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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The useful art of table and partner selection

13 January 2012

Dear Mark: I am a relatively new/occasional blackjack player and once in a while a hand comes up that advanced players would double-down on. However, being a low-roller, I do not really want to put more money out. On two different occasions, a player (usually a man) will place his own money alongside mine since he said it is a good bet. If the hand is a winner, should the winnings be shared, or is it mine to keep? Mary P.

The fellow player who offered unsolicited playing advice, and in your case, ready cash, was correct in that doubling down is a good bet.

When dealt a pair of favorable cards, normally a 9, 10 or an 11, the casino gives you the opportunity to double the amount of your wager. The strategic reason for doubling down is that you are more likely to win the hand than to lose, and having this advantage, you should always wager the maximum amount possible. The only disadvantage to doubling is that you are allowed to draw just one additional card.

Option B, Mary, is that if you happen to be light in the pocketbook, yes, you may double for less than your original bet. When the rules permit doubling, you may double your wager by any amount, up to, but never more than, the original bet. Since doubling down has a built-in edge over the house, I do not recommend doubling for less. Teaming up with a player when half of your double is open is a possible solution. Next time, you can ask, “do you want to partner up with me on this one?" instead of offering carte blanche to both the opportunity and winnings.

Since your "partnership” occurred but twice, I believe sharing the winnings is the appropriate resolution. You would be making a big mistake in letting any player cherry-pick your double down opportunities, like an 11 against a six, plus, there are scenarios where you would want to take an additional hit(s) if you decide not to double down. For instance, you are dealt a 10, and the dealer is showing a 7, 8, 9, 10 or ace. You hit, draw a 2, giving you a 13. Basic strategy would dictate that you take another hit. You can’t, because you just allowed some gentleman to control play and reap all the profits.

If you cannot take full advantage of double down opportunities, Mary, perhaps you should be playing on a lower denomination table.

Dear Mark: I am a snowbird spending the winter in Biloxi. I have read several of your articles in the "At the Casinos" section of the Sun Herald. Today's article advised the best cards to hold on a 9/6 machine. Maybe I am not going to the right casinos, but all I have seen here are either 8/6 or 7/5. Snowbird Bob

With a craving for some seafood at Mary Mahoney's, I too hope to mosey on down to the Gulf Coast sometime this winter. In the meantime, Bob, a good reference as to machine selection here, there, or anywhere is Steve Bourie’s American Casino Guide. According to the 2012 guide, some of the best video poker on the Gulf Coast for lower limit players are 9/6 Double Double Bonus (98.98 percent), 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54 percent), 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.17 percent) and a version of Deuces Wild called Illinois Deuces (98.9 percent).

The tiger hunt is now on you to locate and scrutinize each paytable and find which ones give you the lowest house edge. You’re on the chase, Bob, so readers here are expecting a full accounting.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In most betting shops you will see three windows marked 'Bet Here,' but only one window with the legend 'Pay Out.'" —Jeffrey Bernard
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.