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Best of John Grochowski

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Even-money blackjack payouts and Casino War

31 May 2015

QUESTION: You have warned against playing blackjack when blackjacks pay only 6-5 because that increases the house edge. I assume that means you’d also warn against playing on machines where blackjack pays even money. What does that do to the house edge?

I ask because I was playing on a dollar machine that had video poker, video keno, some slot games and video blackjack, but the blackjacks only paid even money.

ANSWER: When blackjacks pay even money, it adds 2.3 percent to the house edge against a basic strategy player when compared with a game where blackjacks pay 3-2.

That’s one of the reasons video blackjack has never achieved massive popularity. At most casinos, you can get much more favorable rules at the tables than at the machines, though there are multiplayer electronic blackjack tables with 3-2 payoffs. On single-player video blackjack, the 3-2 payoffs are rare, so players who know the game are turned off.

Still, there’s an attraction to being able to play for $1 a hand, or even 25 cents a hand on quarter machines with a blackjack option. The even-money blackjack payoffs lead to a game where the full house edge is about 3 percent, if you know your basic strategy. That’s the same as saying a 97 percent payback, which is higher than you’ll get on slot machines and about the same as low- to mid-tier video poker games such as 8-5 Jacks or Better (97.3 percent with optimal play), 6-5 Bonus Poker (96.9 percent) or 8-5 Double Double Bonus Poker (96.8).

I have occasionally seen single-player video blackjack games that pay 3-2 on blackjacks. Should you find one, be sure to bet in even numbers of coins, regardless of whether the denomination is quarters, dollars or something else. That’s to facilitate the 3-2 paybacks.

If you have a $2 bet on a dollar game, a blackjack will pay you $3. Bet two quarters, and a blackjack pays three quarters, or 75 cents. But a 3-2 payoff on a $1 bet is $1.50, and on a 25-cent bet it’s 37.5 cents. Instead of dealing in the change, most machines will revert to even-money payoffs on one-coin bets, and that increases the house edge.


QUESTION: I play Casino War once in a while just for fun. I don’t play every time I go, but when I want to turn my brain off for a while and just kibbitz with the dealer and other players, it’s kind of fun.

Last time out, I noticed a tie bet. I’d never seen that before. Is it worth making?

ANSWER: I’d skip the tie bet. The house edge depends on how many decks are used, because there are more chances of matching cards when more decks are in play. At wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackleford lists the house edge at 18.65 percent in a six-deck game, and that drops to 17.83 percent with eight decks. Should you ever find single-deck Casino War, the edge on ties is 35.29 percent.

For me, all those edges lie firmly in the “no way” category. The house edge on the basic game of Casino War in the only version I’ve seen is 2.9 percent. Wizardofodds.com lists a couple of variations with bonuses if you win after going to war on a tie. One pays 2-1 in that event, and reduces the house edge to 2.3 percent, and the other pays 4-1 to drop the house edge to 1.2 percent. In any version, sticking with the base game is a far better move than making the tie bet.
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski