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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

15 September 2011

Q. I was told I could no longer play at a casino where my wife and I have played a long time. They were nice about it, and told me I could play other games or "enjoy our other amenities," but that I was too tough for them at blackjack. Still, it made me mad. I only spread $10 to $50, and play about a break-even game. When we got home, I e-mailed marketing and told them they were not only losing my play, but my wife's penny slot play, too. It's her play that takes us to an upper tier on a club program, not mine. Does this make any sense?

A. This isn't the first time I've heard of a casino shooting itself in the foot by losing the play of a slot-playing spouse by banning a counter. In my view, it's counterproductive to eject a low-limit counter with a small spread like $10-$50. You'd think the operator would rather have that player going home and telling friends how he beat the casino out of 25 bucks rather than have others watch the process of having the player walked from the table.

Coupled with the effect of losing a slot player, it's a head-scratcher. You didn't say how much your wife was wagering, but since you say you're a break-even player, we know she was contributing more to the bottom line than you were taking away. Wagering one penny per line on 25-line games, for 25 cents a spins, a relaxed pace of 400 plays per hour would mean $100 an hour in wagers. With pennies, depending on individual casino and jurisdiction, paying 85 to 90%, even a one-cent-per-line bettor loses $10 to $15 an hour.

Those who bet 2 cents per line multiply that to $20 to $30 an hour, and the potential is there for much more with big players who bet as much as $3 to $5 a spin on penny games. It doesn't seem worthwhile for a casino to lose that business along with a break-even blackjack player, but what do I know?

Q. I've been thinking about video blackjack machines. Not the new ones where people play together, but the one-player kind. I've heard that the games are bad because they pay even money on blackjacks.

My question is, are video blackjack games dealt from one deck? Wouldn't that make up for the blackjack payoffs? Also, aren't single-deck games easy to count? Could you beat these games by counting cards?

A. One-player video blackjack games, the kind that have been around for three decades and usually pay only even money instead of 3-2 on blackjacks, are almost always dealt from a single electronic deck. However, that single deck is shuffled for every hand. It doesn't matter whether you're playing at a table or a machine, when the deck is shuffled every hand, you can't count cards.

Even if you could, even-money payoffs on blackjacks add too much to the house edge for counting cards to overcome. Paying only even money on blackjacks adds 2.3% to the house edge. Dropping to a single deck can't begin to make up 2.3%. Counting cards couldn't make that up, either, if counting was possible on one-player blackjack machines. Which it's not.

Q. OK, I know you can't count cards against a continuous shuffler. But what about playing a betting progression? Does that help at all? Is a non-counter any worse off against a continuous shuffler than in other games?

A. Raising or lowering your wagers without knowledge of the composition of the deck does not change the house edge. In that respect, betting progressions do not help regardless of whether the shuffle is continuous.

Progressions will yield more big winning sessions than flat bets will. The flip side is that they bring more frequent small losing sessions when small wins are followed by losses at larger bet sizes. On balance, the house edge holds up.

There is one aspect in which a continuous shuffler hurts a non-counting progression player: More hands are dealt per hour when there are no shuffle breaks. When you're spotting the house an edge, a faster game helps them, not you.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski