Friday, February 3, 2017

He Who Has the Gold

By Carl Van Eton

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All the card counting technology in the world will not do you one bit of good if you don’t know how to tell an honest casino from a clip joint.  Just as there are a million and one ways for a casino to separate you from your hard-earned money, don’t be fooled into believing that only bush league casinos are interested in turning a fast buck. After all, why do you think it’s feasible for investors to pony up a billion dollars or more to construct many of today’s themepark casinos?

As long as there is money to be had, the State, and I mean any state, where casino gaming is the lay of the land is going to turn a blind eye to even the most blatant of institutionalized methods of augmenting the bottom line…as long as the State gets its cut.  When it comes to rules, the casino industry follows but one rule, the Golden Rule.

"He who has the gold makes the rules!"

Blackjack is the only game of skill in the world where a demonstration of such skill is revered instead of reviled.  It is also the only game in the world where the rules can be changed at the whim of the establishment sponsoring the game.  The biggest problem with the playing public is by and large they can’t tell a good blackjack game from a bad one.

Consider for instance that back in 1982, when landmark legislation restricted the right of Atlantic City casinos to bar knowledgeable players, card counters the world over rejoiced.  The only problem was that in relinquishing the right to bar players, the casinos traded this concession for one other item that was hardly mentioned in the media.  They rescinded the early surrender option on all their blackjack games.

Early surrender allows players the right to give up half their bet before drawing a card regardless of the hand the dealer possessed.  When exercised at the proper time and place, this single ruling tipped the scale in the player’s favor by .62%.  In other words, a basic strategy who know how to use early surrender was playing at even with the house.  A card counter who took advantage of this rule saw their advantage nearly double.

So, I ask you, when Resorts International, Caesar's Boardwalk, Bally's Park Place and
Harrah's Marina took this option away, why didn't all those blackjack players run screaming
into the night. If they had, the barons of the boardwalk would have brought early surrender
back faster than they could say "Change one hundred." The reason that the playing public
didn't pull their parachutes and bail out was due to the fact that since few of them realized
what they had when early surrender was available to them, they certainly didn't lament it
when it was gone.

Today, more than ever, there is more incentive for casinos to offer better games to the
public as new competition springs up across the country. Yet, I am sad to say that this is
not the case. In fact, casinos continue to post record wins in their blackjack pits.

Not all blackjack games are created equal.
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Today's savvy blackjack player needs to be just as aware of how various rule changes  can effect the house edge as they must be about how to play the game itself. Shopping around for favorable rules can have a profound effect on the average player's success or failure at the tables. It isn't unusual to find a wide disparity in rules offered by adjacent casino properties in the same town. Sometimes different pits in the same casino can be governed by a completely different set of rules as well. Before you place one dollar on the green felt, you had better know how these rule changes effect your wallet.

How rule changes effect the multi-deck game
(Basic Strategy Disadvantage)
Four Decks -0.50
Six Decks -0.56
Eight Decks -0.62
(Variations that help us)
Doubling after Splitting +0.14
Six-Card Bonus +0.17
Late Surrender +0.07
Early Surrender +0.62
(Variations that hurt us)
Dealer takes push -9.00
No Soft Doubling -0.13
No Splitting of Aces -0.16
No Splitting of Non-Aces -0.18
No Resplitting of Pairs -0.03
Doubling Only Allowed on Eleven -0.64
Dealer Hits Soft 17 -0.20
No Hole Card (Euro-Style) -0.11

Given the chart above, it is child's play to determine precisely what you're up against.
For instance, if found yourself at, say, the Mirage six-deck, where doubling after splitting
 is permitted and late surrender is offered, your basic strategy disadvantage would be
calculated as follows.

6 decks -0.56
Doubling after Splitting +0.14
Late Surrender +0.07
(Grand Total) -0.35

In other words, when you are sitting there paying rent, it will only cost you only one third
of one percent of every dollar wagered in unfavorable situations, instead of over one half
of one percent in more typical games. Small potatoes, you say? You won't think so if you
are forced to play through several minus shoes. Additionally, when you card counters
jump your bet in favorable situations, your advantage will also be increased by two tenths
of one percent as well.

Remember, the smart money in blackjack always favors the prepared player. If you take
the time to shop around, there are real bargains to be had in most casino towns. Or, to
put it a little less subtly, ”He who don’t look, sometimes gets took.”

Carl Van Eton has more than 20 years of professional playing experience.  If you want 
to stop visiting your money every time you go to the casinos, check out his website at

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