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Never Busting Never Works

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: What do you think of a blackjack player who always stands with 12 or more, no matter what the dealer is showing? The player therefore never busts and wins all of the times when the house does bust. You would still use basic strategy for splits and doubling. Since the only advantage the house has is the player gets to bust first, wouldn't this simple approach favor the player? Peter C.

I am glad, Peter, you mentioned those two words, “basic strategy,” since basic blackjack strategy advises hitting plenty of those stiff hands. When using a never bust strategy, you are giving the casino a 5% advantage, whereas when you use strict basic strategy, you are only giving the casino about a half of one percent edge.

Without considering depletion of the deck, let’s take the player 12 hand as an example. With a 12, you have a 9 out of 13 chance of not busting if you take a hit. Likewise, if you decide against hitting, your only chance of winning with a 12 is for the dealer to bust, and he has the same exact as you (69.2%) of not busting hitting his her hand. Granted, Peter, many times you will not win any additional money by hitting, but basic blackjack strategy does what it’s supposed to do. Keep you from losing more of your hard-earned cash than you should.

Losing players, Peter, employ a never bust strategy. The cost: the greenbacks in their wallets.

Dear Mark: After all this talk about getting thrown in jail for finding and using money and vouchers in a casino, IRONICALLY, I found myself in that same situation this past weekend.

I was walking thru the Ho-Chunk Casino in Wisconsin Dells, WI and noticed a cash-out voucher on the floor. I bent over and picked it up thinking it would be 5¢ or something similar. I was shocked when it said $65 on it! Now here I was holding a ticket that wasn't mine, and I had just read all this stuff in your column. I gingerly carried it over to the cashier holding it out in front of me -- in plain site -- the entire trip. I got to the cashier and told her, “I found this on the floor. Maybe you can still find the rightful owner.” She then stated, to my amazement, “Nope this is a finders keepers casino. You're now $65 richer.” She then proceeded to count out the money to me. I was shocked! I guess it always pays to be honest. Jean H.

The deluge of feedback from my column “Finders Keepers” was overwhelming. Most went the other way. The wrist slap, plus, and plus more. No one ended up wearing orange, yet. The gist of the response was that those who had found and played lost winnings, and were subsequently caught, wrote that the hassle wasn’t worth it. Interestingly, Jean, the top amount stumbled upon was your $65, so congratulations, and as the winner, you get the ink.

Let’s get real here. There are plenty of 5¢ tickets that find their way to the trashcan or litter the floor. Furthermore, it is a rare occurrence for a slot player to leave umpteen credits on a machine or lose their grip of a $25 voucher on the way to the cashier’s cage. We need to ask ourselves if there is there a need for shackles for the 50¢ petty thief.

Where I do NOT believe in the “spirit of the law” is game integrity. The fairness of all games, played in any casino, should be above reproach. Players deserve an honest game.

No casino, Jean, is interested in exposing its gaming license to loss through any inkling of cheating. The gaming industry is probably the most-regulated business in America, chock full of rules and regulations that would close down a casino for defrauding, or appearing to defraud, the public. However, a shakedown over a found $3 voucher, to me at least, is unwarranted. Just sayin’.

So, folks, there you have it. It goes both ways, finders keepers or the hoosegow. Which is why, again, I highly recommend “you get to know the state law along with the temperament of casino management where you play.”

Gambling wisdom of the Week: “My old pappy always used to say "Don't put the chicken in front of"... no, wait "Never cut the cards before"... no, wait, "Don't put all you eggs in one basket" – Brett Maverick