Dear Mark: My friend and I are long-time day trippers to Atlantic City. We have a couple of sandwiches riding on the outcome of this wager. As you can tell we're not big bettors. Our question is; who was the first player to make a wager in Atlantic City? I believe it was Frank Sinatra, whereas my friend thinks it was another member of the Rat Pack, Dean Martin. Who's right?
Neither of you wins the light repast. It was a $10 pass line bet by Steve Lawrence that made Atlantic City gambling history on Memorial Day, 1978. Incidentally, did you know that the invention of sandwich is directly related to gambling? No kidding! The next time you're enjoying a double cheddar, large fry and an Oreo cookie shake, thank the Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). He loved to gamble so much he had his cortege bring him meats, bread and cheese so he wouldn't have to abandon the gambling parlors. Hence, the sandwich.
Dear Mark: Is blackjack still the number one game in Las Vegas? It seems I'm seeing fewer and fewer 21 tables and more and more slots.
If I could be "Gambling Czar" for just one day, collecting casino profits on just one game, it would not be the casino win at blackjack but of the 25¢ slot machine. Yes, the quarter machine takes in more in net profit for the casino ($2.6 billion in Nevada) than blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, keno and the sports books combined.
Yes, Grant, you are astute in you observations. Vegas is becoming an adult pinball palace.
Dear Mark: When you have a 16 in blackjack, would you advise surrendering against a face card? Also could you please explain the difference between early and late surrender?
Surrender is an option in which the casinos allow players to "surrender" half their original bet total after they have examined their first two cards and have viewed the dealer up card.
If the casino's blackjack rules permit surrender, jump on their offer. Let's face it, Sara, a 16 is a garbage hand faced off against a 10. The best move when dealt dealer debris is to relinquish half your bet. Never, Sara, think of surrender as giving up half your wager, just getting back half your probable loss.
Early surrender permits a player to relinquish half her wager even if the dealer has a blackjack. With late surrender, if the dealer possesses a blackjack, the player loses her complete bet.
Dear Mark: With all the different types of video poker machines to select from, how's a customer to choose which machine to play?
There are more than a hundred different video poker machines to choose from. Games like Joker Poker, Louisiana Jacks, Gator Poker, etc., offer you a supermarket selection, but all have different paytables needing distinct playing strategies.
I recommend learning and limiting your play to two, like my favorites, Deuces Wild and Jacks-or-Better.
Dear Mark: What are your thoughts regarding those shuffling machines found on blackjack games?
No aficionado of shuffling machines here, in spite of these shuffle mechanisms finding wide acceptance by casino operators and players alike. With a Shufflemaster, a leading industry shuffle machine, dealers do not have to waste time manually shuffling cards. From the casino perspective, time is money. The more hands per hour the better. From a player's perspective speed kills in a casino environment. The more time you are exposed to the house advantage, the more it will wreak havoc on your bankroll.
I recommend finding a table with the fewest decks possible. This forces the dealer to constantly shuffle and not expose you to any casino edge while shuffling.