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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A blackjack dealer faux pas?

6 September 2013

Dear Mark: While on a cruise playing blackjack, there were two players and myself playing on the table. The first player was dealt a blackjack, the other player had a thirteen, while I, playing third base, had a seven. The dealer had an Ace as an up-card, and proceeded to offer even money to the player who on first base had a blackjack.

The player with the blackjack did not understand the rule and after an explanation took the even money. The other player then hit and got a five and stayed on 18. I hit and got a ten and stayed on 17. The dealer then turned his card over and had a King. He swept the cards and money, and I asked him what he was doing. He said he had a blackjack, and I said, "No" you have an eleven as he, the dealer, did not declare blackjack. He called the pit boss over and "they" agreed it was a blackjack. I said, "No," as that insurance was not even offered.

I told the pit boss and the dealer that he had played too fast and had screwed up. (I had been complaining about the dealers playing too fast all trip.) I said when I screw up, I have to live with it and so should they. I cashed out and went to a slot machine.

The bar staff came up to me and told me the house would like to buy me a drink. When I got it, I took a sip and waited until I caught the pit boss' eye. I then toasted him and said "See, you know I was right." Your opinion, please. Bob Z.

Anytime, Bob, you sail the high seas on a casino flotilla, realize the blackjack game you're plopped in front of is the only game in town. When it comes to competition for your play, open water cruise ships have none. You are part of a captive audience whose only escape is to leap over the rail.

The casino knows that you are more than likely a one-timer on vacation, with disposable income burning a hole in your pocket. The casino isn't looking for repeat business because you're probably never coming back.

Sending a cocktail your way was definitely NOT an admission of any blunder on their part. The return wink-and-a-drink probably cost the casino 50 cents. It was a smart move on his end, and it seemed to somewhat satisfy you on yours.

So, Bob, let's break down what happened. To begin with, was it a blackjack or was it an 11?

Unequivocally, it was a blackjack. That card total (21) plays as it shows, even if you believe you were not offered insurance. Plus, in between the even money payoff, Player Two getting his five and you getting your 10, you didn't make any noise, like, "Hey, buddy, what about me?" regarding insurance. Moreover, as a dealer, I was trained NOT to verbally offer insurance, but to swipe my hand across the insurance line. Did that possibly happen, Bob, and you missed it?

Fewer disputes occur when using hand gestures over verbal dialogue. This is similar to scratching your cards when wanting a hit instead of just saying, "Hit me." Since the surveillance camera can't pick up what you are saying, the casino wants to see some motion from you and not a voice directive.

Now, let's discuss your being peeved over the pace of the game. Casinos are enamoured with time and motion studies. They know it's simply more profitable for the casino when their dealers deal more hands per hour. They also know that speed kills on a blackjack table, or anywhere else in the casino for that matter. The more blackjack hands you are exposed to the built-in house advantage, the faster a speedy dealer will obliterate your cruise bankroll. It's all math to the casino, Bob.

As to taking even money, or insurance, when the dealer shows an Ace, except for counting cards, making either of these wagers is fiscally not a sound move, even if, as first base was, dealt a blackjack. Sure, the player on first base wanted the proverbial bird in hand. But by taking even-money in blackjack, mathematically it will cost that player four percent in profits over the long run, simply because the dealer is more likely to NOT have a blackjack than to have one.

Sorry, Bob, that I couldn't offer more support. I'm just the messenger here.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Almost all life depends on probabilities. -- Francois Voltaire
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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.