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Dealers Aren’t Paid Enough to Spar With Players

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have been a dealer for almost 20 years. Blackjack players love to argue about what the correct strategy is to be played. This can end in threats and even violence if a player at the table isn’t going by “their” rules. As a dealer, I strive to keep the peace by telling them to play their own cards. Do what other players do seriously have any effect on one’s own odds? They assert their odds are increased when everyone at the table plays “right.” What are your thoughts on this? Danyelle D.

Probably, Danyelle, the same as yours. It doesn’t make one whit of a difference.

It is a false belief that incorrect play by the person at third base, or any position for that matter, always takes the dealer's bust card, or gives the dealer a card that always seems to beat the table. Statistically, it makes absolutely no difference to that touchy individual over the long run. Far too many players hold liable others for giving the dealer an edge by “supposedly” misplaying their hand and hitting or standing in a way they would not.

For you as a dealer in the line of fire, it’s hard to block out the quibbling from the know-it-all who feels a misplayed hand always takes the dealer’s bust card. Regrettably, your paycheck doesn’t include combat pay for playing referee to those testy players you have to handle every night. Personally, I have always thought that the worst part of dealing blackjack was mediating the bickering of players who have spent hours gulping for effect, barking both at you and fellow players with that grandiose voice they get when they are a bit ... expansive. But again, they could be jerks all the time.

You don’t have, nor do they, any knowledge of the cards left in the deck(s). When someone hits a hand that veers from basic blackjack strategy, his or her beastly play is just as likely to take a card that might have improved the dealer’s hand as one that would have busted it. The only hand altered by the outcome of their play is "their hand," not others.

Dear Mark: On some video poker machines, they offer advice on what cards to hold. Do the machines use perfect basic strategy? Would you ever follow the recommendations that the machine is giving you? Dave F.

I have found Dave, the outcomes to be somewhat mixed. Most video poker machines in land-based casinos in the States do follow, usually, the proper strategy for that machine. Plus, the guidance offered on machines where they highlight which cards to hold, even if marginally off, is a far better way to play any hand than the Aver

age Joe just winging it, cocktail in hand. Get my point? What I have noticed, though, on a machine with a favorable expectation, especially with the better paytables, is the absence of assistance from the machine. You are on your own, hand-by-hand, on what cards to hold, so it’s up to you, Dave, to know that machine’s perfect basic strategy.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “To gamble is to risk, to approach the "ruin factor." When I was poor the ruin factor was not important. Hell, I was ruined anyway.” – Mario Puzo, Inside Las Vegas (1976)