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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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The Casino Answer Man

27 June 2001

Q. I play blackjack at a casino that offers late surrender. The dealer checks to see if he has a blackjack, and if he does, I can't surrender. That eliminates a lot of hands I'd like to surrender. Wouldn't early surrender be the way to go? Do you know any casinos that offer early surrender?

A. Yes, early surrender would be much more favorable to the player than late surrender, but no, I don't know any casinos that offer early surrender.

Where surrender is allowed, you're allowed to give up half your bet after seeing the first two cards instead of playing out the hand. With late surrender, you must wait until the dealer checks for blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack, you lose your full bet.

If early surrender is offered, you may cut your losses by surrendering half of a weak hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. The effect on the game is huge. Late surrender gains a basic-strategy player only about 0.06 percent, while early surrender gains the player about 0.6 percent. Early surrender cuts the house edge by about 10 times as much as late surrender.

In fact, the player gain with early surrender is so large that it would wipe out the entire house edge against basic-strategy players in most blackjack games. Let's take a six-deck game in which the dealer stands on all 17s. The player may double down on any first two cards, including after splitting pairs, and the player may re-split pairs up to three times for a total of four hands.

With no exotic rules, that's a pretty nondescript, average kind of game, with a house edge against a basic-strategy player of about 0.4 percent. But if you add early surrender into the mix, the house edge disappears, and what's left is a player edge of 0.2 percent.

I'm not saying a casino offering that game would go broke. Basic-strategy players are a small portion of blackjack players, and the average player bucks a house edge closer to 2.5 percent than 0.4 percent. But offering early surrender certainly would cut the profit margin.

Q. I've started to play pai-gow poker, and I'm just feeling my way through how to arrange the hands. Do you have any tips?

A. In pai-gow poker, we're dealt seven cards, which we must arrange into a five-card "high" hand and a two-card "second-high" hand. We must be careful that the high hand outranks the second-high hand; if it doesn't, we lose our bet. To win, both our hands must outrank the dealer's two hands. If both dealer hands beat ours, we lose. If we split, the bet is a push.

Most of the time, we want to make the second-high hand as strong as possible without outranking the high hand. If our seven cards include no pairs, straights or flushes, we put the highest card in the high hand, and the second- and third-highest cards in the second-high hand. With one pair, put the pair in the high hand, with the two highest remaining cards in the second-high hand.

With two pair, including a pair of Aces, Kings and Queens, put the high pair in the high hand and the low pair in the second-high hand. However, if neither pair is as high as Queens, keep both pairs in the high hand.

With three pair, put the highest pair in the second-high hand, leaving two pair in the high hand.

With three of a kind, keep all three in the high hand, unless they're Aces and Kings. In that case, split up the hand by moving one Ace or King to the second-high hand.

With a full house, keep three of a kind in the high hand, but move the pair to the second-high hand.

With four of a kind, keep all four in the high hand if they're 2s through 6s, or if they're 7s through Jacks and you're left with a Queen or better for the second-high hand. With Queens or higher, split up the hand, with a pair in the high hand and a pair in the second-high hand.

With five Aces, including the Joker, place three Aces in the high hand and two in the second-high hand.

Keep straights, flushes and straight flushes in the high hand.

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