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Deal Me In: The lure of automated table games

8 February 2008

Dear Mark: This past weekend I got a chance to play on two new video games where you seem to playing against a live dealer on a flat screen television set. First off, are those real live dealers who are made to look computer generated (they seem to acknowledge my presence), and are my odds the same as if I were to play on a live game? Peter V.

The electronic multiple-player table games you speak of, Peter, of which I will state here and now is a video game that I find enjoyable to play, combines the latest interactive technology with the camaraderie of a live table game by using a life-sized video dealer on a large screen, and which can be played for as little as a buck a hand.

From ShuffleMaster, these series of machines are called Table Master, and no, Peter, they don't use live dealers who are made to look computer generated, but just a video representation of a 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 experience on games that include Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Dragon Bonus Baccarat, Royal Match 21 Blackjack, and Ultimate Texas Hold'em.

When these cyber dealers are on a dead game they are in tracking mode, and seem to be looking around for some sucker, I mean player, and yes, Yours Truly, to park their hind side in one of the five player stations, but they actually can't respond to any of your verbal commands.

Don't waste your time asking the pretty ones out for a date, nor can they understand your off-color jokes, they/it can't hear you. But once playing at the table 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.

I am a little worried about players who are responding to the looks and personalities of these virtual dealers. It's one thing to have an affection for a machine that pays off, another when specific dealers are developing their own love interest following. I've sat next to players who wish their wives weren't around.

Casinos love Table Master video games because they can offer these games at a fraction of the cost of live tables -- no whining dealers to pay -- they can be placed where live games are not legal, they are dispute and misplay free, and here's the hook, Peter, the one that affects your bankroll, Table Master games nearly doubles the number 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 wreak havoc on your bankroll.

So even though the payoffs are effectively the same as those of a live game, at least on the games I've field tested, Blackjack and Three Card Poker, it's important to remember that speed kills in a casino environment. The best thing to do here is slow your play, that is until the dealer says, "hey jerk, I ain't got all day."

Dear Mark: Do you know what the odds are of getting the exact same hole cards in Texas Hold'em two hands in a row? I'm not accusing the dealer who dealt me the same hand, an ace of hearts and a queen of spades, of cheating, I was just wondering what my chances were of getting the same hand. Billy G.

It's pretty simple math, Billy. With a 52-card deck, there are 1326 different two-card arrangements (52 x 51 divided by two). You divide by two because the order doesn't matter; a queen of spades and an ace of hearts is the same as an ace of hearts and a queen of spades. So, Billy, the odds of getting the same hand twice in a row are 1,326:1.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"Money isn't everything, unless you're playing in a re-buy tournament." Anonymous
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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.