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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Follow Up on Caribbean Stud

1 September 1999

A few weeks ago we talked about the casino game of Caribbean Stud Poker and how the very nature of the game puts strategy to a bare minimum. Since that column appeared, I began to ponder another aspect of the game that poses some intriguing questions:

At most casinos, Caribbean Stud Poker is played at a table equipped with an automatic card-shuffling machine. When the deck is thoroughly shuffled and it comes time to deal, each player at the table receives five consecutive cards off the top of the deck. In a hand-shuffled game, on the other hand, everyone at the table receives one card at a time dealt left to right until each player and the dealer have five cards each.

How, and in what way, does mathematical probability or possible Caribbean Stud Poker "angles" come into play here? Are your chances of getting, say, a royal flush or four of a kind better if you draw five consecutive cards from a machine or if your hand is dealt to you the traditional hand-dealt way?

I posed the question to casino executive Gary Yelverton of the Showboat Mardi Gras Casino in East Chicago, Indiana:

"To be quite honest I have never thought about," said Yelverton, a veteran of 30 years in the gaming industry. "But it does raise some interesting questions."

" I can tell you that, at least in theory, the automatic shuffling machine gives a true random shuffle of the cards, whereas in a hand-shuffled game there's more of a possibility of 'card clumping' to occur," Yelverton said. "To lessen the chances of card clumping, dealers at many casinos are instructed to 'wash' the deck after every hand. That is, collect everyone's hand, place the cards in the middle of the table, then push them around in a random motion before preparing the deck for a new shuffle."

Card clumping compromises the random nature of the flow of cards, and therefore alters the mathematical probabilities associated with being dealt premium hands, such as a royal flush or four of a kind.

There are still some smaller casinos in Las Vegas and at riverboat destinations in the Quad Cities that have hand-shuffled Caribbean Stud Poker games. Manual or automatic? It would be an interesting project tracking a table of each type to uncover any differences. Or perhaps a reader who's also a mathematician could offer some theories. I'd love to hear from you.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp