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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Courtesy hold while the lady powders her nose

11 November 2011

Dear Mark: I have read your column religiously for years now and have a question for you that I have not seen before. What is a player supposed to do if they want to take a bathroom break yet still want to play on the same slot machine when they return? Before, I put a coin cup over the slot handle, but handles do not exist on many of today’s machines. Is there any new procedure I should be aware of? Helen B.

Long gone, Helen, are those sounds of clanking coins falling into metal trays that broadcast someone’s newfound prosperity. Many of today’s coinless machines even take away the fun-factor of yanking a handle. As one cheerful senior citizen told me recently, the captivating sounds of winning might be gone, but it sure is easier to hold a Vodka OJ while playing. I had to chuckle, knowing full well my Mom, presently playing at St. Peter’s Casino and Resort Hotel, would have come up with the same specious answer.

With both handles and cups disappearing, the protocol of putting a coin cup upside down over the slot handle, indicating that the machine was being held, no longer exists. As an alternative, Helen, you might just tip your chair up against a machine to let other players know you are holding the machine. If those Naugahyde stools are secured to the carpet, you can always ask a slot supervisor to reserve your machine and give a specific time when you will return. Most casinos will hold a slot for you while you go to the restroom, take a short break, or even go on a buffet run.

Dear Mark: In blackjack, if you have a five and a seven totaling 12, and the dealer is showing a deuce, do you hit or stand? This hand was dealt to me this weekend, I chose to hit it, and was criticized again by the person playing third base for doing so. Barry L.

Your hard 12 (five-seven) with the dealer presenting a deuce as an upcard is virtually a toss-up between standing and hitting, yet, the percentages do favor hitting, even including multiple draws. Here’s some Sister Cyrilla fifth-grade arithmetic.

For every 1,000,000 hands where the dealer is showing a two, you will get a hard twelve 6,230 times. If you stand on it, Barry, and you will win 35 percent of the time; hit it, 37 percent. Both hands are a losing proposition (63 percent versus 65 percent), but with that 2 percent gain by hitting a hard 12, and playing 20 hours of blackjack a month at $10 per bet, you'll save yourself on this one hand around $60 a year just by hitting versus standing. That’s enough for a few feeding frenzies at the casino buffet.

As for taking the dealer's bust card, the heat and costing the whole table money, pure poppycock.

Since when does third base know when a bust card is coming? Besides, after a decade of pitching cardboard, I can tell you that you are as likely to help the table as hurt it by hitting that particular hand. It is a mistaken belief that incorrect play by someone at third base, or any position for that matter, always takes the dealer's bust card, or gives the dealer a card that always seems to beat the table.

Oh, and one more thing, Barry. Whose hard-earned money is it anyway? Think aloud now, yours! Unless third base is willing to reimburse you for standing if you lose, I recommend making the correct play, and that’s hitting.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered. ~William Shakespeare
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.