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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Blackjack's most revered fallacy: Collateral damage

22 June 2012

Dear Mark: I believe a blackjack player who misplays his hand causes other players to lose. I have seen a third base player take a dealer bust card more than you can imagine. Then, after losing a hand to poor play, I believe it influences the cards on the following hands. Please comment on my views. Chris A.

Your questions highlight the three most popular myths when it comes to blackjack, and yet, Chris, these common blackjack misconceptions are not going to cost you a plum nickel.

For starters, how well, or poorly, fellow player’s play does not affect your chances of winning over the long haul. Put three basic strategy players or three intoxicated tyros on the game playing alongside you, your odds of winning remain the same. That is not to say that wrath from the gambling gods does not punish poor play. It does, but these deities penalize the player playing poorly, not you.

As for the idea that the actions of a third base player influence whether a dealer busts or not, that is also untrue. Far too many players blame the anchorman (third base) for giving the dealer an advantage by hitting what would be the dealer’s bust card. Neither you, nor the dealer, can control the order of cards in the deck; and by hitting the 12-16, the third baseman is just as likely to take a card that would have benefited the dealer’s hand as one that would have busted it. Besides, Chris, if your theory were correct, wouldn’t you think casinos would park shills on third base to take the "supposedly" bust cards that would improve the dealer's chances of winning?

As for losing the next hand in blackjack due to the poor play of another’s hand, that also is false. The remaining cards do not recognize that you just lost the previous hand thanks to beginner’s goof, and decide you, too, deserve a whooping for your contempt. The next hand remains an independent event, and your chances of your winning it is the same whether you lost, won, or tied the preceding 5, 10 or 15 hands in a row.

Dear Mark: You have written extensively in the past about multi-line slot machines, but I am not sure if you have regarding multi-line video poker machines. My question then, is: if the pay table is the same, say, 8/5 Bonus Poker, does it really matter if you play a single-line machine or the multi-line machines? Clay B.

On a payback percentage basis, Clay, it makes no difference whether you are playing single-hand, Triple Play, Five Play, or any amount of lines. Using your example, an 8/5 Bonus Poker, if each hand is played correctly, you can expect a return rate of approximately 99.17 percent, no matter how many hands are played.

Obviously, Clay, that return is based on "expert play," which leads me to an important qualification to the above statement. Even if you claim some expertise, skill level can abruptly dissolve when you play multiple hands, aka, more bucks on the line. Many players will not break up certain hands to improve their value, so their expert play diminishes, and they won’t realize the above-mentioned return.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "By gaming we lose both our time and treasure -- two things most precious to the life of man." — Owen Felltham
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.