people who are well read in casino gambling know that quite a few of the common
beliefs gamblers have are mistaken. For example, slot machines do not have predetermined
win and loss cycles. Everything that happens inside a slot machine?s Random
Number Generator is, well, random, or as close to random as humans can make it.
Those streaks you see are what mathematicians call ?fluctuations in probability?
or, as we normal people say, good or bad luck. With every spin of the reels the
chance of this or that result happening is exactly the same as it was on the last
spin of the reels.
But slot players aren?t the only ones who labor under misconceptions. Table
game players, too, have a host of myths, misperceptions, and money-losing ideas
when it comes to their games of choice.
Recently, I received an email from someone; we?ll call him Jim. Jim was
upset that he had played a blackjack game in Las Vegas that I had recommended.
Here?s what he wrote: ?Mr. Scoblete, you had better rethink your analysis
of the Las Vegas blackjack games. I played that 6-deck game that you said was
the best in the city and I lost my entire buy in. How could that game be the best
when I lost so much so fast??
Jim was under the impression that just because a game is rated good or great or
the ?best in the city,? it must equal a win for the player. Nothing
could be further from the truth. A blackjack game is judged good or bad based
on the rules of the particular casino and based on the penetration the casino
gives. Penetration is how deeply or how shallowly the dealer goes into the deck
or shoe before he shuffles. Deep penetration is usually considered good, shallow
penetration is usually considered bad.
But wait! The game I had recommended had extremely deep penetration and I had
this to say to Jim when I wrote Jim back: ?The game that I recommended based
on its penetration would be good for a card counter to play but it is not good
for a basic strategy player to play. Games that are good for card counters are
also good for casinos because casinos deal many more hands out and these hands
are overwhelmingly dealt out to players who do not have an edge over the casino.
That translates into big wins for the casinos and losses for the players. You
want to look for games with really poor penetration but good rules. Most casino
executives are not aware that if they offered really deep penetration, they would
make more money. Sure, card counters would get their 1 percent edge but the other
players, playing with one-half to two percent edges against them would more than
make up for what any card counter could win. Jim, whenever you see ratings for
blackjack games, you have to ascertain if the writer is writing for card counters
or basic strategy players. The article you read was for card counters. What?s
good for them is bad for you.?
Another common myth is that when you are playing blackjack, you must always assume
the dealer has a 10-valued card in the hole. So if a dealer is showing a 10, you
assume he has a 20 and make your hitting and standing decisions accordingly. Not
so. There are sixteen 10-valued cards and 36 non-10s in a deck of 52 cards. It
is much more likely that the dealer has a non-10 in the hole than a 10, especially
I f his upcard is also a 10.
Your basic strategy decisions have nothing whatsoever to do with what you ?think?
the dealer has in the hole. They are made strictly based on the dealer?s
upcard. When the computer figures out what is the best way to handle, say, your
14 against a dealer?s 8 upcard, it goes through every possible combination
of hole card and results against them based on hitting, standing, doubling, etc.,
to come up with the best way to play the hand.
Finally, there is some misunderstanding as to whether it is better to play one
or two spots. Some blackjack players think that you have a better chance to win
when you play two spots; others think you have a better chance to lose if you
play two spots. Both are wrong. Assuming you keep the same total bet on two hands
that you would have had on one hand (if you were betting $50 on one hand, you
would bet $25 on each of two hands), the only difference between playing two hands
instead of one has to do with the volatility of the game. By playing two hands,
you will have many occasions where one hand wins and one loses. The big winning
and losing streaks will be somewhat diminished because of the fact that as you
play more decisions things tend to flatten out; that means, your results begin
to reflect the math of the game. Playing two hands gets you into the long run
twice as fast. So you tend to be able to last longer in any given session by playing
What are the end results of such a strategy? If you are a basic strategy player
you will lose approximately one-half percent of the total money that you bet,
whether you bet it on one hand, two hands or more.
The fallacy of the two hands being better than one has even made its way into
some casino rater?s minds. I had an interesting experience in Atlantic City.
He was betting $100 on each of two hands. At the end of an hour of play, he asked
the floorperson what his average bet was, fully expecting it to be $200. The rater
came back and said, ?You?re rated as playing $150, sir.? When
I questioned the assessment, the rater said that playing ?two hands was
more favorable for the player and that?s why the second bet was only counted
as one-half its face value.? I then asked a simple question: ?If someone
else had been playing that hand what would he have been rated?? The reply
was prompt: ?One hundred dollars.? Then I said: ?What?s
the difference if a stranger played that second hand or if I played the second
hand? The house has the same edge on that hand regardless of who is playing it.?
The rater saw my point and the casino soon changed its policy.
Needless to say, myths and superstitions abound in gambling almost as much as
they abound in real life. But please keep this in mind, being superstitious can
bring bad luck; knock on wood!
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