Winning Tips

Tips: How to Wager on Horseraces at Smaller Tracks

Eric Floyd is a turf writer for various gaming publications as well as a Triple Crown pari-mutuel consultant for several national media outlets. Excerpts from his gambling memoir, “My First Decade Playing the Game,” can be found at

Horseplayers who labor when the sun is shining often miss the opportunity to play major “daytime” racetracks like Churchill Downs, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Gulfstream Park and Belmont Park. Instead, they typically help fund the handle at intermediate “night time” ovals like Evangeline, Prairie Meadows, Canterbury, Mountaineer, Charles Town, Delta, Penn National, Remington, Fairmount and Assiniboia.

Eric Floyd on horse gamblingNow, relatively speaking, punters should probably employ a different mindset when they’re poised to attack an intermediate racetrack. See, because there isn’t as much quality, outcomes “in the minors” are quite unpredictable; tremendously more so than those results which unfold inside major pari-mutual markets. Therefore, consider employing the following six axioms when playing any of the down-home hippodromes listed above.

Retain familiarity with trainers and jockeys. This is perhaps the most vital particular associated with launching a successful fiscal siege against an intermediate race track. Believe me, ninety-nine percent of the time there is a complete standout residing within the trainer and/or jockey colony so before the start of any card, simply review the appropriate standings (they’re usually located on the program’s last page) then bet accordingly.

Don’t be tricked by the tote-board. Compared to their dominant counterparts, middling strips confer relatively humble pari-mutual pools. As a result, players often discover glaring disparity between morning-line and actual odds; especially early on in the wagering. Hence, when a hopeless 30-1 morning-line entry sits at 4-1 with fifteen minutes to post, don’t assume insiders know something you don’t. More than eighty percent of all pool monies haven’t even breached the teller’s window yet so this underlay is likely the result of an isolated player’s stout recklessness.

Avoid certain types of wagers. Due to the aforementioned deflated pari-mutual pools presented by intermediate race tracks, players should think twice about making large show bets. A $100 flutter might literally comprise half of the total show pool and would significantly dilute prices, even on double digit long-shots. Comparatively, abstain from wagering the “Pick 6” since there isn’t enough booked action to warrant pursuit of horse racing’s most difficult horizontal sequence.

Study state-bred statistics. A modest racing strip’s normal card will conveniently feature multiple state-bred competitions. Unearth what conditioners specialize in readying homegrown stock then determine how successful they’ve been inside the current meet.

Intermediate race tracks are often the proving ground for inexperienced jockeys and as you can imagine, some of these anxious apprentices inexplicably put their mounts behind the 8-ball.

Be willing to accept a short price. Contests at less popular courses often fill with many plodders and one standout. Friends, I’ll never assert a player should accept 1/9 odds but then again, don’t pass up “even money” on a racer who appears invulnerable. Additionally, if a strip’s leading horseman saddles chalk (that’s race tracker slang for “the favorite”), be assured capital attached to said runner’s nose will likely multiply.

Revise class handicapping values. Those fancying themselves as “class handicappers” should note that the two lowest claiming levels at middling ovals are often one in the same. Available participants are simply pointed towards whatever race is available in a given week. This is no exaggeration; the same batch of horses can be found in a $2500 claiming race one day, then a $3,000 claiming race two weeks later.

One last point I want to make stems from the fact that only a tremendously talented thoroughbred can overcome a troubled trip and still win. For example, equines like Man O War, Citation, Secretariat, Affirmed, Cigar and Zenyatta were often sternly bumped at the break, checked hard or carried wide on the turns and yet still, never missed a beat. Arguably the most able jockey of all time, Eddie Arcaro (nicknamed “The Master”) was once quoted as saying, “Most horses flaunt one or two moves in a race; Citation has six or seven.”

On the contrary, cheap claimers at intermediate race tracks seldom secure the blue ribbon if they’re awarded a disastrous trip. Deficient talent and lingering physical ailments are overt explanations for this phenomenon; however, at day’s end fault does not completely fall on the side of the equine athlete. Intermediate racetracks are often the proving ground for inexperienced jockeys and as you can imagine, some of these anxious apprentices inexplicably put their mounts behind the 8-ball.

In order to pen a comprehensive tutorial dealing with wagering on middling ovals I’d require far more parchment yet merely disseminating the topics we’ve touched on will significantly raise any horse player’s I.Q. In truth, handicapping minor league strips is indeed an advanced science; however, for all you “intellectual minimalists” out there, your three golden rules are simply: 1. Retain familiarity with trainers and jockeys, 2. Study state-bred statistics and 3. Recognize those horses likely to inherit a good trip.

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.


Craps: Q & A with the Pro


FROM MARK: My first bet is $220 inside. After three hits I make a $15 come and go down with full 75 odds.  I play at a casino where I can go 5x odds.  Am I better off just pressing to $75 or continue to make the come bets? I have read from some writers that the Pass Line and Come bets are not really that good; that the casino is tricking people to make those bets. I’d also like to know about systems that call for betting those bets that come in with high house edges in order to balance out expectations based on probability. What say you?

FRANK RESPONDS: Dump the placing of $220 inside. You are putting $50 on the 5 and $50 on the 9 and bucking a four percent edge. That’s a major edge and means your expectation is to lose two dollars for each number. That’s four bucks for those two bets. That’s way too much money. And the more you play and the more you bet that 5 and 9 the more you will start to see your money going downhill.

Placing the 6 and 8 is okay but you are still far better off going with Pass and Come (after the 5-Count). By betting $15 at a 5X odds game you can put $75 in odds on the 4 and 10; $100 in odds on the 5 and 9; and $125 in odds on the 6 and


The Place bets are only superficially interesting because you
can Place the numbers you want directly, call off the numbers when you feel like it and take down the numbers at any time. This is how the bets aresold by many gambling writers because at first these options seem to be quite good.

Well, they are and they aren’t. Here’s why:

Let’s take a look at the best of the Place bets, the 6 and the 8. The house edge is 1.52 percent – pretty good right? You have to make these bets in increments of six dollars and based on the size of your betting you are placing these numbers for $60 each. With a 1.52 percent house edge your expectation is to lose 91 cents per bet for a total of $1.82.

Not too bad.

Now take a look at a Pass Line or Come bet with 5X odds so a Come Bet of $15 bucking a house edge of 1.41 percent will lose the player 21 cents; meaning 42 cents for two numbers. Keep in mind that when the Come bet goes up on a number you can put the odds on the bet that I stated above – your potential losses are small and your potential for wins is far greater than using Place bets.



You can see just how much better the Pass Lineand Come is compared to Placing the 6 and 8. And the 6 and 8 are the best Place bets if you feel compelled to make Place bets. Often even good bets have even better bets if you look into the situation closely.

The other Place bets are simply awful. Let me repeat: Awful.

The 5 and 9 come in with four percent edges (as stated a loss of $2 per $50 wagered) and the 4 and 10 come in with a hefty 6.67 percent edge which means a loss of $3.34 on each number if you are betting $50. These bets will shred your bankroll in short order.

Even “buying” the 4 and 10 in Atlantic City is not a great deal. If you buy them for $35, paying a $1 commission on both winning and losing bets, the house edge is 2.8 percent. In Tunica you can buy them for $25 dollars with a one dollar commission or $50 with a two-dollar commission bringing the house edge down to 1.3 percent. This is far better but still nowhere near as good as the Pass or the Come.

So stick with the Pass Line and Come bets with odds. Math is the key to the game of craps; the casinos know that and the players should know that. Those who tell you otherwise are wrong.

The casinos are not tricking anyone with the Pass Line or Come bets. You rarely hear the Stickman hawking those bets but they really hawk the worst bets on the table such as the Hardways, the Horn, the Whirl (World), the C&E and so forth. The very bets the house hawks are generally the bets to avoid.

Many players will give you systems that they think are logical but are really just silly and, more important, bad betting choices. The game of craps is random and you will not be able to figure a betting system that can actually allow you to predict what numbers are coming up next. As they say, it’s a crap shoot.

You must go with the best edges to have any chance at a win today, tonight or for this week or month. It is doubtful that “crazy crappers” have much of an expectation except losses time and time again, with an occasional win here and there.


Frank Scoblete’s new book is I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! Available from, Kindle or at your favorite bookstore. Join Frank on his web site at


Frank Notes: I’ve been writing for Southern Gaming and Destinations since it began. So here’s a FREE deal for our readers: a free copy of my book The Virgin Kiss (while supplies last). Just send me your address by dropping me a note at Frank Scoblete, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565 or emailing me at You can also email me at Facebook.

Poker: Unusual Streaks

Player Strategy

Poker: Unusual Streaks


Of all the poker-based games that have carved out niches in table pits, Three Card Poker pays out its top jackpot the most often. That makes some unusual streaks not only possible, but inevitable given enough play.

Take the reader who once emailed to tell of being dealt straight flushes on four consecutive hands, each worth a 40-1 payoff on the Pair Plus portion of the game. That may pale in comparison to the 1,000-1 bonanza for a royal in Let It Ride or a progressive jackpot that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars in Caribbean Stud. But any frequent player of Three Card Poker will experience straight flushes, with 1-in-460 odds. For most, royals in Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride are a none-in-a-lifetime occurrence, a 1-in-649,740 super long shot. (more…)

Video Poker: A Method to Your Madness


I like to focus on promos where there are lots of opportunities to win prizes of moderate levels. I would prefer twenty or more possibilities of winning desirable awards of say, $500 or more as opposed to just one grand prize of a car. As I’ve said in the past, you should always make sure the objects are something you really want or not waste your time. If you are really motivated by the potential for a much-wanted prize you can do several things to increase your equity in the drawing. Here are some tips to increase your odds:


Blackjack: How to Avoid the Casino’s Psychological Traps


Player Strategy

Blackjack: How to Avoid the Casino’s Psychological Traps

No matter how good a blackjack player you think you are, you will eventually experience a losing session. How you manage yourself when this happens is just as important as knowing when to double down and split.


Player Strategy No Limit Hold’em: Judgement is Everything

“It’s not who wins the battle; it’s who wins the war.”

Poker image


In NLH all manner of plays are possible. You can fold K-K before the flop or move all-in with 2-7 off suit, bluffing before the flop, if your judgement is good enough. By the way, I’ve folded K-K before the flop only a few times in my life, and every time I did, I was right, because my opponent did indeed have A-A! One thing you’ll learn as you play more poke is that when someone has the best possible hand, he is often easily readable.

Quiz show hosts like to say, when the pauses are too protracted, “Go with your first gut instinct. That first instinct is always right.” You’ll find yourself in a lot of interesting situation in NLH where your judgement and your guts will be severely tested. Whether or not you make the right decisions will go far toward determining whether or not you’ll win for the day (it helps to have good cards too). You think that you’re under pressure at work? I’ve seen players who have all their money in the world on the table call other players’ bluffs for all their money. It other words, if they’re wrong, the they’re busted!

One excellent rule for NLH is this: if you can’t allow yourself to fold the best hand, then you can’t win. In many of the tournaments that I’ve won I’ve had occasion to fold the winning hand. In the World Championships in 1989, when just four players were left, I folded pocket tens before the flop against Johnny Chan’s pockets nines in a big pot, but I still went on to win the tournament! It’s not who wins the battle; it’s who wins the war. Don’t be afraid to fold your hand in NLH if you think that it’s beaten. If it was the winner, so what? You made your decision, and you’re still at the table with chips. Stay focused on winning, not on looking back at your untimely fold.

Phil’s NLH Strategy:

I like to take pieces of every different strategy I’ll be laying out below and keep them in my arsenal for eventual use. I like to stick to a very tight beginner-type overall strategy, one involving playing very few hands for the most part. In this way, there isn’t too much pressure on me to make tough decisions all the time. So most of the time in NLH I like to play only the “NLH fifteen” hands.

When someone behind me is playing too tightly, in NLH, I like to raise the pot to try to steal the blinds from him, whenever it’s his big blind.

I trust my instincts when I’m deciding whether or not a player is bluffing. My poker instincts have been very, very good to me. I hone these instincts by practicing reading my opponents when I’m out of the hand being played, to try to get a better read on them for when I need it later. (In mentioning my own play I’m trying only to show you what’s possible if you practice and develop your instincts.)

If someone has raised in front of me and I feel that he is weak, I usually fold anyway. But at the end of the hand I’ll watch to see if he exposes his hole cards, so that I can confirm that he was weak or see that I was wrong. If I have confirmation that I was right, then I wait for him to do it again. Anyone who makes one weak raise can be expected to make more than one. When that player makes another raise and I feel it is weak, I go ahead and reraise him, to force him to fold his weak hand. This reraise wins many more chips than a mere blind steal would win, but you’re also risking a lot more chips to win the pot when you reraise on a bluff.


Phil Hellmuth Jr is  a 13-time World Series of Poker Champion, leading all other poker players in the world. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, and his latest book, “Deal me in,” is also widely popular. Visit to check out his clothing line, blog and exclusive gaming tips.

Three Card Poker: Strategy and Game Variations


Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker is about as easy as it gets. Make the extra bet to stay in the game if your hand is Queen-6-4 or better. Fold if you have a lesser hand.


That means you also bet on all pairs, flushes, straights, three of a kinds and straight flushes – those all outrank high-card hands. Note that in Three Card Poker, straights outrank flushes. That’s because you see flushes more often than straights in three-card games. In five-card games, you get straights about twice as often as flushes, but in three-card games there are 1.5 times as many possible flushes as straights.


Three Card Poker: On the Felt with Roger Snow

Roger Snow is the senior vice president at Bally Technologies and also a renowned table games inventor. We recently caught up with him to talk about the popular game of Three Card Poker, a game that inspired him in his career and one that resonates with players around the world.



John Grochowski: Why do players love Three Card Poker?

Roger Snow: A, I think Three Card Poker really hits the fat part of the bell curve with players. First of all, it’s simple, which always helps. It’s not the only thing a game needs, but it’s really easy to understand. Secondly, the math is just magical. You hear about athletes that are genetically gifted. Well Three Card Poker is mathematically gifted, especially if you look at something like Pair Plus. Just the way the math works out, it’s any pair, not a pair of 7s, not a pair of 8s or better. It’s any pair. Hit frequency is about 25 percent, so that’s great. On a full table, you’ll almost always see somebody hit it. The other hands are relatively easy to make. Flushes, straights, even the top hand of a straight flush. You compare that to five-card games, you almost never will see the top two or three hands, but in Three Card Poker you do. They pay a little bit less, but they still pay 30-1, 40-1. Those are high quality payouts, they’re going to happen, and they’re very achievable.


JG: How is it different from other proprietary games?

RS: You have to put yourself back in 1995, 1996 when it came out. It really changed the way people thought about table games. Before that, the only two successful games were Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride, and they have a lot of bells and whistles on them. Caribbean Stud of course had the progressive and Let It Ride had the tournament, but they all had electronics, and they were really selling a life-changing award. Three Card Poker comes along and says, hey, I’m just colored circles on a felt, and my top award is 40-1, and it came in and just blew everything off the map.


From a game developer’s standpoint, that’s the one that I looked at. I don’t look at Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud, and that’s why the games that I’ve done aren’t really bell and whistle games. They’re just, “Hey, I’m going to try to put together a game with a mathematical formula that people like.”


JG: What should someone playing for the first time know about Three Card Poker?

RS:  First of all, the environment tends to be very social. It’s not combative, like blackjack can be, where people think if they don’t play right, people will yell at them – which is true. In Three Card Poker, with the dealer and the other players, it’s very social. The second thing is that people, when they play a game and risk their own money, they want to know the optimal way to play the game, if possible. Three Card Poker is very simple. If you have Queen-6-4 or better you play, if you don’t you fold. It’s a very easy strategy. I tell people to enjoy the side bets as well, Pair Plus, which is on every Three Card Poker table, and 6 Card Bonus, is on about half the Three Card Poker tables now, that’s only about three years old. That’s a great bet. The game didn’t need revitalizing, but it 6 Card Bonus really amped up the popularity of it.

Three Card Poker: No Bluffing Needed

threeCardpokerBannerIf any modern table game could be said to be an adopted son of the South, it’s Three Card Poker. Success in Mississippi eventually convinced casinos throughout the United States to give the game a try and today, it stands as a casino standard that every operator must have.

It is fun, easy to learn and gives players a decent chance to win.


Start by making an ante for player vs. the dealer and/or a bet on Pair Plus. At most casinos, you do not have to make both wagers. The ante and the Pair Plus wager can be of different sizes. They are separate bets, and are decided independently, so they don’t have to match.


After all players have made their wagers, each player gets three cards face down, and the dealer also gets three cards face down. Play continues after players have a chance to pick up their cards and look at them.


After you’ve seen your cards, you may either make a bet equal to your ante, or you may fold and forfeit the hand. If you’ve anted $5, then your bet must also be $5 for you to stay in the game.


The dealer then turns his cards face up. If the dealer hand is at least a Queen or better, it is a qualifying hand. For you to win, your hand must outrank the dealer’s. If you win, both your ante and your bet are paid at even money, and if you lose, the dealer takes both your ante and bet.


If the dealer hand does not qualify and you’ve made the bet to stay in the game, then you win even money on the ante, but the bet is returned to you with no additional payoff.


In addition, there is a bonus for strong hands regardless of whether you beat the dealer or not. Most casinos pay a 5-1 bonus if you have a straight flush, 4-1 if you have three of a kind and even money if you have a straight.


For example, let’s say you ante $5, see you have a straight flush and follow with a $5 bet. Assuming you win the hand, you then collect winnings of $5 on the ante, $5 on the bet and $25 on the straight flush. On other wins that don’t include one of the big three hands, you’d collect $5 on the ante and another $5 on the bet.


Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker is about as easy as it gets. Make the extra bet to stay in the game if your hand is Queen-6-4 or better. Fold if you have a lesser hand.


That means you also bet on all pairs, flushes, straights, three of a kinds and straight flushes – those all outrank high-card hands. Note that in Three Card Poker, straights outrank flushes. That’s because you see flushes more often than straights in three-card games. In five-card games, you get straights about twice as often as flushes, but in three-card games there are 1.5 times as many possible flushes as straights.


If you don’t have any of those higher-ranking hands, then hands are ranked by highest card first, then second highest. If you have Jack-10-7, the proper strategy is to fold. It is not Queen-6-4 or better since the highest card is lower than the Queen.


If your hand is King-3-2, then you should make the bet. The King outranks the Queen, making this a better hand than Queen-6-4 even though the second and third cards are lower than the 6 and 4.


With that strategy, the house edge on the ante-pay combo is 3.4 percent of the ante, or 2.0 percent when both the ante and bet are considered.


If you think ante-bet is easy, then Pair Plus is a real snap. You don’t have to beat the dealer, and there is no strategy to learn. All you need is to match a hand on the pay table – a concept video poker players can identify with. You win on any hand that contains a pair or better, and lose if you don’t have at least a pair.


There are several pay tables available, but the most common pays 40-1 for a straight flush, 30-1 for three of a kind, 6-1 for straights, 3-1 for flushes and even money for pairs. At that pay table, the house edge is 7.3 percent.


The payoffs aren’t as huge as you see on five-card games, but they are attainable. Anyone who plays very often will see the occasional straight flush or three of a kind. You’ll see the top hand, a straight flush, about once per 460 hands. Compare that to a five-card royal on a game such as Caribbean Stud. That occurs an average of once per 649,740-1. Caribbean Stud pays a lifestyle-changing progressive, but you may never see one in your lifetime. Three Card Poker pays a more modest sum, but $200 for a $5 bet is a nice win, and you’ll see straight flushes a lot more often with three cards. Good luck!



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VIDEO POKER: Boomerang

When I was in Australia a few years ago I noticed that although “pokies” (video poker) machines were quite popular that unlike the country’s famous boomerangs, player benefits didn’t always come back to frequent patrons. It caused me to ponder the differences between gambling in Oz and other worldwide gaming spots versus the advantages of remaining right here in the USA. So for those whose boomerang won’t come back elsewhere, here are some tips for accessing the bounce-back from their casino play.


BLACKJACK: Should You Tip The Dealer?

shutterstock_21908599I receive many questions from blackjack players. Below are a few of them with tips on how to tip a dealer, what to do if a dealer makes a mistake and what you should do if a casino oversteps the legal rights of a player.


CRAPS: Backwall Hits, Luck and The Don’t

CrapsLet’s take some time for Q and A’s from our fans.


FROM HOWARD: I was wondering if you could answer a question for me, please. I am a dice control craps shooter. I was at the Parx casino last week and got into a 75-minute shoot. Yeah!

I know casinos like for both dice to hit the wall but sometimes it doesn’t happen. I know they tried to intimidate me by telling me both dice have to hit the back wall.

If I don’t what can they do?

I am looking forward to your answer.


POKER: Introducing NHL to Your Home Game

Option 1Now is the time to tell you that if you introduce NLH to your own home poker game, watch out! The money won and lost can escalate pretty quickly. Before long, the size of the pots will be more than you bargained for. As a brake against this tendancy I reccommend that you introduce NLH in a “cash-down” format, which allows people to take a portion of their chips off the table at a certain peredetermined chip total.

For example, you could require everyone to keep at least $50 in chips in play (making that the maximum they could lose in one pot), but allow them to take off the money above that amount. If someone wins $110 pot, he can remove $60 in chips and put it in his pocket while keeping $50 in play in front of himself. In this way, the stakes won’t go up and up and up after a few hours ofNLH plays, as they usually do. (more…)

Tips & Tricks of the Triple Crown

The Triple Crown is the most elusive prize in sports.

Baseball has its own Triple Crown. It happens when a player leads the league in three statistical categories and since baseball began in 1838, there have been 17 batters and 38 pitchers that have accomplished this amazing feat.

In terms of other horsepower, to win the Triple Crown of motorsport is to capture Formula 1’s most important races: the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix. Only 17 drivers have won a single event while competing in all three, and just 1 – Graham Hill – has pulled off the near impossible.

This year will see horse racing celebrate the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, the 140th Preakness Stakes, and 147th Belmont Stakes: and just 11 horses have captured all three. Unlike any other sport where an athlete can try for a Triple Crown over and over, a horse only has one chance to be three-years-old on the first Saturday in May. (more…)

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