Q. I have a question about Ten Poker, and the others where you play more than one hand such as Five Play and Triple Play. I really like playing the three hands at once. It's fun, and when you get winners on the deal and win three times over, the meter goes up fast.

My problem is the bet. If I'm on a quarter machine, Ten Play means betting $12.50 a hand. That's really a little outside my league. I can about handle the $3.75 on Triple Play, but I just find Ten Play more fun.

Where I play, they also have dime Ten Play. That's $5 at a time, and a lot closer to my comfort zone. But I like Double Double Bonus Poker, and if I play quarters I get the 9-6 game, and if I play dimes it's down to 8-5.

I've been thinking about playing Ten Play quarters, but for only two quarters a hand. That's the same $5 as betting the max on dime Ten Play. Which is the better play?

A. If your casino has full-pay 9-6 Double Double Bonus on quarter Triple Play, Five Play, single-hand games or any configuration that matches your wagering comfort zone, that's a better bet than playing either two coins on quarter Ten Play or full coins on the short-pay dime game you describe.

But I suspect you already know that and still want the Ten Play experience, so let's look at your specifics.

Full-pay 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker returns 98.98 percent with expert play, providing you bet maximum coins. If you bet less than the max, you don't get the big leap in the royal flush jackpot available on nearly all video poker games. When you bet one coin per line, the royal pay is 250-for-1, and is proportional at 500-for-2, 750-for-3 and 1,000-for-4. But when you bet a fifth coin per hand, it skyrockets to a 4,000-coin bonanza.

When you bet two coins per hand and settle for a 500-coin royal pay, the return on 9-6 Double Double Bonus drops to 97.83 percent with expert play.

What about the 8-5 DDB you're finding on the 10-cent Ten Play? That's a 96.79 percent game.

You're better off with short-coin play on the higher pay table than with full-coin play on the reduced pay table. Neither situation is ideal, but staying within your bankroll while finding the entertainment value most appealing to you involves making tough choices.

Q. I've been playing a little baccarat, and doing OK. My money seems to go pretty far. Some of the tables here have a dragon bonus. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like it spices up the game a bit. It gives you the chance to win a lot more than your bet, instead of just grinding it out one bet at a time. Is it worthwhile?

A. Like nearly all side bets on casino games, the dragon bonus has a larger house edge than the basic game. You can bet the dragon bonus on either banker or player. You're wagering that your side will either win with a natural - 8 or 9 - or that your side will win by four or more points. The widest margin, 9-0, brings a 30-1 payoff.

Although the player hand wins less often than banker, it wins by wide margins more often. House edge on the dragon bonus is 2.7 percent on player, but 9.4 percent on banker. If you're riding the Dragon, avoid the banker side bet.

My preference is to stick to the basic game, with house edges of 1.06 percent on banker and 1.24 percent on player. Even the better part of the Dragon Bonus, the player side, is more than double the edge on the basic game.

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