[Q]I'm an avid poker player. Several years ago I started to hear that casinos were going to experiment with a four-colored deck: red hearts, black spades, blue diamonds and green clubs. The rationale was that there would be fewer misread cards. Has this type of deck been tried? If so, what were the results?--M.T., Arroyo Grande, California
[A]The four-colored deck has popped up here and there but hasn't caught on. Now, however, it has a prominent champion in Mike "the Mad Genius" Caro, considered to be one of the best poker players in the world. He loves the decks and finds them easier to play with. The chief advantage, he says, is that the colored pips are easier to distinguish across the table. That makes game play faster and helps players who overlook cards that might fill out a flush. Caro hasn't had much success persuading the poker establishment to brighten things up, despite a "C-Day" in February 1995 when 50 California casinos tested the decks. He also broke out the cards for a tournament in 1992 but admits the colors were too dark and the experiment was a failure. (He has fine-tuned the colors and is looking for a company to manufacture the deck.) Caro sees hope in the next generation of poker players. "We tested the four-colored deck with novices, and none of the 50 players said they wanted to go back to two colors," he says. For more information about the four-colored deck, write Caro at 4535 West Sahara, Las Vegas, Nevada 89102, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
[Q]Put me in the tub with a trickle of water from the faucet and I can masturbate to climax every time. But I never have orgasms with my sweet, gorgeous boyfriend. Now I'm trapped in this evil little box of faking them all the time because I don't want him to think he sucks. I know, I know--this is wrong and won't help anything. But I can't seem to stop. I love sex; it's just that the stimulation never seems to be as easy or sensational as what I get in the tub. Am I a freak?--G.A., Phoenix, Arizona
[A]Many women have difficulty reaching climax when they're put under pressure to do so, just as many men have trouble getting or maintaining erections. The lying and lack of communication with your lover is the larger problem because it gets in the way of your pleasure. If you tell your boyfriend now that you fake every time, he won't take it well. And if you confess that you sometimes fake, he will always wonder. So you need to tell a half-truth. Begin to teach your body other ways to get off. There are various products that can help. Phone Good Vibrations (800-289-8423), Xandria (800-242-2823) and Blowfish (800-325-2569) and request their catalogs. Purchase a multispeed vibrator, a love mitt and a Venus Butterfly. When they arrive, tell your boyfriend you are in pursuit of more intense orgasms, which is the truth. But don't continue to fake them--if something isn't working, say so. Use the toys to open a dialogue about what gets you off. Be explicit. Desribe the sensations you enjoy the most, including the trickle of the faucet (are you listening, guys?). Don't climb toward orgasm--let yourself fall into it. The point of all this is to get around your lie and give yourself the sex life you deserve. Does that help? Let us know.
[Q]Why do guys' balls hang so low? You'd think that with their important cargo they'd be tucked up inside the body.--W.S., New York, New York
[A]If they were higher, how could your lover fondle them? Testicles are nature's way of saying, "Place your other hand here." Scientists, of course, have other theories. Writing in the "Journal of Zoology," a British researcher observes that the most active mammals have external testes, while the more sedentary have an internal set. Monkeys, horses, kangaroos and deer have outies, while hedgehogs, moles, elephants, sloths and manatees have innies. Why? External testes prevent sperm from being forced out when pressure is applied to the abdomen, which occurs more often in active mammals. The prevailing theory, however, has been that sperm thrive in cooler temperatures, so evolution moved the production line away from the furnace.
[Q]I purchased a used car only to discover that I paid too much because I used the blue book as a guide. Then a friend told me that there are also red, gray and black books. When did they come into play? And why have a blue book if it's not accurate?--P.P., Chicago, Illinois
[A]The "Kelley Blue Book" is meant to be a guide to a car's value, not gospel. Its prices are based on reports from auto auctions, dealers, wholesalers, banks and, most recently, input from visitors to Kelley's Web site (www.kbb.com). The actual value of any particular car varies according to mileage, condition, color, geographic location, options and, most important, its worth to the buyer. (Offer a Yugo to a Caddy dealer and the blue book goes out the window.) On the West Coast the "Kelley Blue Book" is used almost exclusively, but elsewhere the industry relies on multiple guides, including National Markets Reports' "Red Book" (an insurance company favorite), Hearst Media's "Black Book" (wholesale prices from dealer auctions), the "National Automotive Dealers Association's Used Car Guide" and, on the East Coast, the Galves dealer guide. Keep in mind that a seller will cite whatever book works to his or her advantage.
[Q]For several years my husband and I have fantasized about a threesome. After reading the letter in October from the woman who was surprised by a stranger her husband brought home, our interest rose sharply. One night about a week after we read the Advisor together in bed, I was shocked when my husband produced a blindfold. The letter flashed through my mind, but I thought, Surely not. Before I knew it, he had blindfolded me, and another man was in the room with us. I could not tell whose mouth was biting my nipple or whose fingers and penis were where. When I had come a few times and my husband removed my blindfold, we were alone. My husband said it was unbelievable seeing me respond to another man. But he says he will never tell me who the stranger was, because he wants to make sure that I, unlike the woman who wrote to you, don't request a private performance. It drives me crazy when we are with his friends, because I wonder if it was one of them. My husband was wise to blindfold me. It was the most erotic, sensual experience I've ever had.--T.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
[A]Glad to hear it. Your husband must be confident that other guy won't come back on his own--unless he blindfolded him too.
[Q]I wear dress shirts with removable collar stays. Should I take them out before the shirts go to the cleaners?--M.B., Long Beach, California
[A]Yes. Otherwise they may create ugly impressions in the collars.
[Q]In your column in the October issue, you state that one should "never use petroleum-based products with condoms or inside the vagina." I know that petroleum-based lubes can erode condoms but had never heard the warning against using them inside the vagina. My wife and I often use baby oil as a lubricant. What's the worry?--C.D., Toledo, Ohio
[A]The primary concern is that the vagina has trouble cleansing itself of petroleum-based tubes. Petroleum-based products can also cause allergic reactions in some women.
[Q]My husband and I have been married for two years. We've tried new sexual things, from sharing our bed with another woman to using hot wax and ice cubes. We've made love at the park at one a.m., in our garage in the backseat of the car and in every room of the house. I'm out of ideas. We are in our early 30s and I know I will be with this man until the day I die. What can we do to keep it sexy?--R.D., Las Vegas, Nevada
[A]Get back to basics.We receive a lot of letters asking how to spice up sex lives. Often couples become so focused on gadgets, novelty and fantasy, they overlook two important elements of memorable sex: anticipation and connection. Practice abstinence for a week but tease each other as often as you can. Whisper into his ear what you're going to do when you get him into bed. Wear knockout lingerie under your clothes, and make sure he knows it. Touch and kiss, but don't let it go further than a few slips of the tongue. After you shower; clumsily drop your towel, repeatedly. Watch an erotic movie together but sit apart. Gently brush his cock with your hand when you pass by (be sure to apologize). Read dirty bedtime stories to each other. Tell him that if you catch him masturbating, you will punish him severely. Once you lose control (even if you fail, you succeed), proceed slowly in the same way you've been teasing each other. Lie facing each other and let your hands explore. Avoid the genitals, for now. Kiss softly. Put your hands on each other's hips and rub against each other like nervous teenagers. When you can't stand it any longer, begin petting. From that point, we promise great sex.
[Q]Every once in a while, the Advisor seems to get in over his head. Your answer in October regarding heavier cables for speakers was a bit off. The reader needs to determine if his old wires were less than 16 gauge. If so, switching to thicker cables might help. The benefits of pricey monster cables have never been shown experimentally, though anecdotal evidence exists. The Advisor seems to have bought into the hype with the ludicrous suggestion that cable with "individually insulated" strands would "reduce cross talk between the strands." Come on! I've been a reader for decades. Don't blow your credibility now.--C.N., Buffalo, New York
[A]We did paly the description of Litzendraht cables a bit loose, but that's not to dismiss their benefits. Litz wires have been around for decades and make a difference to anyone with a good enough ear to care. They work by reducing skin effect. In the simplest terms, higher frequencies migrate toward the skin of a conductor. Smaller conductors counter that, but they need to be insulated from each other. What else can we say? Yours was the most succinct of the letters we received on this topic. The rest explained, in excruciating detail, Ohm's law and resistance and electrical circuits, or dismissed all wire except that found at a hardware store. We're not inclined to experiment with music; we listen to it.
[Q]There have been times when I will be talking to a girl and three or four other girls will say hello and start talking to me while I'm in the middle of a conversation. I don't want to be rude because God knows I want to talk to all of them. But I can't very well say, "Pardon me, but I'm trying to hook up here." How can I handle something like that without later being told I ignored one or the other?--P.A., Tallahassee, Florida
[A]Too many women want your attention? What kind of a problem is that? You could read this two ways: The object of your affection may be signaling her friends to "save" her, which doesn't indicate much interest on her part. Or her friends may just be daft. If you play the situation right, their interruptions can work to your advantage. The girl you're after will study how you interact with these other women, which could help your cause. She'll also like that you always return to the conversation you're having with her. If you want to talk to a woman outside the crowd, ask her out. In the meantime, you're surrounded by women. It can't be that bad.
[Q]My sister says I have no judgment when it comes to women, and that if I'd listen to my family (really, her) I might do better. I argue that my taste in women is fine, and that it would help if my family respected my choices. Is there any truth to my sister's contention that relatives can tell where a relationship will end up?--K.C., Cleveland, Ohio
[A]Two Canadian researchers studied who knows best about how long a relationship will last: college students involved with someone, their roommates or their parents. Predictably, the students were the most optimistic (lovers like to think things will work out, whatever that means). Some of this can be attributed to hormone goggles--new partners have no significant faults, and they kindly overlook yours. Nietzsche, always the realist, once observed that "love is the state in which man sees things most widely different from what they are." The researchers found that roommates were generally more accurate than parents and much more accurate than the students in predicting how long the flame would burn. When they asked students in relationships to predict the success of other students' relationships, however, they turned out to be no more optimistic than parents or roommates. Your family and your roommate may have their own ideas about your romantic future, but who cares? You can't manage your love life according to their whims.
[Q]I am a 21-year-old college student. This past fall I was introduced to golf. I love it, but I have a longstanding argument with a guy I play with. He says that the numbers on the ball indicate how far it will fly. I say that they are merely for distinction in the event two people play the same brand. Who's right?--C.B., Omaha, Nebraska
[A]You are. The numbers are for identification. For example, Jack Nicklaus plays balls with the number five. The second number on the ball indicates its compression, typically 90 or 100. In theory, a lower-compression ball flies farther for a player with a slower swing speed. Golf only looks that simple.
[Q]While snooping in the bedroom that our teenage daughters (ages 16 and 17) share, my wife found a package of condoms. Five of the 12 were missing. It is obvious that at least one of our daughters is sexually active. My wife is shocked and furious. I'm willing to accept reality and am glad they are at least having safe sex. My wife wants to confront them and ground the culprit for a long time. She says that if they both deny it she will be able to tell who is lying. I think she shouldn't say anything. First of all, they will lose trust in her and maybe both of us. Second, if they are going to be sexually active, they will find a way. Confronting them may make them afraid to practice safe sex and use birth control for fear that the evidence will be discovered. I would like to know what the Advisor thinks.--D.L., Dallas, Texas
[A]We're with you. Your wife has violated your daughters' privacy and now wants to send the girls a message: no sex. That won't work, and it's too late anyway. If nothing else, the condoms are an indication that you've raised two responsible young women.
All reasonable questions--from fashion, food and drink, stereo and sports cars to dating dilemmas, taste and etiquette--will be personally answered if the writer includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The most provocative, pertinent questions will be presented in these pages each month. Write the Playboy Advisor, Playboy, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611, or firstname.lastname@example.org (because of volume, we cannot respond to all e-mail inquiries). Look for responses to our most frequently asked questions at www.playboy.com/faq, and check out the Advisor's latest collection of sex tricks, "365 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life" (Plume), available in bookstores or by phoning 800-423-9494.