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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Pips, passes, pairs, and ribs to spare

11 November 2005

Dear Mark,
Your last week's column describing pips was not totally accurate. It has been my experience dealing in a casino that what you call a pip below the rank of a card is not actually a pip. Could you please clarify your original answer? David B.

Although my casino breeding identifies the suit indication — the single diamond, heart, spade, or club -- beneath the number or letter as a pip, there are a few in the gaming industry, like yourself, who believe that the smaller symbol beneath the number or letter designating the rank of the card is not a pip, but is part of the index, that number or letter plus the smaller suit symbol beneath it. Using that description, then each face card has two pips, each ace has one, and each 2-10 card, has as many pips as the number that represents its rank.

Incidentally, your feedback, David, is one of the many queries I’ve been sitting on over the years regarding playing cards and the manufacturing of them. Now that my son is a first-year student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, Queen City side trips to the U. S. Playing Card Company, not to mention Skyline Chili, and the Montgomery Inn for ribs, are shoo-ins. Join me?


Dear Mark,
Can the shooter who controls the dice designate whom he wants to shoot the dice in his place? Also, can you ever increase your bet on don't pass wagers? Danny F.

The answers to your questions, Danny, are no and no.

If the game is over on the come-out roll (a 2, 3 or 12 appears), or the point was rolled, the shooter continues to be the shooter for another game, or he can pass the dice if he wishes, but it has to be to the player just clockwise of the shooter.

Bets on the Don't Pass line can always be decreased or removed, but cannot be increased. On the flip side, wagers on the Pass line cannot be removed; they can, however, always be increased.

Dear Mark,
Are there any simplified rules as to when to split cards in blackjack? Shelly B.

Sho' nuff, Shelly. Splitting pairs is an option by which you can increase your original wager. When you receive a pair of cards of the same value, such as two 4's, you are allowed to match your original bet with an equal new one, splitting the two cards into separate hands. Each card then becomes an independent hand, with a new wager of equal value applying only to the hand to which it is attached.

Split hands are then played out one after the other, both receiving additional cards and following the same hit, stand, double or split rules (many casinos allow you to split aces just once) as would a normal hand of blackjack. Because the two hands are independent, either hand can be won, lost, or a combination of both.

Here are seven easy basic strategy rules that apply to splitting pairs:

$ Always split aces.
$ Always split eights.
$ Never split fours, fives or tens.
$ Split twos and threes only when the dealer has four through seven.
$ Split sixes when the dealer has three through six.
$ Split sevens when the dealer has two through seven.
$ Split nines when the dealer has two through six, and eight or nine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Believe it or not, the beautiful lights, the around-the-clock activity, and the festivity and fast-paced action can sometimes make idiots of otherwise well-oriented, clear-minded individuals." -- Len Miller, "Playing Games for Fun and Profit"

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.