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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Life among the happy humanoids

8 March 2013

Dear Mark: I am a senior citizen and play at the live dealer tables for about 40 minutes at a stretch. Then I need a break, and that's when I hit the VIRTUAL tables for a change of "pressure," as I perceive it. Our Vegas trip is planned in celebration of my very big birthday in April. Possibly you can write an article on these virtual tables. Janet M.

First, Janet, I want to commend you on timing your stints of live table action with pauses in your play. Casinos are tough enough to beat in the first place, but if you are mentally not prepared to do battle against the house, you are poking an extra rip through your chances of winning.

These electronic multiple-player virtual tables you speak of combine the latest interactive technology with the camaraderie of a live table game, but with a video dealer on a large screen. Casinos in my area not only offer a full array of these games, but they can be played for as little as a buck a hand.

From SHFL Entertainment (formerly ShuffleMaster), this series of machines is called Table Master, and they use a video representation of a life-sized dealer placed at the center of a fully automated table game.

The animated Table Master dealer makes eye contact and speaks to players, which gives it a realistic live table-like performance on games that include Blackjack, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, Three-Card Poker, Let It Ride, Royal Match 21 Blackjack and Dragon Bonus Baccarat.

Although they actually cannot respond to any of your oral commands, they do verbally prompt you to bet or fold, take insurance, or depending on the game, any other command needing a decision on your part. You also won’t see a tap on the shoulder from a pit boss of a chatty dealer like yours truly, telling me to "shut up and deal." I miss that.

The reason casinos love Table Master video games is because they can offer these games at a fraction of the cost of live tables. There are no dealers to pay, they are error-free, and they can be placed where live games would be illegal.

What the casino likes most about Table Master games is the doubling of hands played per hour. Called "incremental game speed," the more hands you are exposed to the built-in house advantage on any of the Table Master games, the faster any of these machines can relieve you of your hard-earned greenbacks.

So, Janet, even though the payoffs are effectively the same as those of a live table game, it's crucial to remember that the increase in the amount of hands per hour can do some serious damage to your bankroll. The best thing to do here is slow down your play, especially when playing alone.

What I would like you to avoid, Janet, is playing on stand-alone video blackjack machines. Unless you can find a machine that pays you the true value (3 for 2) of a blackjack, eye apprehensively most video blackjack machines. Most machines pay even money on natural 21s. Because you can expect a blackjack every 21 hands in live play, the loss of that bonus will cost you an additional 2.3 percent.

Except if it's for a quarter a pop, and for practice purposes only, you are better off playing for a dollar on a virtual table. Better yet, when it comes to training, there are plenty of blackjack software programs out there for your computer that are FREE. Howzabout that, Janet?

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Your mind has to be on the game at all times. This is work." — Lawrence Revere, Playing Blackjack as a Business
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.