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Deal Me In: Players can get paid to play

30 April 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: A few weeks back you wrote the following: "Always use your Player's Card when playing video blackjack. The added cash-back when using your Player's Card can turn a session from red to black." I don't quite understand how that is possible since the house always has an advantage over your play. But if it were true, would the same apply for standard blackjack? Mike K. Your objective in using a Player's Club cards is to be rewarded for your patronage for playing slots, video table games as well as the conventional ones. As for blackjack specifically, you not only earn more in comps or cash-backs than you would from the other table games, you can actually make it a positive expectation game. Here's how. Casinos by and large use their customary two percent advantage over blackjack players in calculating how much they are willing to give a blackjack player in cash-backs or comps. B-u-u-t, the basic strategy player can reduce that house edge to well under one percent, which would give you, Mike, more cash rebates for your skilful play. When you couple your proficient play with incentives like cash back and other comps and goodies, blackjack, mathematically at least, can become a winning proposition that can give you overall return greater than 100% of what you've ventured. Dear Mark: On a single deck game, if the dealer is showing an Ace, and I'm sitting on a pair of 10s, would you advise insurance? Jerry C. Excluding counting cards, and card counting alone since last week I extolled its virtues when used while counting, making an insurance bet is a bad move, even if you were to be dealt a blackjack. The reason being, Jerry, you're holding at least two of the cards that the dealer needs to make blackjack. On a single deck game, insuring a hand composed of 10s gives the house a 14.3% edge, which would make an insurance bet one of the worst wagers in the casino. Dear Mark: Thanks for the occasional lottery question. Some of us casino gamblers do dabble in the toughest long shot of all, the lottery. Which leads me to this question. Last week you informed Ed that hitting Powerball was 21 times tougher than being hit by lightening. I once heard someone say that your chances of getting killed going to purchase your lottery ticket was greater than actually hitting a big jackpot. Since bad things can happen when you drive to purchase your tickets, do you agree? Joe P. Absolutely, Joe, but let's break it down anyway. National Highway Traffic Safety statistics show that there are approximately 1.7 automobile fatalities for every 100,000,000 vehicle-miles driven. For me at least, I only need to drive about one mile to Grumpy's Market to buy a Powerball ticket, so a round trip puts me at two miles total. The probability of joining this newly departed statistical group after being skewered by a teenager madly texting while driving is 2 x 1.7 / 100,000,000 = 0.000000034. A more graspable way of looking at this number is to see it as one in 29,411,765. So, Joe, with the odds of hitting Powerball being one in 195,249,054, and by you hopping in your car specifically to chase champagne wishes and caviar dreams, your chances of meeting your maker are 6.64 times greater than the likelihood that you will win the Powerball jackpot. While there, you might as well buy a case of beer, some Twinkies and a pack of Red Pall Malls just in case you make it home. The odds of any of those items killing you you'll have to figure out on your own. ;-) Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Many great poker players I've encountered will not win humanitarian awards or be nominated for Nobel prizes." --Frank Scoblete
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.