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Best of Mark Pilarski

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RULE BREAKING 101 and 102

2 August 2004

Dear Mark,
Over the past eight years that you have been writing your column, I have followed your advice of only making bets with less than 2% house edge, with one exception. Occasionally, I play Let It Ride. Would you ever recommend, or do you ever play, a game that has more than a 2% casino advantage? Jill J.

Occasionally, Jill, my guiding principles are compromised — well, stretched — when I play pai gow poker. It is my favorite wager among those that cross the 2% threshold. Yeah, even when setting my hands perfectly, the house still holds a 2.5% edge over my play.

Then, Jill, there's the occasional sporting event that requires my involvement; the occasional hand of sic bo, where the casino holds a 2.7% advantage whether I play the Big or the Small wager; the occasional bet on a tempting horse that is dreaming of its pasture; and finally, there's my fondness for 22-black on a single zero roulette table. Here the house gets its edge of 2.7% from Yours Truly. As we've often heard, rules are made for the other guy.

Your favorite wager, Let It Ride, even with its 3.5% casino advantage, isn't the worst bet you can make in the house, and it's worth a little dabbling so long as you're playing for fun and with money you can afford to lose.

Dear Mark,
Our church's yearly festival offers blackjack with about the same rules as the typical game you would find in a casino, with one exception. They win on all ties. Granted, it is for charity, but I am curious as to how much of an advantage a blackjack game has that keeps all ties. Cliff M.

Generally, Cliff, charity games keep the pushes in blackjack. Casinos do not offer such a hard-line rule, because players like you would never belly up to the table. There is one exception, though: Double Exposure blackjack. Here, as compensation for losing in pushes, all dealer's cards are dealt face up, However (there's always an "however"), because you get to view both of the dealer's up cards, the playing rules are adjusted to favor the casino more than in standard blackjack. It is a version of blackjack definitely worth avoiding.

However, Cliff, in your question regarding charity games, and we are talking about a games deliberately designed to feed a buck or two into the community chest, the charity blackjack game that gobbles up pushes is simply part of the cost of philanthropic entertainment in support of worthy causes. But, since you asked, Cliff, a charity blackjack game that keeps ties has an advantage of 8.8% over the player.

Dear Mark,
Using perfect basic strategy in blackjack, why do you always hit a 12 against a 3, but never a 13 against a 2? I have always considered them about the same value of a hand. Dave G.

They may seem similar, Dave, but you will bust far more often when you hold a 13 than when holding a 12. With a 13 against a 2, you will bust 38.5% of the time. With a 12 against a three, you will bust only 30.8% of the time.

Gambling quote of the week: "The eternal poker pessimist, like the compulsive gambler, wants to lose. Losing makes him happy, confirming as it does a wide range of his most deeply held beliefs: that life is a bum rap, that his true qualities will never be appreciated by a cruelly misguided world, that he is generally undervalued and misunderstood. He will go on cheerfully defying the odds under the endearing delusion that there is more to him than meets the eye." Anthony Holden, Big Deal (1990)

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.