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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: How sweet they are, those 20 minutes of sanity

27 March 2009

Dear Mark: I have always been fascinated by the gambling business. What I like most about your column is your insider's view as to what is going on. Take last week's column where you described the position of the "Pencil" and dealers being sent off to battle. I always wondered how the dealer was assigned a table. My question is in that same category. Once a dealer gets their table assignment, do they always deal on that same game all shift long or do they rotate to different tables? It seems some casinos operate differently than others on this matter. Eric G.

Yes, Eric, casinos do it differently. Personally, I much preferred the "round robin" approach when I dealt. The other common routine is the "pre-assigned string." Let me explain.

Dealing on the same table all shift -- the "pre-assigned string," is where three dealers each have a set table assignment, and a fourth dealer works relief for those three games. These three games are referred to as a "string."

For example:

Blackjack-1: Eric G.
Blackjack-2: Larry
Blackjack-3: Sue
Relief: Marty

Eric G (that's you), Larry and Sue will work their respective games for the entire shift. Marty will be relief and take the first break at the top of the hour. At 20 past, Marty will tap out Eric G. on Blackjack-1, who will take a break until 40 minutes past before returning to his respective game (Blackjack-1).

Then Marty will move to Blackjack-2 to give Larry a 20-minute breather. When Larry returns to Blackjack-2, Marty will tap out Sue on Blackjack-3 and deal there for 20 minutes. When Sue returns, Marty will take another break before starting the cycle all over again.

Because dealers get a 20-minute break every hour, most don't like this method because their break time is slighted by having a relief dealer released from one game by an incoming dealer and then having to tap into the next game on the string. Smoothly done, this switch can take less than a minute, but with jam up action, up to five minutes of the next dealer's break can be lost. A four minute walk each way to the break room, leaves you with just seven minutes to shovel down food like a crazed baboon.

The variation most dealers prefer is called the "round robin." There are still three dealers and a relief assigned to a three-game string, but the dealers on the string will work every game for an hour, and once they return from their break, they will take over for the next dealer needing his or her 20 minutes of sanity. So when Eric G. returns from his break after leaving Blackjack-1, he will give Larry on Blackjack-2 a break, who comes back to give Sue on Blackjack-3 hers.

Dear Mark: Are there certain rules newcomers to the game of blackjack should be looking for? Sean I.

Blackjack players, whether a newbie or not, should always play in a casino that offers favorable rules. To avoid hostile playing conditions in blackjack, look, Sean, for the following combination of rules that are advantageous to the player:

A single-deck game (if you can find them)
Surrender, both early and late
Double down allowed after splitting pairs
Double down allowed on any two cards
Multiple pair splitting allowed, plus re-splitting aces
Dealer stands on a soft 17

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "A factor contributing to the appeal of slots is the chance to arrive by bus and depart by limo." --Alan Krigman, Casino Times

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.