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Articles in this Series
Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 8

27 January 2009

Blackjack has been the most popular table game in casinos for more than 40 years. It's also a game that has been getting tougher on players as casinos have looked to squeeze an extra edge out of the game, with the biggest negative being the switch from 3-2 to 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks on many games on the Las Vegas Strip.

Joe Awada thinks it's time to give something back to the players. "Because you have so much riding on blackjack," was the theme of his Gaming Entertainment Inc. booth at the 2008 Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. It was a slogan writ large on the sign behind the tables for the games he's marketing.

Awada, a former World Series of Poker no-limit seven-card stud champion, has had success devising and marketing combination games such as 3-5-7 Poker and side bets including High-Tie Blackjack. In the booth he shared with Schreiner Gaming Concepts, blackjack was at the fore, in part because Awada thinks table games managers are on the wrong track.

"In my opinion, the casinos have been going the wrong way with the 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks and even money," he told me, echoing the sentiments of every knowledgeable blackjack player. "It's a mistake, squeezing the game instead of growing the action."

Many of the games at the GEI booth this year had been seen before, but Awada introduced a new side bet that he says actually gives a little back to the player, Double Draw Blackjack.

In Double Draw, the player may wager an amount equal to the original bet anytime the dealer's face-up card is a 2 through 6. At its core, it's a bet that the dealer will bust. If that's all there was to it, there would never be a reason to make the bet. After all, the dealer makes 17 or better a majority of the time even with a so-called "bust card" showing.

What makes the proposition attractive is that it also brings a free draw. If you have 16 and the dealer has a 6, and you make the side bet, you get to see another card. If it improves your hand, great. If it busts you, you don't bust — the card is just discarded. You even get the free draw if you have 20 — a free shot at drawing an ace to complete your 21.

Awada says that the bet has no house edge, that it actually gives a little back to the player. Perhaps operators who think they're taking a little too much away with 6-5 payoffs on blackjack might implement Double Draw.

"It might even be used on a regular game for an operator interested in growing action," Awada said.

Perhaps, but the prime market for Double Draw would seem to be operators who have gone to 6-5 payoffs on blackjack, and found that the extra 1.4 percent that tacks on to the house edge is a little too much for players to swallow. I will not play at tables that don't offer the full 3-2 payoff on blackjacks, and I highly recommend that others not only refuse to play at 6-5 tables, but let operators know why they are taking their business elsewhere.

But the Double Draw side bet was one I liked a lot. Most blackjack side bets are bankroll eaters, there to siphon your chips a little faster. Double Draw is one I'd play.

** * ** * **

The Schreiner Gaming Concepts games at the GEI booth were called Maxxijak and Royal Blackjack Poker. In Maxxijak, you play against other players rather than against the dealer. There's a round of betting after your first two cards. Then, after each player hits or stands to the completion of their hand, there's another round of betting. The hand closest to 21 without busting takes the pot, with high spade breaking ties.

There are two side bets in Maxxijak. One is a blackjack bonus bet, with a push on a pair and payoffs on blackjacks, ranging from 10-1 on any blackjack to 100-1 on ace-jack of spades. The other is an Any 21 bonus bet, with the biggest payoff on a 21 of six or more cards — 125-1 most of the time, but 10,000-1 on the rare 21 with six cards all of the same suit.

Royal Blackjack Poker uses a 2-card deck of 9s through aces, with two cards to each player and three community cards. There are three bets: A blackjack bet on the community cards, with payoffs according to a pay table, a bonus bet on a five-card stud hand using your cards plus the community cards, with payoffs according to another pay table, and a five-card hold'em game, in which you're betting against other players.

Articles in this Series
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski