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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Winner winner

9 April 2010

Dear Mark: I was wondering, do you have any idea where the phrase "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" originated from? Why do people shout it out when playing? Johnson T.

"Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" is occasionally yelled out on the casino floor to suggest a positive gambling result. Its origin, the way I've heard it told, was that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner for $1.79. Your typical wager back then was $2, so if you won your bet you had enough for a chicken dinner.

Speaking of cheap eats, don't we all long for those 99¢ breakfast specials or $3.49 prime rib buffets? I still believe that a trip to a low-cost chow line is the casino's best way of encouraging repeat business. But I digress.

Dear Mark: I recently played video blackjack on a Game King machine and did well using the standard rules for hit, stay, double down, etc. I'm wondering how this machine differs from the table game aside from the speed of play. I completed 6-7 hands per minute. Are there any advantages or disadvantages? Mike H.

Manufactured by IGT, Game King offers different pay table variations and rules for different casinos, so an iron-clad all-port answer's impossible, and a literal answer would be difficult, but, here are some generalities that might help.

Single-player video blackjack games are usually dealt from a single electronic deck, which is reshuffled after every hand. The advantage of a video blackjack machine over a live game is the low minimum bankroll requirement needed to play. The video machines also lack the intimidation factor of the live game, and one makes a dandy practice companion for working on perfect basic strategy.

One of the benefits of a Game King machine is that it permits late surrender, meaning that if the dealer does not have blackjack, the player may surrender half the bet after the first two cards are dealt as an alternative to playing out the hand. Single-deck basic strategy, which you should use since the deck reshuffles after every hand, recommends only surrendering on a hard 16 against a dealer's 10 or ace.

Also, always play an even money amount because machines that do pay 3 to 2 for blackjacks typically do so only when an even sum has been wagered. Don't short-change yourself out of the correct payoff by betting an odd amount. Which leads me the biggest disadvantage you'll find on a lot of video blackjack machines. Never play on a machine that offers even money for a blackjack.

Most casino video blackjack machines have altered the payoffs for blackjacks and pay even money on natural 21s instead of the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2). The loss of that bonus is going to cost you an additional 2.3%. Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than 0.5% over a basic strategy player like yourself, you would be giving away a considerable amount percentage-wise. This one slight variation can easily turn a winning visit into a losing one.

Hopefully, Mike, you are taking full advantage of those splits and double downs. Those, along with 3 for 2 blackjacks can put the happy jingle in your pocket. Do not shortchange yourself in these situations. When your strategy card says to double or split, do it.

Just as you would at a live blackjack game, make sure that you get rated for your play. 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.

Finally, with any game that has a built-in advantage, and video blackjack does, the more hands you play, the more the machine will chip away at your bankroll. Yet your speed (hands per hour) of play, alongside your use of basic strategy shouldn't be much of a factor.

If for instance, Mike, you are a quarter player playing a buck a hand, a back-of-the-envelope calculation of multiplying each bet ($1), by the house edge if you play a strong basic strategy game (0.5%), then multiplying that result by the number of bets you will make in an hour (420), tells me your estimated losses will be $2.10 every 60 minutes. Now that's some pretty cheap entertainment.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Blackjack was just me against the house, but poker came with personalities that ranged from racist scumbag to snake-like vermin." -- Cat Hulbert, Outplaying the Boys

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.