Dear Mark: Is there a way of combining multiple wagers on a roulette table to maximize one's odds and increase my chances of winning? For instance, a column bet pays off at 2 to 1. If I place the second and third column, I have a 66.6 percent chance of winning, just so long as the 0/00 don't appear. I would offset that by playing either the 0-00-1-2-3 combination, or a split bet of one chip on the 0-00. - Tim S.

You can increase your probability of winning - at least something - by placing multiple bets on the layout, but, let me cap that, BUT, the house edge on any combination of bets, less one, is always going to be 1/19, or 5.26 percent.

You also included in your question the 0-00-1-2-3 combination bet. All wagers, Tim, on a double zero roulette table give the casino a 5.26 percent advantage (1/19), and no combination of bets on the layout will change that. One exception to that rule is a wager where you are betting that the 0, 00, 1, 2, or 3 pocket catches the ball. That wager is significantly higher.

And why? Because it is about what the casino is willing to pay you versus the true odds of hitting any of these numbers. This five number wager, also called the basket bet, has a 13.16 percent probability of winning, pays 6 to 1, creating an overall return of .9211 on the dollar. This one bet, above all others, has a house edge of 7.89 percent.

Any combination strategy, Tim, at an American roulette table should be to start with avoiding the five-number wager. Otherwise, all the remaining bets, in any combination, still have a 5.26 percent edge.

The canny players maximize their odds and increase their chances of winning by searching out, and playing only on a single zero roulette game, as that little extra effort - if successful in finding one - allows you to chop the house edge from 5.26 percent to 2.63 percent.

Dear Mark: I ran into a slot machine where there is an option to stop one or more wheels, or to stop all of them. Does that change the outcome of the spin, or are the results the same had I not used the touch screen? I am figuring it is divine intervention on where the reels will stop, and not skill. -Alan R.

Surprisingly, Alan, I have not crossed paths with this type of machine. I am aware of them, but to tangle with, or write about, I have not to date.

So, Alan, winging my answer here, I am fairly sure that by manually stopping the video reels at what you believe is some syncretistic moment, is not going to have any impact on the outcome. If it did, this would make it a game of skill, which is not legal in any gaming jurisdiction that I am familiar with when it comes to slot machines. Video poker, on the other hand, is completely skill-based.

Gambling Wisdom of the week: If you have one chink in your psychological armor, playing the horses will bring it out. - Andrew Beyer, Beyer on Speed (1993)