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Best of Mark Pilarski

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OOPS! Boss, I gotta go

21 July 2003

Dear Mark,
In my short years playing blackjack, I have never seen a pit boss come over and deal a hand until last year. I was playing with my family on a low-risk table ($5 minimum), when after about 40 minutes, the female dealer at our table motioned to the pit boss, talked to him for a second, then finished her hand. She spread out the cards, thanked us, and left urgently. The pit boss she talked to stepped up and started to deal. Another pit boss watched his shuffling from the pit area.

You have to believe me that we were a little nervous and wondering what was going on. The pit boss was extremely friendly while he dealt the cards, joking with us, etc. After several sets of cards, a different female dealer came back.

My question to you is, what would cause a pit boss to come over and do such a thing? We are all amateurs when it comes to playing 21, and we were not cheating. Aaron S.

And neither was the pit boss, Aaron. There was absolutely, positively no cheatin' going on. No need to be so suspicious.

When a dealer comes off the game and is replaced by a pit boss, it is most likely Mother Nature's cell phone just rang; or, possibly, the dealer had called in sick on a busy weekend and needed a tongue lashing; or maybe there was an emergency at the dealer's home [they all have homes, these days] or; the sexist jokes she's hearing on the game are so God-awful that she needs to upchuck the batch.
Besides, once you become a floor supervisor, you lose your dexterity for dealing seconds or off the bottom of the deck.

Ya know I'm jiving you Aaron, right?

Dear Mark,
Should you always hit your 15s and 16s against a 17? Also, should you always stand on a soft 18? Caroline S.

The dealer's chances of having a 17 or more when he shows a 7, 8, 9, 10 or ace are between 74% and 83%. For that reason, correct basic strategy dictates that you always hit your 15 or 16.
Bringing us to that soft-18 query:
For every one million hands of 18 you receive, you will lose 280 more hands than you would win. That tells you, Caroline, that 18 is a losing hand over the long haul.

This is why basic strategy cards advise hitting a soft 18 against the dealer's 9, face (10) card and an ace, but doubling when the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Dear Mark,
Can you tell me how multi-deck blackjack alters the odds, compared with single hand blackjack? Tom P.

Compared to a single deck game, the two-decker handicaps your play by 0.35%, (with four decks 0.48%, six decks 0.54%, and eight decks 0.58%.). So, given the choice, I recommend playing on a game with the smallest number of decks.

Dear Mark,
Do you get more blackjacks on a single or multiple deck game? Jay H.

Blackjacks, which pay 3 for 2, occur more frequently on a single deck versus multi-deck games. Allow me, Jay, to illustrate. Let's say your first card is an ace. On a single deck game, 16 of the remaining 51 cards, or 31.37%, are the face or 10-value cards that would complete your blackjack.

On a six-deck game, 96 of the remaining 311 cards, or 30.87%, would give you your blackjack.

Gambling quote of the week: "Wander through a modern casino and gaze upon the squadrons of machines, sitting like idols to some neon God." — The book, Gambling For Dummies

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.