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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Player cries foul, but was it?

29 May 2015

Dear Mark: I would like to know how you would have handled this blackjack scenario. I made my biggest bet of the evening ($100), and the dealer proceeded to deal two cards to each player on the table. Before the first hand was played, the player in the middle position informed the dealer that he only had one card. The dealer called over the pit boss, and she decided to give that player the option of calling his hand dead or taking the next card. Not to be a whiner, but what about me? Wouldn’t what happened be considered a misdeal? Since I was sitting third base, my cards would have been different, and not the 16 that I received and eventually busted on. Dale L.

I begin by saying that all players should expect the occasional mistake from a dealer. Dealers deal 300 hands an hour, six hours a day, five shifts weekly, equating to approximately a half million hands of pitching, counting, and paying and taking per year. No one can do something roughly 500,000 times error free.

Now, Dale, playing referee, I would have handled your circumstance in the following manner, based, of course, on the rules in the multiple casinos where I had worked.

First, the player in the middle position slighted a card would be given the option of either receiving the next card or being allowed to fold his hand. Then, with the cards being "out-of-order," everyone else would also be given the opportunity of staying in with the two cards they were dealt, or, calling their hand dead.

What you seldom see in any casino are the cards backed up, nor do you hear the use of the word “misdeal.” Misdeals in a casino do happen, but they are typically related to a poker room when cards are dealt without being cut, or cards dealt out of order, but not on a blackjack table.

Where you can have a legitimate beef is if different pit bosses, even in the same pit, make contrary decisions. Calling a particular hand differently confuses players, and that is why most casinos have inch-thick table game manuals with rules and regulations covering every possible situation.

At the particular casino where you played, it’s debatable if you were given a fair shake as to if you could call your hand dead. Their rules and regs are obviously different from my past experiences. Or, possibly, Dale, the size of your wager ($100) not being closer to the table minimum was the deciding factor. I’ve seen this played both ways, based more on the fear of players being in cahoots with each other than over a dealer error.

Nevertheless, the joints where I worked allowed some leeway when it came to a scenario such as yours. My approach was to always try to render a solution in the player’s favor, figuring, Dale, that the casino would most likely recoup any player’s winnings within a hand or two.

Dear Mark: I have always been curious as to how often the dealer busts. What is the average amount of times that it happens? Skip B.

How often the dealer busts, Skip, is dependent on his or her up-card. Excluding having a “natural 21,” if the dealer is showing a 7 – Ace, he or she will bust 17 percent of the time. If the up-card is a 2 – 6, the dealer will bust approximately 42 percent of the time. Overall, the dealer will bust about 28 percent of the time considering all possible dealer up-cards.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Chronic numbers players... see clues to their fortune in the most minute and insignificant phenomena, in clouds, on passing trucks and subway cars, in creams, comic strips, the shape of dog-luck fouled on pavements.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
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.