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Hitting 12 at Blackjack, Illinois Casino Admission Fees

23 March 2004

Q. I play blackjack at least twice a month and use a basic strategy card while I play. I had no problems using the card until recently. The card tells me to take a hit when my total is a hard 12 and the dealer's up card is a 2 or 3. It also tells me to hit a soft 17 when the dealer's up card is a 2.

I like to sit at one of the last two positions at the table because it gives me more time to think what I want to do. Lately, I have had comments from the other people at the table asking why I hit a 12 when the dealer showed a 2. They said I should have not drawn another card. When I show them the chart, I have been told this is OK if I am at position 1, 2 or 3 but not the last position.

Is this something new that I should think about?

Joe, via e-mail

A. Hitting 12 against 2 or 3 is the right thing to do no matter what your position at the table. That's the play that gives you the best chance to win. It gets some static from other players who think you're "taking the dealer's bust card." That's total nonsense. You have no control over the order of cards in the deck, and by hitting the 12, you're just as likely to take a card that would have helped the dealer as one that would bust the dealer.

Q. In craps, if I bypass the come and place the 6 and 8, given that they can be made five ways each, do I have a 10-to-6 edge?

Ed, via e-mail

A. No. A player placing the 6 and 8 at the same time faces the same 1.52 percent house edge that exists on placing the 6 or 8 separately.

Among craps players who try to come up with systems and combination bets to beat the game, placing the 6 and 8 together is one of the first solutions they devise. It seems natural enough. Among the 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice, there are six that total 7, five that total 6 and five that total 8. Since you win if your place number rolls before a 7, placing 6 and 8 together gives you 10 winning combinations and only six losers.

Sounds good, right? If only things were that easy.

The problem is that on the six 7s, you lose both bets -- the one on 6 and the one on 8. On the 10 winners, you win only one bet each time. So on the average, you lose 12 bets for every 10 you win. On the winners, you are paid 7-6 odds -- a bit less than the true odds of 6-5 against winning on 6 or 8. On the average, the house will keep $1.52 of every $100 you wager.

Q. My father-in-law and I play in Illinois casinos that have started charging admission. I understand they're doing it because of a big tax increase, but something doesn't seem quite right. My father-in-law plays green chip blackjack, $25 and up. When I go, I normally play quarter video poker or nickel slots and don't play all that long, usually spending $30 or $40 every other week. Yet from the time they started charging admission, I'm the one who has gotten the charge waived, and he hasn't.

Last time he played, he asked at the promotions booth and they told him that he will be "re-evaluated" in a month. On a trip before, when I was there with my wife and father-in-law, he was playing green chips and asked for a comp to the buffet. They had told him no. Is this how they treat their "bread-and-butter" players?

JT, via e-mail

A. Just for starters, let's be clear on one point: Slot players are the casinos' bread and butter. They play much faster -- 500 spins an hour is a steady but not frenzied pace on the slots, while a blackjack player at a full table plays about 50 hands an hour. Slot players also face a much higher house edge -- with room for variation between casinos and jurisdictions, casinos keep about 10 percent or so of wagers on nickel games, roughly 8 percent on quarter games and 5 percent on dollar machines, while keeping about 2 percent against an average player and half a percent or less against a basic strategy player in blackjack.

A nickel slot player who bets one coin per line on a nine-line game -- 45 cents a spin -- wagers about $225 an hour and averages about $22.50 in losses. A $25 blackjack basic strategy player at a full table wagers $1,250 per hour, but averages only about $6.25 in losses. The strategy mistakes by an average blackjack player up those losses to $25 an hour -- little more than our nickel slot player. And if the nickel slot player bets more than one coin per line, his/her action blows away that of a green chip blackjack player.

I'm as appalled as anyone else at the idea of paying admission for a chance to play games where I'm expected to lose money, but do I expect the casino facing the Illinois tax situation to comp admission or buffets to a player expected to lose $25? No, the economics don't support it. If the casino has reached the top tax rate, the state takes $17.50 of that $25 in a gaming tax, and another $5 in an admissions tax. That leaves the casino $2.50 to pay for salaries, facilities, equipment, the lights -- all the costs of doing business. Not much left there for comps.

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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