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Best of John Grochowski

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New wrinkles on the blackjack felt

18 January 2011

Blackjack has been the most popular casino table game for just about half a century now, having overtaken craps in the early 1960s. Card counters can gain a mathematical edge on the game, and the notion that blackjack is beatable is a powerful idea, even among the large majority who can't really beat it.

The popularity of the game makes it a natural starting point for game designers looking to put a new wrinkle in the table felt. Score Gaming and Galaxy Gaming are doing just that with new blackjack-based games.

Score Gaming gives a different take on the old game of 21 with Three Card 21, where you're dealt three cards at the start instead of two. That doesn't mean you're stuck with a bad three-card start. There are options to split your hand into a two-card start and a one-card start, or even three one-card starts if your initial hand includes a pair.

In addition to regular game play, Three Card 21 pays bonuses on hands of ace-ace with one 10-value card, and Ace with two 10-values. It's an easy enough game to pick up and play along, and the listed house edge of 1.44 percent is lower than on most new table games. However, a basic strategy player gets a lower house edge on the regular game of blackjack — half a percent or so, a few tenths more or less depending on house rules. So for a serious blackjack player, this is more a diversion than an opportunity.

Score also is rolling out Second Chance Blackjack, which includes a side bet that makes the game a combination of blackjack and poker. If you make the Second Chance wager and bust, the card that busts your hand is used along with four additional cards dealt to make a five-card poker hand.

Second Chance winners are paid according to a pay table that starts at even money for a suited pair of 2s through 10s and tops out at 250-1 for a royal flush. House edge is 5.28 percent, making it a diversion for players out for a little fun and jackpot chasing, while more dedicated blackjack players avoid the side bet and stick to the main game.

Galaxy Gaming moves to make blackjack betting a three-part extravaganza with Triple Attack Blackjack. Any player 21 automatically wins, as do six-card hands of 21 or less. Players may double down on any number of cards. And if the dealer has a suited blackjack, insurance pays 5-1.

You bet in three parts. Place your first bet, then after you see your first card you may place a Second Attack bet equal to the first. Then after you've seen your first card and the dealer's up card, you may place a Third Attack bet, regardless of whether you've made the Second Attack.

With a specially adapted basic strategy, house edge is about 1.2%.

Triple Attack comes with three optional side bets. The Bonus Jackpot is a $1 side bet on a progressive jackpot. Payoffs start at 5-1 on two pair and rise to the progressive payoff on a Royal Four of a Kind — four jacks, queens or kings of the same suit. As in other progressive games, the house edge is variable, depending on the jackpot amount. Other side bets are Triple Match, with the big payoff of 150 on a suited three of a kind but payoffs down to 2-1 on any pair, and Suited Royals, paying 2-1 on two suited cards, 10-1 on two suited face cards, and 40-1 on a suited king and queen. That leaves a house edge of 3.1% on Triple Match, and 5.7% on Suited Royals.

The side bet route is a popular way to bring a little extra action to the tables, and electronic versions of the games add the side bets without slowing down the main game. On DigiDeal's Classic Blackjack tables, with electronic wagering on touchscreens for each player, four side bets are available, and casino operators can choose any two to put on their tables.

One new side bet Bad Beat Bonus. Lose with a 20, and the bonus bet pays 20-1. It also pays 15-1 if you lose with 19, 10-1 if you push with 21 or 5-1 if you push with 19 or 20. You get your side action back if you win with 19 or better.

DEQ also uses touch-screen betting at its blackjack tables, and also tries to take the sting out of losses with its Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive. This one pays players for dealer 21s. Make the side bet, and you'll be paid 10-1 on a dealer blackjack, 25-1 if the dealer has a three-card 21, on up to 50-1 if the dealer 21 is four cards, 100-1 on five cards, 1,000-1 on six cards and a progressive jackpot on a seven-card 21. Those miracle 21s won't hurt a bit.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski