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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The weighty power of the pit boss

15 February 2013

Dear Mark: Recently, I was playing third base on a blackjack table at one of Detroit's casinos. The player playing first base, for some reason, had neglected to place a bet on a particular hand, but the dealer did not notice and gave her a card. The dealer continued until reaching the person to my right, when someone pointed out the mistake. The pit boss was called over, and said the dealer had to move all the cards already dealt one spot to the right. This resulted in the "six" that was dealt to the person to my right being now placed in front of me. I protested to the dealer, and then to the pit boss that I wanted "out" of that hand. In similar cases when this has happened before in Vegas, this was the normal protocol that I had seen -- players could continue the hand, or opt-out and pull their bet back if they didn't like their card. The pit boss said that this was their policy on misdeals, and I had to play the card in front of me. Needless to say, I lost the hand and was not happy about it. I was wondering your thoughts -- does this vary from casino to casino, how they would handle this? How would you have handled it in your days as a pit boss? Steve W.

Let's begin, Steve, with the dealer's error; failure to notice first base's placed wager. There is no need to get into a tizzy here. It happens. Dealers deal 300 hands an hour, six hours a night, five shifts weekly, equating to approximately a half-million hands a year of pitching, counting, and paying and taking. Players and management alike should come to expect an occasional mistake. Note here, full disclosure: My share was probably higher than "occasional."

So, Steve, what would be the proper handling of your scenario? The simple answer: whatever their policy was. As long as you are getting consistency among pit bosses within the same casino, operating under the same rules, consider it a fair shake. I do not have a problem with how it was handled. Besides, you could have just as easily gotten a 10 instead of a six. Actually, it would have been more likely as there are 16 10-count cards and only four sixes.

Now if I were to play referee, which I have done thousands of times during my 18-year sentence on the inside, I would handle your circumstance in the following manner, based of course, on the casino rules where I was employed. I would have continued the deal out to where all players got their two cards, the reason being that the joints I worked in never backed up the cards. Nor did we use the word "misdeal." We tried to work out a solution, generally to the player's advantage, knowing we would most likely get the courtesy windfall back within the next three hands.

So, I would have allowed first base to stay in at her average bet or table minimum, everyone else would be given the opportunity to receive both cards, then they would be given the option of staying in, or calling their hand dead. Solution two would be as you described. Before dealing each player's second card, I would allow an early exit for any player wanting out. I can see myself calling either one, having had that arbitrary freedom to do so.

In the future, your legitimate gripe against management shouldn't center on what happened to you, but rather on arbitrariness, with different pit bosses, sometimes even in the same pit, rendering contrary decisions. Calling a particular hand differently confuses casino clientele. That's why most casinos have an inch-thick table games manual with rules and regulations covering every possible situation.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "A faint heart never filled a flush." — Old Western Saying
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.