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HOME > NEWS > Featured Articles > Deal Me In: Simple rule change squashes chances of winning

Deal Me In: Simple rule change squashes chances of winning

16 May 2014

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Is video blackjack the same as a live game? Is each new hand dealt a new game? Is the strategy the same as live blackjack? I have tried playing the casino’s blackjack machines and I don't seem to do very well. Dave S.

Your problem, Dave, is that the rules of the video blackjack machine in the casino where you play might have one little deviation that will definitely turn a winning visit into a losing one: what you get paid for a blackjack.

Most video blackjack machines that you will find in a casino pay even money on natural 21s instead of the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2). Because you can expect a blackjack every 21 hands, the loss of that bonus will cost you an additional 2.3 percent.

Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than .5 percent to a knowledgeable player – which possibly, Dave, could be another problem you have – your losses are more than likely tied to this tricky rule change. With an even money payout on blackjack, you are giving away the farm here.

Other video blackjack machines round down on blackjack payoffs. If you do happen to locate a machine that does pay the bonus for a blackjack, make your bets in even amounts so that you can get the maximum value of a blackjack (a payoff of $3 for every $2 wagered). With a $1 bet and rounding down, the theoretical payout of $1.50 for a blackjack would be rounded down to just $1!

Additionally, Dave, you are probably playing more hands per hour on a video blackjack machine than you would on a live table game. With any casino game that has a built-in advantage, and blackjack even with perfect play is certainly one of them, the more hands you are exposed to, the more the machine will eat away at your bankroll.

As to your other two questions, yes, each hand is dealt randomly from a newly shuffled virtual deck. Also, the basic strategy on a video game is comparatively the same as that of a live game, so, Dave, don’t forget your blackjack strategy card to use as a reference for those hands that you are not quite sure of.

Dear Mark: Do you find it easier, or harder, to save winnings with these new ticket machines versus the older coin ones? George R.

Setting aside winnings from yesteryear meant you had to carry buckets of coins to the cashier to be counted. Today, it’s ticket-in ticket-out technology, which pays players in bar-coded tickets. Casinos love these ticket-in ticket-out machines because they reduce the labor costs of slot personal, jam-up repairs, hopper fills, emptying the machines of coins, and the hard counting of those coins.

Cashing out your tickets and squirreling away vouchers instead of playing credits is a convenient way of preserving winnings, unless of course, you reach in your top left pocket for them. Coins nestled in a metal tray are just as easy to grab at.

Be it coins, or vouchers, you always want to cash out following any significant score so you can see those winnings converted into cold hard cash. The convenience of not lugging 50 pounds of coins to the cashier is a benefit of TITO machines. The discipline of not spending winnings, with whatever method, is all on you. I can’t help you there.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: The Stickman at the crap table should be a Mary Poppins optimist, delight in his voice when he calls out a winner. – Mario Puzo, Inside Las Vegas (1976)

Mark Pilarski
Mark  Pilarski
Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the gambling trenches, working for seven different casinos. He 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.

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