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Best of John Grochowski

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Easy-to-play table games

29 June 2010

Casino games are not designed to be difficult or intimidating. The last thing casino execs want is a game that intimidates players and keeps them from spending their money.

Nonetheless, there are games that leave the uninitiated a little leery, games that send them searching for a safe, no-strategy, no-intimidation refuge like the slots. Blackjack strategy can be intimidating. So can choosing among the dozens of wagers at craps, and figuring out how to make them.

What if you're just looking for a game that will give you a chance to relax, games that will give you a good run for your money with no muss, no fuss, no complex strategies and no intimidation? The quick answer is to head for the slots, and that's what the majority of players do these days. Still, even at table games, there are a few where easy does it.

Baccarat and mini-baccarat: The only decision you need to make is whether to bet on banker or player — the only two hands that are dealt, no matter how many players are at the table. Decisions on whether to add a third card to each of the two-card hands are automatic, dependent on the totals of the first two cards. It's all posted at the table so you can follow along.

To enjoy the game, what you need to know is that the hand closer to a total of 9 wins. Aces count as 1, 2 through 8 as face value, and 10s and face cards as zero. You'll pick up the rest as you play.

Banker hands win more often than player hands, but the house charges a 5% commission on winning banker bets. That leaves a house edge of 1.06% on banker and 1.24% on player. There's a third option: betting that the hands tie. Don't go that route. The house edge of 9.5% makes it one of the worst bets around.

Three Card Poker, Pair Plus: There are two optional bets at Three Card Poker. There's ante-play, which requires a bit of strategy as you try to beat the dealer. Basic strategy is not difficult — make a bet equal to your ante to stay in play whenever you hold Queen-6-4 or better. But for a true no-brainer bet, there's Pair Plus.

You're simply wagering that your three-card hand will include a pair or better. If it does, you win — no need to worry about the dealer hand, and no strategy. In the original version of the game, pairs pay even money, flushes 4-1, straights 6-1, three of a kind 30-1 and straight flushes 40-1. The house edge is 2.3 percent with that pay table, higher if the pay table is altered.

Watch the pay tables, though. It's common to find tables where flushes pay only 3-1 instead of 4-1, with the rest of the pay table remaining the same. With that one difference, the house edge soars to 7.28%. At that point, the ease of play doesn't make up for the game's cash gobbling. At that level, you're better off making just a little effort and playing the ante-play portion of the game instead. By little effort, I mean "little."

Casino War: Remember playing War when you were a youngster? You'd get a card, the other kid would get a card, and the high card wins.

That's essentially what Casino War is — you get a card, dealer gets a card, high card wins. You'll find this game mostly in large casinos with a lot of table game space. In small casinos, where every different table game offered means crowding out a blackjack table, you're not likely to see War. Blackjack's popularity with players makes casino operators reluctant to give over space to a game with a smaller niche following.

In Casino War, the only complicating factor comes if your card and the dealer's tie. I don't know how you played as a kid, but when I played, the tie meant each player put a second card face down, then turned a third face up, with the higher third card winning the whole kit and caboodle. You kept fingers crossed that your opponents highest cards — especially the mighty Aces — would wind up in the middle of a War.

It's not like that in Casino War. Instead, when you and the dealer tie, you can surrender and forfeit half your bet. Or you can make a second bet equal to your first, and take your chances on a second card for you and for the dealer. If you win, you're paid on one bet and get the other back. If you lose, you lose both bets. That's how the house gets its 2.9 percent edge in a six-deck game.

The strategy? In case of tie, always make the second bet and go to War. Surrendering spots the house an extra eight-tenths of a percent, so your strategy is automatic, as good as having no decisions to make.

It can't get much easier than that.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski