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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Threading through a blackjack scam

19 April 2004

Dear Mark,
I have noticed a trend in some casinos where the payoffs for blackjack were 6:5 instead of the customary 3:2. It didn't seem to matter whether it was single, double-deck or shoe; it was 6:5 for a blackjack in those places. Is this a trend? And how does this affect the overall dealer advantage? Hal M.

When I first started this column eight years ago, I advised players to play by preference on single-deck blackjack games. Why? Because perfect basic strategy on a single-deck game shrinks the house edge to a meager 0.15%. Most casinos back then had single deck 3:2 games. But today, they are rarities, replaced by the single-deck game which is 10 times worse than it was a decade ago.

The ruse going on now is that some casinos are advertising the return of single-deck blackjack, but only offering 6:5 for a blackjack. In this new single-deck version, a player's blackjack gets paid only 6:5 rather than the usual 3:2. That means that if you bet $5 and get a blackjack, you get only $6 instead of the $7.50 you once received. The house will keep your buck and a half with a nice smile. Consequently, where the house edge against the perfect basic strategy player was once a measly 0.15%, the house edge on this game has spiraled to 1.45%.

Given a choice between a six-deck game and 6:5 single-deck blackjack, avoid the latter. A six-deck shoe game is three times more advantageous than 6:5 single-deck blackjack.

Bottom line, Hal: Casinos that advertise single-deck blackjack, or any blackjack game that pays only 6 for 5 for a blackjack, are simply trading a marketing gimmick for your dough — for which you had spent hours of hard work. Sign up for Shunning 101.

Dear Mark,
Why is it that so many gamblers think they are winning, but in actuality, they are losing? My brother is a perfect example, always bragging that he is winning. Could he possibly have that kind of luck? Helen P.

Gamblers fall into two categories: Those that lose and tell you they lose, and those that lose and tell you they win. My own dear Mother, Frances, no doubt now quibbling with St. Peter on why Heaven's machines are so tight, would say things like; "Look, I just won 200 credits, I'm a winner." But Pete would have to gently tell my Mom that she had been playing quarters, and had already contributed $200 dollars to her favorite one-armed bandit. Mom never subtracted the money that she had to spend ($200) in order to win those 200 credits ($50). She only remembered the last scanty jackpot that paid her, not the $150 she was in the hole.

One enlightened way to get accurate accounting from your brother would be is suggest that since he is winning so much, that he should buy dinner. Then, perhaps a light will flash above his noggin and he'll tell you how much he's really losing.

Gambling quote of the week: "There are only two sorts of people walking the streets of Las Vegas at 2 a.m. on a winter's night: muggers and broken souls not worth mugging."—Anthony Holden, The Big Deal

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.