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Getting More Decisions Per Hour Isn’t Necessarily a Good Thing

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts on betting multiple hands at blackjack? I do it now and again to change the flow of cards on the game, especially on the automatic shufflers.
Cal F.

There is no mathematical footing, Cal, for this misleading notion that by switching from one spot to two, you will “change the flow of cards," and that by so doing you will change your luck on the table. What will happen, especially on a game that uses an automatic shuffler, is that you will be dealt far more hands per hour, with the casino edge munching contentedly on your bankroll at a much faster clip. Let’s run some numbers.

Say, for instance, you are a basic strategy player and your average bet is $5 per hand. To play two hands, many casinos will make you double that amount per betting circle, so you are in fact wagering $20 per round. Now let’s put Joe to the right of you, Josephine to your left, with four wagers in play.

When you’re playing with two other players on an auto-shuffled game, the game can be expected to average at least 600 decisions per hour, you seeing half, or 300 of them. Betting $20 per round means you will be wagering a total of $6,000 over the course of an hour.

With the casino having a 0.5% edge against the basic strategy player, and you decreasing your decisions per hour to 200 with just one hand at $5, your expected hourly loss is just five buckaroos. But, Cal, by playing two spots ($20) instead of one ($5) and at 300 decisions, your expected hourly loss drastically jumps to $30. You could always check and see whether Joe and Josephine would give you a ride home before you decide to ride two horses at once.

The only advantage I see to playing two spots is that if you are a card counter, because when your count gives you a clear edge, it would be to your advantage to play more than one spot. Counters playing heads-up against the dealer know that by playing two spots, they have twice the chance of getting the high value cards as the dealer has. But, Cal, these newer automatic shufflers that randomize the cards after each hand make card counting futile, so you won’t see card counters playing on them, and neither should you. Not because you don’t count cards, but these shufflers that randomly shuffle the discards after every round played makes for a game that flows much faster, which in turn increases your theoretical loss by the same measure.

Dear Mark: I am a basic strategy blackjack player and yet, I still seem to bust a lot. What is the percentage of times a basic strategy player busts? I’m not sure what is abnormal.
Ray P.

It’s not uncharacteristic for a basic strategy player to bust approximately 17% of the time. A player who uses a “wing it” strategy will bust more frequently than this.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Most gamesters begin at small game; and, by degrees, if their money, or estates, hold out, they rise to great sums; some have played, first of all, their money, then their rings, coach and horses, even their wearing clothes and perukes; and then, such a farm; and, at last, perhaps a lordship. —Anonymous The Nicker; or the Cheats of Gaming Discovered 1669