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Best of John Grochowski

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What about 5-Card Charlie?

6 July 2017

QUESTION: Can I tell a story? I’d learned to play blackjack at home years before I went to a casino, and that was about 10 years ago. The rules differences were a surprise. The first time I tried to claim a five-card Charlie and the dealer not only said no, he called out to the pit, “We have a Charlie player here.” I was embarrassed, but they explained to me that was a home rule that casinos don’t really use.

Have you ever seen a casino use that rule? How much difference does it make, really?

ANSWER: I have never seen a Charlie rule used in a casino, though you’re not the only newcomer to be surprised by its non-existence. There once was a player at my table at Slots A Fun in Las Vegas who refused to believe five cards totaling 21 or less was not an automatic winner. He kicked up enough of a fuss that the pit supervisor had to be called over to settle the dispute.

The player didn’t stop there, either. The supervisor had to be called over again to explain dealer and player blackjacks pushed, that the player blackjack wasn’t an automatic winner as the player had learned at home.

I’d learned the Charlie rule, too, when I was 11 and a couple of second-cousins taught me to play at my great-grandfather’s house one New Year’s Day. But I’d learned casinos didn’t offer that rule before I made my first Las Vegas trip.

The five-card Charlie rule reduces the house edge by 1.46% for players who use a specially adapted basic strategy. No casino would offer anything that favorable to players. In most games with 3:2 payoffs on blackjacks, a five-card Charlie would swing the edge to players. On the other hand, Charlie would nicely offset the extra 1.39% in the house’s pockets when blackjacks pay 6:5.

I have heard of charity games using six-card and seven-card Charlies. Those have a much smaller effect on the game. Michael Shackelford’s chart on the effects of rules variations shows the six-card version reducing the house edge by 0.16% and the seven-card rule by 0.01%.


QUESTION: Is there a way to learn video poker strategy other than by memorizing strategy charts? I looked at the charts at Wizard of Odds, and get what they’re saying, but I have trouble memorizing strategies that are 40 or 50 steps long.

ANSWER: Try video poker software such as WinPoker or Video Poker for Winners. You select the game you want to learn and adjust the pay table to match the games you see where you play. Then as you play, you’ll get a warning whenever you make a mistake. Before long, the correct play becomes second nature.

Alternatively, you can look for free video poker trainers online. These also will warn you on incorrect play, but are not as flexible as software for purchase. The free trainers are more limited in available games and pay tables.

When I learned, such things didn’t exist. I dealt myself hand after hand after hand and checked my play against strategy players from the first video poker guru, Lenny Frome. That did the job, but current trainers are faster, easier and a lot more fun than my old method.
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