her videos on YouTube and American Casino Guide’s website. Her book “The Video Poker Edge” includes removable pay schedules and strategy cards for the most popular games.

Props and Profits – The Proper Way to Bet this Year’s Super Bowl

P18_shutterstock_14871_optIn last year’s Super Bowl, it was Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos vs. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. The point spread was Denver -2 points. No matter if you took the points with Seattle or laid them with Denver, the game was a blowout and was impossible to hold one’s attention for the entire contest. But when the going gets the boring, the bored get betting. Who needs to rely on the traditional outcome-based wager when the wonder that is prop bets is ready for your coin and concentration.

Want to know more? Read on, my gambling friend.

Prop bets, like how many times Peyton Manning will say “Omaha” (over 27.5 at -135, under 27.5 at -105) are great for entertainment value at any Super Bowl. Especially to keep your attention through the entire game. It starts with the coin toss and ends with “what will the last score be” or “will the last score be anything other than a touchdown.” It’s three and half hours of action-packed dramas, cheering and yelling, and it has the potential for much added value (profits) throughout the game.

For recreational and serious handicappers, there are hundreds of Super Bowl props that give bettors the opportunity to bet on the game in exactly the way they see it playing out. It’s real-time betting.

Point spread props give betting fans the chance to earn better payouts on the game, if they believe that the main point spread is not in their favor. It was clear to anyone who did the research that Peyton Manning consistently struggles in the cold weather. Bettors who believed that Manning would struggle playing in the cold against Seattle’s elite defense may not have been happy with just betting the Seahawks on the money line at +115 or taking the +2 points at even money. Instead, they could bet on the Seattle Seahawks -3.5 at +180, Seattle -7.5 at +350, Seattle -10.5 at +500 or Seattle -17.5 at +1000. I thought the Seahawks would score before they would punt so I was willing to risk $100 to win $150.
Some of last year’s most popular Super Bowl prop bets:

  1. Total QB sacks by Seahawk defense:
    Over 1.5 to win +110
  2. Will either team score three straight times?
    Yes/No to win +155
  3. Will Peyton Manning thrown an interception?
    No at +180
  4. Largest lead by any team:
    13.5 points or greater for +150
  5. Will there be a safety?
    Yes to win +155
  6. Last score of the game will be “any other score” than a TD: +175
  7. Will the Seahawks convert a fourth down attempt?
    Yes pays +155
  8. Which will happen first: Seahawks score or punt? +150
  9. Total rushing yeards by Marshawn Lynch:
    O/U 92.5 yards -110
  10. Total rushing yards by Russell Wilson:
    O/U by 30.5 yards -110

There are more than 350 props available for wagering. They will make the game fly by and if you do your own “game plan” correctly, large payouts are in the equation.


A few others available to bet were:

* “Will there be a successful two-point conversion attempt?”
Bet yes and collect +350 if it wins.

* “Will the game go into overtime” is a nice long shot and overdue to hit.

For this year’s Super Bowl and to get a jump start on your friends and be the life of the party, bet these as examples and watch the fun (and profits) begin.

They will get you through the first half of the first quarter. Just imagine an entire game at “prop” speed.

  1. Will the singer of the National Anthem forget or omit at least one word? Yes +250
  2. Will the coin toss be heads or tails?
    Bet heads for +100
  3. Will there be a safety?
    Yes +900
  4. Will the opening kick-off result in a touchback?
    Bet no +145
  5. Will there be a score in the first 2:30 seconds of the game? Bet yes +500
  6. Will the team that scored first win the game?
    Bet yes +350
  7. Will the first 1st down in the game be a pass play or a
    run play? Run play +135
  8. Will the first score of the game be a rushing TD?
    Bet yes +500


A little added history: The biggest odds-maker’s upset in Super Bowl History was Super Bowl XIII, between Pittsburg and Dallas. It was called “Black Sunday” in Las Vegas for casinos.

The line opened Pittsburgh -3.5. So much money was coming in on the Steelers that the odds makers moved the points to Pittsburgh -4.5 to draw in some Dallas Cowboy money. After two late Staubach passes erasing a 35-17 score, the final score of Black Sunday Super Bowl XIII (13) was 35-31 and those with Pittsburgh -3.5 bets won and those with Dallas +4.5 points won and most LV Sportsbook Directors headed out to jump off of Hoover Dam.

Now you get the idea of how much more fun and entertaining you can make Super Bowl Sunday by adding Super Bowl props (and of course profits).

And as always, you’ll find all the props and my advice listed at

Have a great and prosperous Super Bowl.

World Series of Poker Circuit Event at Horseshoe Tunica – Jan 22 – Feb. 2

Tunica, Miss. —The World Series of Poker Circuit returns to Tunica this season with a new home. For the first time in the tour’s history, the Horseshoe Tunica will host a Circuit event.

Horseshoe Tunica has been part of poker history since it opened its doors. It was originally founded by Jack Binion, a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and son of WSOP founder Benny Binion. Now, the Horseshoe becomes part of the WSOP Circuit as well.


Slot Trends: A Look at the Greatest Slots at G2E

EACH YEAR IN THE EARLY FALL, casino professionals and their suppliers gather in Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo, part conference with high-level seminars and discussions, and part trade show. (more…)

Blackjack: Games to Avoid

WHAT DETERMINES IF A blackjack game is “good” or “bad” for average players is the house edge, which is a percentage that indicates how much a casino stands to win from players based on the total amount bet. Naturally, the higher the house edge, the more the casino will earn, and the more players stand to lose; therefore, bad blackjack games have a higher house edge than good blackjack games. Generally, blackjack games that have a 0.5 percent or less house edge against a basic strategy player are considered good games, and those with greater than 0.5 percent are bad games that should be avoided. (more…)

Churchill Downs Sets KY Derby Odds for Future Pool 1 – ‘All others’ a Heavy Favorite

It’s time again to start thinking about the Run for the Roses and the first Saturday in May. Churchill Downs released the odds for the Kentucky Derby Future Pool 1 where bettors can find high odds on 23 betting interests…and a mere 3-5 on ‘All other’ 3 year olds also known as The Field. 


Wagering on KDFW Pool 1 is scheduled to open at noon (all times EST) on Friday, Nov. 28 and concludes Sunday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m.

It’s a true reminder that the pace is quickening on the journey to the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade  I):  the first of four pools in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager will open


The 7 Precepts of Craps

CRAPS IS A GAME DOMINATED by the number 7. On the come-out roll the 7 is a winner for “right side” bettors (that is, players who are betting on the Pass Line) and a loser for “wrong or darkside” bettors (“Don’t Pass” bettors). Once a point is established “right side” bettors lose if the 7 appears and the “darksiders” win if the 7 appears. (more…)

Video Poker: Selecting a Casino

IF YOU’RE A FREQUENT PLAYER you already know all casinos are not created equal. Since individual priorities differ, you should take some time to consider what’s important to you and find the casino that is the best match.


Craps: The Bad Boys

CRAPS PLAYERS WILL ALMOST universally say that craps is the most exciting game in the casinos. Even devotees of other games will probably grudgingly admit this too. Blackjack players, for example, can find it to be a real misery at tables because there are so many self-styled experts happy to regale them with their playing strategies. Roulette players don’t like it when their hands are pushed aside by other people placing chips on the same numbers.


Horseracing: Treating it Like a Business

EARLY LAST MARCH WHILE ordering a cup of coffee at the Clubhouse Turn Café inside Tampa Bay Downs, I overheard a patron boisterously proclaim to everyone within earshot that he had caught the daily double for $116.


Poker: 7-Card Stud Eight or Better Strategy

WHEN YOU MAKE A STRONG five-card hand in Stud 8/b, you have to decide whether or not you want to jam it in order to eliminate players, or slow-play it in order to keep more players in the pot. Often, the nature of your hand and the nature of the board will tell you what you should do.


Tailgating Tips: A Talk with the Commish…Joe Cahn

The football season is upon us which means tailgating in in full swing too. Whether you are a tailgating aficionado or someone who simply shows up and throws some cash in a bucket, without a doubt, the time before a sporting event is sacred to all sporting fans no matter how big or small.
Southern Gaming and Destinations caught up with Joe Cahn, The Commissioner of Tailgating, (yes…there is such a person!) to talk about everything from fun foods to best tailgates. Cahn is the real deal and you can take what he says seriously.



SUMMER TIME and the living is breezy

THERE IS NOTHING better than a Southern summer getaway. Whether you are looking for a gambling excursion on the Gulf Coast or trails to meander in the mountains of Tennessee, chances are you will find your perfect escape without ever boarding a plane. If your trip is for a week or just a weekend, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the many attractions of the region. These are a few of our favorites.