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Best of John Grochowski
A shuffle through the gaming mailbag22 December 2011
A. It is possible to get an edge on Three Card Poker if the dealer exposes a card. I'm not sure how large the edge is, but I do know that in 2005, I got word from a friend in Las Vegas that there was a ring of players making a profit by targeting dealers, mostly newly trained, who were exposing a card. One card gives you a lot of information. Basic strategy for Three Card Poker is to bet Q-6-4 or better. If the dealer exposes a king or ace, that tells you you're not going to bet a queen-high hand. Even if the exposed card is a queen, you're not going to bet queen high unless you have strong second and third cards.
I do not think it's unethical to use the information. I think a better comparison would be if the blackjack dealer exposed his or her hole card. If I have 16 against a dealer's 10, I'd normally hit. If the dealer exposes a 6 face down, I'd be foolish to take the hit and risk going bust before the dealer has a chance to hit his 16.
By and large, I think game control is the casino's responsibility. The dealer should know better than to expose the cards, and if he does, it's up to the floor supervisor, or the pit boss, or surveillance to correct him. There are several levels of safeguards built into the system. I'm not going to go out of my way to try to peek at the dealer's down cards. That would be cheating. But if the dealer flashes the card, that's a casino game control problem, and I'm going to use the information.
We're drawing a fine line here, but that's where I'd draw it.
A. It's an apples and oranges comparison, one that I go through every few years because players keep asking about it. The hold percentage, or win percentage, or adjusted gross revenue percentage — different states use different terminology — on slot machines is the percentage of total wagers kept by the casino. On the tables, it's the percentage of buy-ins kept by the casino.
Those are vastly different statistics. The difference is important, because players don't just bet their money once and leave the machine or table. They rebet their winnings again and again, until a relatively small buy-in has led to thousands of dollars worth of wagers.
When I slide $100 into the bill validator on a slot machine. I win on some spins, lose on more, and continue to play. Let's say I've had about average luck on a dollar machine, and before I lose my $100, I've had enough winning spins to make $1,000 in wagers. In the end, I lose 100/1,000ths, or 10%, of my total wagers. That 10% is the slot hold percentage for my play.
Now let's say I sit down at a blackjack table, and push $100 across the layout to the dealer, who then gives me $100 in casino chips. I bet $5 a hand, and I win some and lose a little more. I play until I've made $1,000 worth of bets, and find I've lost $10. Then I cash in my remaining $90.
What is the casino's hold on my table action? It's $10 of my $100 buy-in, or 10%.
Both at the slot machine and at the table, I've bought in for $100 and made $1,000 worth of wagers. On the slots, I've blown the full $100, while at the table, I've lost only $10. But the hold percentage, or win percentage, or revenue percentage, is 10% in both cases.
Those percentages should never be used to compare table games and slot machines. They don't mean the same thing.
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Best of John Grochowski