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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

21 March 2001

After a week in Las Vegas for the World Gaming Congress and Expo, I returned to find my phone mail light blinking away.

One reader had been intrigued by the insurance wager at the blackjack table -- specifically the "even money" option. When the player has a blackjack and the dealer has an Ace face up, most casinos will allow the player to simply call out "even money." The player is then paid an amount equal to his bet, regardless of whether the dealer has a blackjack. Those who take even money pass up a chance at a 3-2 payoff on blackjack in exchange for insuring they're going to win a lesser amount even if the dealer also has blackjack.

"Does the casino allow that even if they player doesn't have the money on the table to cover the insurance?" the caller asked. "If I've bet my last $1,000 on the hand, can I take even money without having to show that I have the $500 for insurance?"

Yes, you can. Casinos don't ask players who have blackjack to show they have money for insurance. Players who don't have blackjack but wish to take insurance must place an insurance bet half the size of their original wager. If the dealer has blackjack, the insurance wager is paid at 2-1 odds. If not, the house takes the insurance bets and the rest of the hand is played as normal.

The key difference is that a player who does not have blackjack stands the possibility of losing both the insurance bet and the regular bet. The player who has a blackjack can't lose his original bet. The house isn't going to be taking any money from that player, and there's no need for the player to show any extra money.

Still, the house edge on insurance is the same 7.7 percent regardless of whether the player has blackjack. Insurance, including even-money situations, is a lousy bet. You'll make more money when you have blackjack by accepting the occasional pushes and taking the 3-2 payoffs than by trying to turn blackjack into a sure thing with insurance. Sure, it's tempting to take insurance if your last $1,000 is at risk, but there's an easy solution for that. Don't bet your entire bankroll on one hand.

BEST CARIBBEAN STUD: Another fellow called to disagree with a recent column in which I said that Caribbean Stud players get a better deal in the Chicago area than in Las Vegas because casinos in Nevada are required by contract with the distributor to put into the progressive jackpot as little as 49 cents of each dollar wagered on the side bet, while casinos in the rest of the country must pitch in at least 71 cents on the dollar.

"That's not why royal flush jackpots are higher here," he claimed. "The reason jackpots are higher here is that most of the casinos here pay a flat $5,000 on straight flushes, while those in Nevada pay 10 percent of the jackpot on straight flushes. I don't ever expect to see a royal flush. I'd rather play in Nevada where I'll get more if I hit a straight flush."

It is true that royal flush jackpots will climb higher when casinos pay $5,000 on straight flushes than when they pay 10 percent of the progressive jackpot. If the jackpot is $200,000 and someone hits a straight flush, a casino paying 10 percent will have the overall jackpot reduced to $180,000, and begin rebuilding from there. A casino that pays a flat $5,000 has the jackpot reduced only to $195,000.

It is also true that paying 10 percent of the jackpot on royal flushes will distribute a larger share of the pot to more players. Garden variety straight flushes occur about nine times as often as royals in five-card stud poker games such as Caribbean Stud.

Whether that's a basis for choosing one game over another is a matter of personal preference. Royal flushes occur once per 649,740 hands; other straight flushes occur once per 72,193. At 50 hands per hour, that's about one royal per 12,994 hours of play, and one straight flush per 1,444 hours.

Is it better to maximize the jackpot for one big winner, or give a little more to another nine out of the thousands who play between straight flushes?

Let's put it this way: If I get either one in my lifetime, it will be a profound shock.

The bottom line is that per $1 million Caribbean Stud players wager on the progressive jackpot, casinos in the rest of the country are required to kick in $220,000 more than those in Nevada.

If we were to rate Caribbean Stud as we do slot machines -- an apt comparison, since the progressive jackpot was designed to give table players a slot-like incentive to play -- we'd say that the Midwestern game has a payback percentage 22 points higher than the Nevada game.

My personal preference is for a game in which a larger casino contribution is coupled with a 10 percent payoff on straight flushes. If I have to choose one, it would be the larger contribution.

When the casino makes a larger contribution to the jackpot, more money is redistributed to players -- even if most of it goes into the pocket of one lucky winner. That, to me, is the better game.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski