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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A double whammy for the house

17 January 2014

Dear Mark: Thank you for informing the public in a recent column about the pitfalls of the 6:5 blackjack game. I am a dealer in a Nevada casino and I can tell you that most, if not all dealers, hate the game. We spend far too much time explaining to the player, “within limits,” what the rule change is all about. In addition, we, too get screwed on the payout. Please do not use my name. Retribution where I work can be swift. Anonymous

As the rule in the column stated, a player's blackjack is paid 6:5 rather than the usual 3:2. This one slight rule change shifts the house edge, with basic strategy, from 0.15 percent to 1.45 percent.

What Anonymous meant by “within limits,” is how much a dealer is permitted to say in telling the unsuspecting player they are being snookered. The joints I worked in gave a Chatty Cathy like Yours Truly more liberties than Anonymous seems to be getting. The 6:5 for blackjacks didn’t exist when I was pitching cards, but Anonymous is right. Dealers are getting screwed on the payout.

Say for instance the player makes a $1 tip bet for the dealer on a standard 3:2 game and is dealt a blackjack. That $1 bet would earn the dealer $1.50. If made on a 6:5 game, a $1 bet would pay $1.20. Unluckily for the dealer, he or she only receives even money because of the difficulty in paying off in small change. You will always find 50¢ pieces in the dealer tray, but not dimes.

Dear Mark: I always take your advice, but in blackjack, I still do not believe that you should double down on an 11 against a dealer's 10. Please “show me the beef” to prove me wrong? Patrick D.

Books, charts, experts, all tell you to double down on an 11 against a dealer's 10. Yet, far too many players panic and stand down figuring the dealer has a 10 in the hole for a pat 20. Here’s the beef, Patrick. First, you actually have a better chance of making a 20 or 21 than the dealer has of having a 20.

What’s more, if you were to just hit your 11, you will win 56 percent of the time. Remember though, you are just betting one unit. If you were to double down on your 11, you will win 54 percent of the time; however, Patrick, you are betting two units instead of one. Personally, I would prefer to win $20 54 percent of the time over $10 56 percent of the time. How about you?

Dear Mark: On a blackjack game, what is the reasoning behind not being able to touch the cards when they are dealt face up? Mel D.

When four or more decks of cards are used, they are dealt face up from a dealing shoe or shuffle machine. The reasoning, Mel, is that it eliminates the potential for a player cheating by switching or marking the cards, and, more importantly, it speeds up the game.

Every casino loves a dealer who can deal countless hands per hour. I will take a dealer who can pitch plus pay-and-take with speed over lucky dealer every time. Touching the cards, Mel, messes with their mojo.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “A gambler's word is his bond. If one these boys tells you a goose'll move a plow, then hook him up, neighbor.” – Johnny Moss, World-Champion Poker Player, Fast Company (1975)
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.