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This Virtual Table Game Has One Big Drawback

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Here in Reno, numerous casinos have blackjack machines where the "dealer" is a video of an attractive, young lady. Are the cards dealt at random the same as would happen at a live table game or are these machines programmed to pay out a predetermined percentage? These machines have player favorable rules, including surrender allowed. So, am I wrong to think this is a better place to play than a live dealer game? Alan C.

I believe the machines you are speaking of, Alan, are called Table Master, and they use a video showing a cybernetic life-sized dealer, or as you described, an attractive, young lady, at the center of a fully automated blackjack game.

These games give you a realistic live table-like performance of not only Blackjack, but also Three-Card Poker, Let It Ride, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, Royal Match 21, and Dragon Bonus Baccarat.

Regarding your first question, Alan, yes, all hands are dealt at random. Table Master blackjack machines are not pre set to return a certain percentage as would, say a slot machine. Your play, along with positive rules like surrender, doubling and split variations that favor the player, will mandate your percentage return.

The best quality these avatar gambling machines have, is that, at least in my gambling locality, the game is offered for as little as one dollar a hand. Likewise, in most gaming jurisdictions you will find a decent-sized gap between a Table Master wager and that of a live dealer table game.

All is good, right? Well, Alan, not as a matter of course.

On average, Alan, Table Master games nearly double the number of hands played per hour. In “gamble-ese” this is called “incremental game speed.” Although the payoffs are equal to those of a live table game, you need to allow for that increase in speed. With the advantage of more hands played per hour, that attractive young lady can pocket the contents of your wallet faster than the dealer at a live table game.

The game plan here, Alan, is to slow down your play, especially when playing alone. Take your time and study each hand. Because you are playing against a machine, no one is going to badger you if your play is at a more leisurely pace. Also, because the payoffs and rules are effectively the same as those in a live game, basic strategy is the smart play here against a computer-generated dealer.

Also, if you are a beginning player, play on the low denomination machines until your level of expertise rises. Oh, and one other thing. Don’t forget to use a Casino Player’s Card so you can be rewarded with some goodies for your business.

Dear Mark: Can you please give an example of what you mean by “expected value” on a bet where you suggest only making bets with a casino edge of less than 2%? C. D.

Astute players making bets that have less than a two percent house advantage are giving themselves a fair chance of winning, and a fair chance, Chase, is all that any gambler should ask for. So including “expected value” with that nugget of advice, expected value (EV) is how much you can expect to win (positive) or lose (negative) from your bet. For example, the expected value of betting the Bank hand in Baccarat is -1.17%. This means you can expect to lose 1.17% of every dollar you wager. Another example would be European (single-zero) roulette. Here, the expected value is -2.7%, which means you can expect to lose 2.7% of every dollar you bet.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Better an ounce of luck than a pound of gold.” –Yiddish Proverb