Q. Should I use the same strategy on Ten Play Poker as on video poker games with one hand? I ask because one of my favorites is Double Bonus, and I have one casino where I can get 9-7-5 Double Bonus on a Ten Play dollar machine.

I was dealt a full house, three aces and two 7s. On a single-hand game, I'd keep the aces and throw away the 2s, and hope to draw a full house. But on the Ten Play, that means giving up 45-coin payoffs times 10, and that's $450. I had a hard time pulling the trigger on that one.

A. The percentages are the same regardless of whether you're playing single-hand, Triple Play, Five Play, Ten Play, Fifty Play or Hundred Play. Per five coins wagered, your average return if you just hold the aces is 50.26 coins. If you hold the full house, your return is set at 45 coins.

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To translate to Ten Play, your max-coins wager is 50 coins. Hold the full house, and you're guaranteed a 450-coin return, a $400 profit on the hand on the dollar machine you play. Keep just the aces, and your average return is 502.6 coins and a profit of just over $452 on the hand.

The risk is that not only will you not draw a fourth ace, you won't draw any pairs to complete new full houses. When that happens, your Ten Play return is 150 coins, dropping your profit to $100 on a dollar machine.

On a single-hand game, you draw the fourth ace an average of once per 23.5 hands. That means even on Ten Play, you'll go quadless more often than not. But when you do draw a fourth ace, that brings your total for the 10 hands to at least 935 coins, and when you draw ace No. 4 on more than one hand, it's a huge bonanza.

I play by the percentages and hold just the aces, maximizing my average return and seizing the opportunity for a large payday. That's the expert play for Ten Play or any other number of hands. If you can't pass up the $450 guarantee, that's up to you. Just understand the guarantee has a price.

Q. I used to play double-deck blackjack on a couple of riverboat casinos near me. Neither one has double-decks anymore. They're not on boats anymore, come to think of it. They're barges now, and you're not stuck waiting for the boat to be in dock before you can come or go, like you used to.

But that's neither here nor there. My point is the double-deck games used to be dealt with all cards face-up except the dealer's down card, just like six-deck games. Now, I travel around a lot, and sometimes find double-deck blackjack. Only the games I find now are dealt with all the cards face down, except the dealer's up-card.

Is there any advantage or disadvantage to the way the cards are dealt, face down or face up?

A. For most players, it makes no difference. Those who count cards might have an easier time spotting everything if the cards are dealt up, but other players' cards don't enter into decisions for basic strategy players.

A potentially bigger issue is that many of today's double-deck games pay only 6-5 on blackjacks instead of the 3-2 that had been the standard for generations. Dropping the payoff to 6-5 adds 1.4 percent to the house edge. You're almost always better off at a game with more decks that pay 3-2 on blackjacks than to pay that 1.4 percent price for the two-deck experience.

Gambling author and columnist John Grochowskis weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.


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