Q. The blackjack rules I play under yield about a .38 percent house advantage.

Does that (somehow) include the variables of doubling down, splitting and 3-to-2 blackjack payoffs?

I thought I could overcome that house edge using those variables, but it looks like I might be wrong and therefore doomed to eventual failure in coming out ahead. (I play online so I can't count cards.)

Actual rules are 4 decks, stand on soft 17, double after split, no surrender, dealer peeks for blackjack.

A. When the house edge is listed at .38 percent, that assumes basic strategy for hitting, standing, splitting and doubling, and takes into account the 3-2 payoff on blackjacks.

If you used dealer strategy, hitting all 16s and below, and standing on all 17s and higher, the house edge would be about 5.7 percent. It's through making the proper hit, stand, split, double decisions that you get it down to half a percent or so.

Without counting cards, you can narrow the house edge, but not eliminate it.

Q. After spending several weeks reading about slot machines in a couple of books and on the Internet and watching videos on the web, I have learned a lot!

1. The odds are built into all individual slot machines, and are independent of the number of paylines played, unless bonuses require trigger symbols to land on an active payline.

2. It also makes no difference in most video slots if you play one coin per line or max coins per line, the slot machine will still pay back the same payback percentage over the long term.

3. Slots are negative expectation games; the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose. The casino has a sizeable edge no matter which machine you choose.

4. The higher the denomination you play, the higher payback percentage. So, obviously, the penny slots will have lower payback percentage in the long term than all the other denominations.

So let's say I still wish to play these new fancy penny multi-payline video slots and not knowing the payback percentage of each individual slot machine, should I agonise, hesitate or go crazy over which of these style penny machines to choose among hundreds in a casino?

How would you go about choosing a specific penny slot machine to play if you decided one day to play that denomination and style slot?

A. You have it correct. There is nothing you can do to change slot machine odds, the games are negative expectation games and penny slots do have the lowest payback percentages in the casino.

My recommendation to slot players always has been to play for fun. Consider your bets on the slots as part of your entertainment budget, and don't spend more than you would for the entertainment value of the games you play. You're going to win sometimes - that's a big part of the entertainment value. But you're going to lose more often.

Choose the games that you find fun to play. Do you prefer second-screen bonuses or free-spin bonuses? Do you like the video games, with their animation and effects, or do you like the mechanical reels?

Keep in mind that different games give you different experiences. Three-reel games usually give you a better shot at a big jackpot, but they also have more frequent losing spins and in a bad streak will take your money a lot faster. Games with second-screen bonuses usually are designed as even-keel experiences that keep you in your seat longer. Free spin games usually are more volatile with bigger potential rewards, but not quite as volatile as the three-reel games.

In the long run, these are not money-making opportunities. Go in with the attitude that you're in it for the entertainment value, will take the wins when they come but will limit losses when they don't, and the games can be fun.

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