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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Tabasco-style blackjack

14 July 2000

Dear Mark,
I recently came across a blackjack game called Spanish 21. I didn't play but the rules looked very similar to regular 21. Any differences before I give it a try? Seth G.

There are two notable exceptions when comparing Spanish 21 to a regular blackjack game. In Spanish 21, all the 10s (not the jacks, queens, kings) are removed from the deck. Also, the player gets paid for a hand total of 21, or the standard three-to-two payoff for a blackjack, even if the dealer's hand is a natural blackjack. Additional player-friendly rules are: doubling down on two or more cards, pair splitting and double downs up to four times after splits, bonus payoffs for different combination 21s, and a super bonus that pays out $1,000 for a suited 7-7-7 when the dealer's up card is a seven. (Side note: In my entire 18-year gambling career I've never seen this occur, whether dealing or observing countless hands of regular blackjack as a pit boss.)

So, Seth, even without the 10s in the deck, is Spanish 21 a good play? Yes, if you utilize perfect basic strategy. By employing Spanish 21 basic strategy-which obviously differs from normal blackjack strategy-you reduce the house edge down to .8%. Deviate and the house advantage can be up to 3%.

Dear Mark,
I am a keno writer who works in Las Vegas. One of our regular customers asked if I knew how many different number combinations are possible in keno. I told him "in the thousands" but I wasn't sure. How many possibilities are there? Diane S.

You were off, Diane, a few quintillion. To be exact, there are 3,535,316,142,212,174,320 numerical combinations using 20 balls with 80 numbers to choose from.

Dear Mark,
In Las Vegas, a few casinos now offer 100x odds on a craps game. What is the house advantage on this bet? Tim T.

The house edge is 0.09%. As minuscule as this is, Tim, you better be capitalized to the hilt before you embrace this wager. Two or three seven-out, line away calls and you're in the poorhouse.

Dear Mark,
If my playing style in blackjack does not give me a positive result in computer simulations, will it still help me win in actual casino gambling? Felix S.

The only playing method that will give you a positive expectation in blackjack is card counting. Period.

Dear Mark,
What I like best about craps, besides winning, is how much fun it is. Why don't more players enjoy playing the game? Ernie M.

You are correct, Ernie, craps is fun, craps is social, craps is exciting, but except for an odds wager, all craps bets come at a cost. Craps is a negative-expectation game, meaning that no matter how you bet, the odds are against you.

I recommend all players treating craps like a bag of M&Ms. Eat (bet) only the colors (pass line, place bets) you like (a wager with a low house edge).

Dear Mark,
I heard it is a felony to cheat in a casino in Nevada, even at a $5 blackjack game. True? Kenneth K.

Be it $5 or $5,000, cheating in a casino is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in a rudimentary Nevada hostel-prison. Cheating is one mistake that a misinformed player who romantically envisions himself as a cagey cat should avoid. Most, if not all, casinos will prosecute to the full extent of the law.

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.