The Casino Floor as a Minefield

Mine Field

Despite the weak economy, many states are experiencing an expansion of gambling. Particularly in the Eastern US, new casinos have opened in state after state, and table games have appeared in previously slots-only casinos.

Competition is definitely a good thing for players, as most of these casinos offer games with decent rules to stay competitive. But with so many new players available, these casinos are also likely to pepper the casino floor with mines in the form of bad games, in the hope that most players won’t know any better.

For example, I recently received an email from a player in Ohio who frequents Hollywood Casino in Columbus. This week marks the 1st anniversary of the casino opening, so it’s still a very new property. The player describes a common scenario these days…

In one pit of the casino, from 11am to 2am, they offer quite a few $10 minimum blackjack tables. Those tables stay full because the $10 minimum looks more appealing for many players than the higher minimums elsewhere in the casino. So, what’s the problem? Those tables pay only 6:5 on blackjack.

This trend started as a marketing ploy in Vegas with single-deck games paying 6:5, but has since spread across the country, and you will now find 6:5 payouts even on some 6-deck and 8-deck games. 6:5 blackjack is always a bad deal. (Just Say No!) Fortunately, most casinos still offer some 3:2 tables on the same floor. You just have to look for them.

For Hollywood Columbus specifically, if you look around, you can find 3:2 payout games with a $15 minimum. The larger minimum is easily offset by the lower house edge. Your average loss at the $10 6:5 game is around $12 an hour, while the loss flat-betting $15 a hand at the 3:2 game loses around $6 an hour. You’re betting more per hand, but your expected loss is only half as much. Of course, your swings will be larger because of the larger bet, but I think if you can afford to play a $10 6:5 game, you can afford a $15 3:2 game and save the bucks in the long run.

If your bet size is substantially higher, you can also improve your odds further by playing in the high limit area where the dealer stands on all 17s. Note however that the difference in edge of around 0.22% isn’t worth upping your bet for. But if you’re already betting $50 or more per hand, make sure you’re taking advantage of the better rules in high limit.

As for those 6:5 games, just ignore them and head to greener pastures elsewhere.

6 comments on “The Casino Floor as a Minefield

  • As bad as the 6:5 payout on blackjack is, it’s still far better than doubling down on the blackjack by treating is as an eleven. The 6:5 is a sure thing, but if you double, you might lose or push the hand. You would be amazed how expensive that possibility is. (6:5 pays $12 on a $10 blackjack, while doubling the bet to $20 yields only $6.82 profit on average! That’s a HUGE difference. And that’s assuming the dealer has a 6 up, the best possible scenario.)

    It’s time for a blog post on this topic, as I’ve heard quite a few players mention this idea. In the meantime, don’t do it! Growl at the dealer if you must, but let him pay you the 6:5.

  • Dan White said:

    When playing 6:5 blackjack payoffs chose to play the blackjack as an eleven and double.

  • Ken, I just returned from Las Vegas and $10-$15 blackjack tables at The Mirage are converting to 6:5 Blackjack payoffs, no surrender, dealers hitting a soft 17 and continuous shuffle machines are becoming the norm. I did find a $25 BJ table, 6 deck shoe, hand shuffled with 3:2 Blackjack payoffs with the surrender option.

    Folks really need to read the table rules BEFORE they sit down and play. I went to Foxwoods yesterday and the BJ rules there remain quite liberal.

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