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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Glitches happen

10 December 2010

Dear Mark: We love your column. We always learn something (especially understanding why we lose -- ha, ha!). But, for the winners -- since we have NEVER been in this situation; we would like to know, do casinos have the ability/right to remove you from a machine "mid-play" because they feel you are winning too much, or, under the guise that the machine has malfunctioned? Carole P.

In the 30-plus years I've been in the gaming business, Carole, I'm hard pressed to recall a player getting backed off a machine because of winning too much; from table games on occasion, such as card counters bounced from blackjack, yes, but not from a slot machine. The exception would be a slot going into a celebration mode, which is runaway coins or credits registered in error, or a jackpot the player hasn't legally won for an amount that isn't available. But that involves a malfunctioning machine, not a hiccup by Lady Luck.

When you play a slot machine, Carole, you will note that the payout table not only spells out the coin payout for various symbol combinations, but you will also see this weasel clause, or something similar, stating, "Malfunction voids all pays and plays." Reason being is that today's slot machines are nothing more than masqueraded computers, and computer errors can happen.

That's why after any decent-sized jackpot, a slot manager will open up the machine to be sure it hasn't been tampered with and that the slot's computer program is working properly. He'll check to see that the display on the reels or screen matches the random number generator's electronic record. If it doesn't correspond, a malfunction is declared and the jackpot is voided. The slot's electronic record pays those colossal jackpots, not necessarily what is displayed on the screen.

So yes, Carole, machines act up, and jackpots are denied. Winners though, tell losers where they won. So yanking you off a hot machine just because you are winning is out of the norm.

Dear Mark: I read your column each week in the Sun-Herald in Biloxi, MS. I play blackjack at the Beau Rivage, which offers early surrender. My question is: Would you surrender two eights against a 9, 10, ace? I play basic strategy with no exceptions. When I play at any casino that does not allow surrender, I always split 8s. Jolene W.

Surrender is an option in which the casinos allow players to "surrender" half their original bet total after they have examined their first two cards and have viewed the dealer's up card. Once you take action by drawing that third card, doubling down or splitting pairs, surrender is no longer available. Used wisely, Jolene, surrender is an excellent rule. Unfortunately, far too many players surrender far too many hands.

Factors that affect surrender strategy are the decks in the game – single or multiple, whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17, and if early surrender is offered.

With early surrender, the casino allows the player to surrender his hand and relinquish half the bet before the dealer checks the hole card. This reduces the casino's edge by a whopping 0.6 percent, making it one of the most favorable blackjack playing rules allowed, and a definite loser for the casino when used correctly by a proficient player. Unfortunately, few casinos offer it so I will deal with just the late surrender option, and the correct decision after the dealer checks her hole card.

Although advanced surrender strategy is different for each of the above combinations, none direct you to surrender when you have a pair of 8s. You should always split them.

So when should you surrender? As a general rule, on a multiple-deck game, surrender a 16 (not 8s) against a 9, 10, ace and a 15 against a 10. On a single-deck game, surrender your 16 (again, not 8s) against a 10 and ace and a pair of 7s against a 10.

Gaming Wisdom of the Week: "Gaming is become so much the Fashion among the Beau-Monde, that he who in company should appear ignorant of the Games in Vogue, would be reckoned lo-bred and hardly fit for Conversation." - Richard Seymour The Court Gamester 1722
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.