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Best of John Grochowski

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Short payoffs matter

31 May 2011

It was a relatively quiet afternoon on an Internet message board, and the talk turned to blackjack. One regular weighed in about what a good time he has playing a single-deck game.

"I just like single decks and playing third base where I can see the cards that have already been used," he wrote. "At least I think I'm in some control."

Another poster questioned whether he was settling for a bad game with 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks. At those casinos that offer single-deck blackjack, it's become common to pay 6-5 instead of the usual 3-2 on two-card 21s. It's a rule that's tough on players, and tables with 6-5 blackjack payoffs are tables to avoid.

The single-deck lover wasn't familiar with the concept.

"I don't even have an idea what you're talking about," he responded. "I assume 6-5 is the payout for blackjack and it's not as good a payout as 3-2.

"But you have to get a blackjack in order to get paid out. So I'm not losing money, I'm just not winning as much as I could."

Now, that's a topic that can get me going. Whether if it's a difference between a full house paying 8-for-1 instead of 9-for-1 in video poker, or an electronic roulette game paying 33-1 instead of the standard 35-1 on a winning single number, or a blackjack game paying 6-5 instead of the standard 3-2 on two-card 21s, short payoffs MATTER.

So I entered the conversation, and explained that if you're betting $10 a hand, your blackjacks pay $12 instead of $15. That's not just theoretical money that you didn't win. It's money out of your pocket, $3 that should be in your stack instead of the dealer's tray that once-per-21-hands you're dealt an ace and a 10-value card.

At a full seven-player table, that rule alone basically costs you a bet per hour in payoffs that you'd be getting at a different table. If you're playing with fewer players, which means more hands per hour, it costs you more.

If the house demanded that you just hand over a bet per hour as the price for playing, you wouldn't do it, would you? But that's basically what you're doing if you settle for 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks.

The 6-5 payoffs add 1.4% to the house edge in a game where we're talking about normal house edges of 0.2 to 0.4% against a basic strategy player in a double-deck game. Heck, that rule alone is roughly triple the house edge in a common SIX-deck game.

One of my regular haunts for many years offered a six-deck game in which dealers would stand on all 17s, players could double down on any first two cards, double after splitting pairs and resplit aces. That combination of good rules left a house edge against a basic strategy player of 0.33%, which is not bad at all.

Now take a single-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, then have the house pay only 6-5 on blackjacks, and the house edge against a basic strategy player soars to about 1.6% — nearly five times as high as the house edge in a good six-deck game.

In mid-May, my dad, brother and I shared a getaway to a casino that had single-deck blackjack, but I steered everyone away from it. There were good double-deck tables that paid 3-2 on blackjacks. Six-deck games were better than the single-deckers, too.

No matter how many decks are in play, 6-5 payoffs just add too much to the house edge, and short your stacks of chips by too many. Look for 3-2 payoffs, even if it means playing with more decks.

ROULETTE, TOO: On that same casino trip, my brother pointed out a single-player video roulette game. "The layout looks the same," he said. "Same odds as the table game?"

It was a single-zero roulette layout on the screen, which under normal conditions would lower the house edge to 2.7% from the 5.26% seen at double-zero tables. Still, I told him that depended on the payoffs. The electronic games have a variety of pay tables, and often pay non-standard amounts.

Sure enough, a closer look found that single numbers pay 33-for-1 instead of 35-to-1. Note the "to" and "for" difference. At 33-for-1, the machine keeps your one-unit wager that you used to start play. You get back 33 units. At 35-to-1, you get 35 units in winnings AND you keep your one unit wager. So after the win, you have a total of 36 units at the table and only 33 at the machine.

Even though the machine offers a single-zero game, the house edge on a single-number bet with that payoff soars to 10.8%. And as the case in those short-pays on blackjacks, the credits you don't get on your winners come straight off your bottom line. Look before you leap.

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