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Best of John Grochowski

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Cruise ship blackjack

6 March 2016

QUESTION: You answered a question a few weeks ago about shipboard casinos, and I had to laugh. The player mentioned blackjack table limits being raised from $5 to $6. That’s something I’ve only seen on cruise ships, and not even often there. When’s the last time you saw a $6 table at a casino on land. Never, right?

My wife and I are retired, and we love cruising. One thing about the blackjack, though. Usually, the dealer doesn’t get a hole card. He only gets a face-up card, and waits until players have finished their hands before he takes a second card and more.

Can I play the same basic strategy in that game that I do on land?

ANSWER: Whether strategy adjustments are needed depends on whether you lose all bets on splits and double downs if the dealer has a blackjack, or if the house just collects your original bets.

In the blackjack we know in American casinos, the dealer checks for blackjack if he has a 10 or ace face up. If he does have blackjack, that stops the hand. You never get a chance to split or double.

If the dealer doesn’t take a hole card, there is no chance to check for blackjack. You’re making your splits and doubles without knowing whether the dealer will have a two-card 21 that will wipe out players’ hands.

That means we have to exercise caution if the house takes our splits and double downs along with our original wagers when the dealer draws a blackjack. We pull back on hands where we’d normally split and double if the dealer has a ace or 10 value face up.

There aren’t many such hands, so the needed adjustments are minimal.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, we’d normally double down on 11 against any dealer up card. In the no-hole-card version where dealer blackjack takes splits and doubles, we double only if the dealer shows 2 through 9, and not against aces or 10 values.

Similarly, we usually split aces and 8s against all up cards. When dealer blackjacks take the splits, we don’t split 8s against 10s or aces, and we don’t split aces against aces.

Watch out for other rules variations. I once sat down at a shipboard table that restricted doubling down to hard totals of 9, 10 and 11, and allowed pairs to be split only once. The dealer took no hole card. Dealer blackjacks took splits and doubles as well as original wagers. And table minimums of $25 and up were outside my comfort zone. I quickly decided on a nongambling vacation.


QUESTION: My friend said slots could be programmed to make money even if every symbol except one was a jackpot symbol. Is that right?

ANSWER: Sure, that could be done. Let’s use a three-reel game as a simple example. We’ll pretend each reel has 10 symbols. On Reels No. 1 and 2, all 10 symbols are jackpot symbols, and Reel 3 has nine jackpot symbols and one lemon.

Now let’s say the programmer is using a virtual reel with a set of 100 random numbers. On the third reel, each of the jackpot symbols is assigned one number, and the lemon is assigned 91 numbers.

Under those conditions, the odds of the game will lead to the lemon landing on the payline an average of 91 times per 100 spins. Even though all the symbols but one are jackpots, and results are random, the combination will be jackpot-jackpot-lemon 91% of the time.
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:

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