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Deal Me In: Consistency is the key

3 June 2016

Dear Mark: I was sitting on third base on a blackjack game with a wager of $50 and was dealt a 16. The dealer was showing a three, so I followed the rules of basic strategy and stayed. The dealer proceeded to flip over the three and had a two underneath. The dealer continued to hit her five with another two, then a queen – which up to that point totaled a 17 – then took another hit and got an eight, now totaling 25. A bust hand anyway you count it.

What the dealer proceeded to do next still baffles me. She slid the eight aside and then took my money. I argued the call and asked for the pit boss, and he too agreed with the dealer, stating that the dealer was correct, and I wasn’t going to get my $50 back. Isn’t this a misdeal?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter and will go with your opinion. Gary R.


As you wish, Gary, I will play referee here and will give you an unbiased answer based on the rules and regulations of the joints where I have worked, and possibly not where you played.

So, what should have been the proper handling of your $50 misfortune? More than likely the way it was handled, just so long as it is based on what their policy is. As long as you are getting consistency among pit bosses within the same casino, operating under the same rules, consider it a fair shake.

One likes to think decisions on any table game are NOT based on arbitrariness, with different pit bosses, even in the same pit, rendering contrary decisions. Calling a particular hand differently confuses casino clientele. That is why most casinos have inch-thick table games manuals with rules and regulations covering every possible situation.

Now let’s look at the dealer’s error, the failure to stop at 17. Gary, buddy, it happens. Dealers deal approximately a half million hands a year of dealing, counting, and paying and taking (300 hands an hour, six hours a night, five shifts weekly). You should come to expect an occasional mishap. An egregious error it was not. Nothing sinister happened here.

Next, note the wording on the felt of every blackjack table. It either states, “Dealer must draw to a 16, and stand on all 17s” or, it could read “Dealer must hit soft 17” – which according to your description of what happened, the dealer hand wasn’t a soft 17.

“Cards speak,” Gary. Future cards dealt by this dealer were not binding, nor can the dealer on a whim make an arbitrary ruling in your favor. The dealer’s hand was what it was, a 17, regardless of how you call or miscall it. You may want to claim that the dealer’s hand is a misdeal, but her hand is viewed for its genuine value the second it hit 17.

My only concern as to the way you described the incident was that the dealer made an executive decision without calling over a pit boss. Casinos do not want the inmates running the asylum, so someone at a higher pay grade such as a pit boss should always make the call like the one you encountered.

Finally, that word “misdeal.” What you seldom see on any blackjack game are cards that are backed up, nor do you hear the use of the word “misdeal.” Misdeals in a casino do happen, but they are related to a poker room when cards are dealt without being cut, or cards dealt out of order, but not on a blackjack table. Allowing endless misdeals spawns collusion among players in cahoots.

As stated above, Gary, each casino has its own version of Hoyle to establish civility amongst the savages. As long as their decisions remain consistent, the 17 stands, the money was theirs.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “At home all day playing cards.” – George Washington, Diary, (September 5, 1770)
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.