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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Dealers aren't paid enough to spar with players

4 April 2014

Dear Mark: I have been a dealer for almost 20 years. Blackjack players love to argue about what the correct strategy is to be played. This can result in intimidation and even violence if someone at the table isn’t going by “their” rules. As a dealer, I try to keep the peace by telling them to play their own cards. Does what other players do really have any effect on one’s own odds? They claim their odds are increased when everyone at the table plays “right.” What are your thoughts on this? Danyelle D.

Probably, Danyelle, the same as yours. It doesn’t make one iota of a difference.

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. Statistically, it makes zero difference to that tetchy individual over the long run. Far too many players hold accountable others for giving the dealer an advantage by “supposedly” misplaying their hand and hitting or standing in a manner they wouldn’t.

For you as a dealer in the line of fire, it’s hard to block out the grumbling from the know-it-all who thinks a misplayed hand always takes the dealer’s bust card. Unfortunately, your paycheck doesn’t include combat pay for refereeing those petulant players you have to deal with every night. Personally, I have always thought that the worst part of the job dealing blackjack was settling squabbles of players who have spent hours gulping for effect, barking both at you and fellow players with that pretentious voice they get when they are a bit ... expansive. Then again, they could be jerks all the time.

You don’t have, nor do they, any knowledge of the cards remaining in the deck(s). When someone hits a hand that deviates from basic strategy, his or her poor play is just as likely to take a card that might have benefited the dealer’s hand as one that would have busted it. The only hand influenced by the outcome of their play is "their hand," not others.

Dear Mark: On some video poker machines, they offer suggestions on what cards to hold. Do the machines use perfect basic strategy? Would you ever follow the advice that the machine is giving you? Dave F.

I have found Dave, the results to be somewhat mixed. Most video poker machines in land-based casinos in the US do follow, for the most part, the proper strategy for that machine. Plus, the guidance offered on machines where they highlight which cards to hold, even if slightly off, is a far better way to play each hand than the Average Joe just winging it, cocktail in hand. Get my point?

What I have noticed, though, on a machine with a positive expectation, particularly with the better paytables, is the absence of any assistance from the machine. You are on your own, hand-by-hand, on what cards to hold, so it’s up to you, Dave, to know that machine’s perfect basic strategy.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “To gamble is to risk, to approach the 'ruin factor.' When I was poor the ruin factor was not important. Hell, I was ruined anyway.” – Mario Puzo, Inside Las Vegas (1976)
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.