CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

17 November 2009

Q. I recently saw 21+3 blackjack games for the first time. The side bet on the player's two cards plus the dealer's up card combining for a flush, straight or three-of-a-kind, paid 9 to 1. I assumed with that payoff, the real odds are probably more like 10 or 11 to 1, maybe even higher. I saw a lot of people lose a lot of money on that side bet. What are the true odds on the side bet?

A. In a six-deck game, there are 5,013,320 possible three-card combinations. Of those, 485,096 are winners, while 4,528,224 are losers. That's between 9.3-1 and 9.4-1, and gives the house an edge of 3.3%.

Like most blackjack side bets, 21+3 has a higher house edge than blackjack itself, especially if you know your basic strategy. In common six-deck games, the house has an edge of about half a percent against a basic strategy player, a few tenths more or less depending on house rules. An average blackjack player faces a house edge of 2 to 2.5%. Only when you get into the realm of poor blackjack play do you face house edges as high as 3.3%.

A couple of other side bets that have had runs of popularity give the house even bigger advantages. Royal Match, which has made a comeback on electronic blackjack tables, has a 6.7% house edge in its most common six-deck version. The version of Lucky Ladies I've seen in casinos has a house edge of 24.7%, and even the "good" version has a 17.6% house edge.

I can understand why players might want to make the side bets and give themselves a chance at a bigger payoff than they get on a regular blackjack winner. In the long run, though, they're costing themselves money. Basic strategy for nearly all side bets is to skip them.

Q. When you have three or more cards in blackjack, basic strategy still applies, right? I ask because of some grief I took from a dealer and other players the other night. I started with ace-3, and the dealer had a 10 showing, so I hit. Then I got a 4, so I had soft 18.

The basic strategy charts say to hit ace-7 against a dealer's 10, so I assumed it's the same for ace-3-4 and hit again. The dealer did a little pause and looked at me, and I had to signal again for my hit. Then one guy said, "What are you doing?" and another muttered something about "amateur hour."

Was I wrong?

A. No, you got it right. If you're playing basic strategy, it still applies with three or more cards — except, of course, that you can no longer double down or split pairs after you have more than two cards.

For those who dig a little deeper than basic strategy into composition-dependent strategies, there are exceptions. To stick with soft 18 as an example, if you have four cards, ace-2-2-3, in a single-deck game, then so large a percentage of cards that could help your hand have been removed from the deck that you're better off standing.

But you played your ace-3-4 correctly. Your critics just don't know the strategy as well as they'd like to think.

Q. I saw a sign at a Let It Ride table that said something about an aggregate limit of $15,000. Can you tell me what that means?

A. It means that casino won't pay more than $15,000 on one hand, even if you have a winner that would seem to call for a bigger payoff. That could come into play if you get a royal flush and have more than one bet on the table at the end.

In Let It Ride, you make three equal-sized bets at once. After you've seen your first three cards, you have the option of pulling one bet back. After you've seen the first common card that becomes part of all players' hands, you have the option of pulling the second bet back. The third bet must stay in action.

Let's say you've wagered $5 on all three spots. You're dealt three cards to a royal, and follow basic strategy by leaving all in action as the fourth and fifth cards complete the big hand. Royals pay 1,000-1, and since you'd be getting that on three $5 wagers, your payoff would be $15,000.

But what if you were betting $10 per spot, instead of $5? Three winning $10 bets on a royal flush should bring you $30,000, but if the house has posted a $15,000 aggregate limit, then that's all they'll pay.

The odds against your completing a royal flush are long — only 1 in 649,740 hands are royals — so you'll probably never run into a problem with an aggregate limit. Nonetheless, I suggest that if you see such a limit posted, you size your bets accordingly. With a $15,000 limit, don't bet more than $5 per spot.

Recent Articles
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:

> 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