Gambling City

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A Double Whammy for the House

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Thank you for informing us in a recent column about the pitfalls of the 6:5 blackjack game. I am a dealer in a Nevada casino and I can tell you that most, if not all dealers, dislike the game. We spend entirely too much time explaining to the player, “within limits,”and what the rule change is all about. Additionally, we, too get screwed on the payout. Please do not use my name. Retribution where I work can be swift. Anonymous

As the rule in the column stated, a player's blackjack is paid 6:5 rather than the usual 3:2. This one slight rule change alters the house edge, with basic strategy, from 0.15% to 1.45%.

What Anonymous meant by “within limits,” is how much the dealer is allowed to say in telling the unsuspecting player they are being given the run around. The casinos I worked in gave a Chatty Cathy like Yours Truly more leeway than Anonymous seems to be getting. The 6:5 for blackjacks wasn't in existence when I was pitching cards, but Anonymous is right. Dealers are getting screwed on the payout.

Say for instance the player makes a $1 tip bet for the dealer on a standard 3:2 game and is dealt a blackjack. That $1 bet would earn the dealer $1.50. If made on a 6:5 game, a $1 bet would pay $1.20. Unfortunately for the dealer, he or she only receives even money because of the difficulty in paying off in small change. You will always find 50¢ pieces in the dealer tray, but not dimes.

Dear Mark: I always take your advice, but in blackjack, I still do not think that you should double down on an 11 against a dealer's 10. Please “show me the beef” to prove me wrong? P.D.

Books, charts, experts, all will tell you to double down on an 11 against a dealer's 10. Yet, far too many players panic and stand down figuring the dealer has a 10 in the hole for a pat 20. Here’s the beef, Patrick. First, you in truth have a better chance of making a 20 or 21 than the dealer has of having a 20.

Additionally, if you were to just hit your 11, you will win 56% of the time. Remember though, you are only betting one unit. If you were to double down on your 11, you will win 54% of the time, however, Patrick, you are betting two units instead of one. Personally, I would prefer to win $20 54% of the time over $10 56% of the time. What about you?

Dear Mark: In a blackjack game, what is the reasoning behind not being able to touch the cards when they are dealt face up? M.D.

When there are four or more decks of cards being used in a game of blackjack, they are dealt face up from a dealing shoe or shuffle machine. The reasoning, Mel, is that it dispenses with the potential for a player to be cheating by changing or marking the cards, and, more importantly, it speeds up the game.

Every casino loves a dealer who can deal endless hands per hour. I will take a dealer who can pitch plus pay-and-take with speed over lucky dealer every time. Touching the cards, Mel, messes with their Mojo.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “A gambler's word is his bond. If one these boys tells you a goose'll move a plow, then hook him up, neighbor.” – Johnny Moss, World-Champion Poker Player, Fast Company (1975)