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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Buffets are a Nevada State treasure

9 July 1999

Dear Mark,
I enjoy going to Las Vegas not only to gamble but to feast on all the different buffets. Why do you think they don't offer buffets with the same fanfare in the Midwest casinos as they do in Las Vegas? Chuck M.

On those days, Chuck, when you have to try as hard as you can to keep up with the losers, your only salvation is to get up from a losing table and enjoy the comfort cuisine of a rich bounty buffet.

Casinos here have long realized that the formula for success in a casino is to attract as many people as possible, with the least amount of marketing costs, and keep them in their facility for as long as they have money in their pocket. A buffet is one of the best ways of doing that. The Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is a perfect example of a casino whose tremendous success is rooted in its Carnival World Buffet.

Why the chow-line dining experience hasn't caught on at all the heartland casinos, where eating quantity over quality has always prevailed, is beyond my grasp.

Dear Mark,
When making a bet on the "bank hand" in baccarat, why do they charge a 5% commission? Wouldn't this make it an inferior wager compared to a "player hand" bet? Bradley G.

Based on the mathematics of baccarat, the player hand should win 44.6% of the time, the bank hand 45.8% and the tie 9.6%. If we discount ties, the player hand statistically will win 49.3% of the time and the bank hand 50.7%.

Because the bank hand wins more than 50% of the time, the casino neutralizes this edge you would have over the house by charging a 5% commission every time you win a bank hand bet. By charging this hidden tax, the casino's advantage is now 1.17% for bank hand and 1.36% for the player hand. But even with the commission added, you can see that the bank hand is still a slightly better bet than the player wager.

By the way, Bradley, the above wagers are some of the best bets you can make in a casino, but the tie bet should always be avoided: house edge, 14.1%.

Dear Mark,
I understand most of the logic behind basic strategy, but one play always makes me nervous and that is doubling down on a 10 against a dealer's 10. If I assume the dealer has a total of 20, then only a ten card or ace will allow me to win. Am I right to assume that there are more chances I'll draw a 2-9 card than a 10 or ace? If so, why double my bet in such a risky situation? Allen H.

Blackjack is a game in which the proper hit, stand, splitting and doubling decisions are necessary to cut the house edge down to a minimum. These proper decisions are called basic strategy and have been arrived at by computer simulations of millions of hands.

Your case in point, doubling down on a 10 against a dealer 10 is NOT one of those times. Basic strategy dictates you hit your hand, not double down. This stratagem is the same for both single and multiple deck games.

Dear Mark,
You have mentioned in previous columns both your favorite books and movies on gambling. Do you have any favorite songs on gambling? Stathis Z.

Hmmm. A beloved song on gambling. Yes I do. Two actually. There's A Place in the World for A Gambler by pop singer Dan Fogelberg and Luck be a Lady by Frank Sinatra.

There's a place in the world for a gambler
There's a burden that only he can bare
There's a place in the world for a gambler
And he sees
Oh yes he sees.

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.