Best Blackjack Quiz by Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin was one of those authors of gambling materials I followed in my humble beginnings when I started delving into the strategy for gambling, along with experts such as Bob Dancer, Jean Scott, John  Grochowski, Max Compton and Frank Scoblete.  They always seemed to have the answers I was looking for, no matter what gambling topic.

Henry has been very busy over the years. His best-selling book “Blackjack: Take The Money and Run,”  being editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course are just a few of his current accomplishments. His website SmartGaming is a go to website with “strategies for casino players who want to learn to play and win.”

For over 40 years, he has been an advocate for better odds for casino players, while also teaching the general public how to play smart. His specialties are blackjack and video poker.

Here are the publications that he currently writes for:

Casino Player Magazine
Strictly Slots Magazine
Midwest Gaming & Travel Magazine
Gaming South Magazine
Southern Gaming Magazine
New England Gaming News
Casino City Times
Jackpot
Bingo Bugle

In Casino City Times this week, he posted a Blackjack Quiz that I had to share.  Many of our followers are Blackjack enthusiasts, so I knew that if you thought you were so good at your strategy, you must take this quiz.  Answer the questions, take down your answers and check out how you did after all are done.  Here goes……


 

Blackjack

Blackjack

The Ultimate Blackjack Test – By Henry Tamburin

So you think you are a hotshot blackjack player? Take this short test and see how much you really know about the game. (Assume a six-deck game, with S17, and DAS.)

1. You hold a pair of eights and the dealer shows a face card. Would you hit, stand or split?

2. You hold an A-7 (8 or 18) and the dealer shows a five up card. Would you stand, hit or double down?

3. You hold a 10-6 and the dealer shows a seven up card. Would you hit or stand?

4. You hold a pair of nines and the dealer shows a nine up card. Would you stand or split?

5. You hold a 10-2 and the dealer shows a three. Would you hit or stand?

6. You hold a pair of fives and the dealer shows a six. Would you hit, split or double down?

7. You hold a pair of face cards and the dealer shows an ace and asks for “insurance”? Would you make the insurance bet? Yes or no?

8. You have 2-3-A-A and the dealer shows a five up card. Would you stand or hit?

9. You have 9-6 and the dealer shows a face card. Would you stand, hit or surrender?

10. You have A-3-4 and the dealer shows a nine up card. Would you hit or stand?

Which statements are true and which are false?:

11. Always take even money on a blackjack hand when the dealer shows an ace.

12. The third base player is the most important player on the table. If he stands or hits correctly, everyone will win.

13. A player who doesn’t have a clue about when to stand or hit will cause his fellow table players to lose.

14. Card counters always win.

15. Surrender is a playing rule that when used correctly can limit your losses.

16. Which of the following rules favor the casino, and which favor the player?
• Dealer hits soft 17.
• Double after pair splitting.
• Six decks vs. one deck.
• Resplit aces allowed.
• Double only on 10 or 11.
• Surrender.
• No resplitting of pairs

Cats Playing Blackjack

Answers (give yourself five points for each correct answer):

1. Split. You are better off starting a hand with an eight rather than with a 16 against a dealer face card. Overall you’ll lose money in the long run by splitting compared to hitting (standing is the least desirable play). As a general basic strategy rule, you should always split eights no matter what the dealer shows.

2. Double down. Even though an 18 is a strong player hand, you will win more money in the long run if you double down. The main reason is that by doubling, you can get more money on the table when the dealer has a good chance of breaking with a five up card.

3. Hit. Most blackjack players will hit a 16 against a dealer 10 but not against the dealer’s seven up card. They reason is that a 10 is a stronger card than a seven, so it’s more important to hit against the 10. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s a worse mistake to stand on 16 against a dealer’s seven vs. a 10 up card. Why? Even though the risk of busting the 16 is the same whether the dealer has a seven or 10 up card, your chances of eking a win by drawing a small card are greater when the dealer shows a seven compared to a 10.

4. Split. You are slightly better off starting with a count of nine on two hands rather than an 18 against a dealer’s nine up card. You’ll win 41% and lose 59% of the hands if you stand on 18 (at a dollar a hand, your net loss is $18 after $100 bet). If you split, you’ll end up winning about 47% of the hands and losing 53% (net loss is $12 – because you double your bet when pair splitting- per $100 bet). You’ll gain an extra $6 by splitting.

5. Hit. Only a 10-value card will bust your 12. Plus the dealer is not as vulnerable to busting with a three (and two) up card compared to a four, five or six up card. For these reasons, you should hit 12 when the dealer shows a three (and two) up card but stand if the dealer’s up card is four, five or six.

6. Double down. Most novice players make the mistake of splitting fives. Never split fives. Treat a pair of fives as a 10, and against a dealer’s six up card the best percentage play is to double down.

7. No. Insurance pays 2 to 1 on a bet that has less than 1 chance in 3 of winning (i.e., the odds are greater than 2 to 1). That will cost you money; about $7 for every $100 worth of insurance bets you make. Don’t do it!

8. Hit. Be careful with soft hands. A-2-3-A-A is a soft 17, and you should never stand on soft 17 no matter what the dealer shows.

9. Surrender. You will lose greater than 50 cents per dollar bet if you stand or hit. By surrendering, you limit your loss to exactly 50 cents. Therefore, you will save some money in the long run when you surrender.

10. Hit. An A-3-4 is a soft 18, Normally you would stand when you hold an 18 but in this case you have a soft 18. Against a dealer’s nine, you are slightly better off hitting a soft 18 rather than standing.

11. False. You will be giving up about 4% of your potential profits in the long run every time you take even money. Your best percentage play is to pass on taking even money.

12. 13. All false. These are misconceptions that most players have about blackjack.

14 Card counters do not win every time they play. They have a long-term advantage, which means over time they will win more money than lose. Over the short term, like a single playing session, they can lose.

15 True. When used correctly surrender can limit player’s losses.

16 The player favorable rules are double down after pair splitting, resplit aces, and surrender. The casino favorable rules are dealer hits soft 17, six decks vs. one deck, double only on nine and 10, and no replitting of pairs.

If you scored 75 or 80, you should be holding your own at the blackjack tables.

If you scored 60 – 80, you are probably losing more money than winning when you play blackjack.

If you scored less than 60, you had better spend some time improving your blackjack playing skills; otherwise, be prepared to lose a lot of money.

Blackjack Side Bets in New England Casinos

According to John Grochowski, side bets in Blackjack are offered for two basic reasons, “….to add a little excitement for players who want more out of the game than trying to grind out a profit one bet at a time, and to increase action to generate more profit for the house.”

What are the side bets offered in New England’s Casinos for Blackjack?  And are they worth playing?

We will list the side bets, explain a little about them, and give John Grochowsk’s take on if it’s worth it.  Keep in mind some side bet paytables differ even with the same game.  My suggestions is to check out the Wizard of Odds for more on side bets variance for blackjack.

Match The Dealer

In New England’s casinos, there are a variety of side bets.  The most popular is Match the Dealer, which can be found at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and Twin River in Rhode Island.  

The Match the Dealer side bet pays when either of the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card. According to Traditional blackjack, the payouts are as follows:

  • 1 non-suited match pays 4 to 1;
  • 2 non-suited matches pay 8 to 1;
  • One suited match pays 11 to 1;
  • One suited match and one non-suited match pay 15 to 1;
  • 2 suited matches pay 22 to 1.

According to many players, this side bet has a fixed house advantage that is fairly high, several times higher than blackjack. Not a good bet.

Lucky Ladies

Lucky Ladies side bet c an be found at the HOLLYWOOD Casino, Hotel & Raceway in Bangor, ME. LUCKY LADIES™ BONUS BET is a side bet based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. As far as I know, it is the first side bet to be based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. Since it came out, there have been many imitators.  Lucky Ladies is also known as, “The 20 Point Bonus Wager” point count of their first 2 cards equals 20.

PAYOUT SCHEDULE – First two cards: Queen of Hearts Pair (with Dealer Blackjack) = 1,000 to 1; Queen of Hearts Pair = 125 to 1; Matched 20 = 19 to 1, Suited 20 = 9 to 1;  Any 20 = 4 to 1

JG – Lucky Ladies: There’s the possibility of huge wins here, with a 1,000-1 bonanza if the player is dealt two queens of hearts while the dealer has a blackjack, or 125-1 on a pair of heart ladies regardless of the dealer hand. In the version I’ve seen, there’s also a 19-1 payoff on a 20 if both cards are the same rank and suit, 9-1 on a suited 20 on cards of different ranks, such as jack-king, or 4-1 on an unsuited 20.
That’s an attraction, to be sure, but at a 24.71 percent house edge, the cost is high. Average loss per hour is a whopping $14.83 of the $60 at risk. That dwarfs the average blackjack loss for a $10-a-hand basic strategy player, and is even higher than the loss for an average player.
Think about it: That extra $1 per hand more than doubles the average loss for a $10 blackjack bettor who is just an average player.
For those who don’t limit the side bets to a buck, just multiply by your bets. Make the side bets equal to your $10 blackjack bets, and average losses shoot up to about $20 an hour in 21 + 3, $40 in Royal Match, and $148 in Lucky Ladies.

“21+3”

This side bet, found at Oxford Casino, in Oxford,ME., pays based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. If the three cards equal a flush, straight, straight flush, or three of a kind the side bet pays 9 to 1.  It does come in various versions according to the number of decks.

JG – “21 + 3: At mostly full tables, the $1 side bets mean a risk of $60 per hour. The 3.24 percent house edge means a few pennies shy of $2 extra in the house coffers. For basic strategy players, that’s just $1 less than the losses from betting 10 times as much on the main game.
Average players who are losing $12 an hour might find that extra two bucks palatable for the chance at 9-1 payoffs if their two cards plus the dealer’s up card form a flush, straight or three of a kind. It’s a much smaller leap from their regular loss rate of $1.20 per $60 wagered.

“In BETween”

This blackjack side bet has been seen a few places here and there, and in New England, it’s found found at Oxford Casino. According to Mike Shackelford, the “Wizard of Odds” himself, “The goal is for one card to fall between two others in rank. In this case, the primary goal is the dealer’s up card to fall between the player’s initial two cards.”

Progressives

The “Super Four” side bet in Mohegan Sun is the only location to offer it in New England.  Here’s more on the bet:

  • The side bet is $5 and $5 only.
  • The circle will be to the left of the blackjack bet as Match The Dealer will be retained in it’s usual place.
  • Super 4 is a progressive blackjack side bet based on the four cards consisting of the player’s and dealer’s initial two cards.
  • In both, the player wins on a dealer blackjack. The amount of the win depends on the poker value of all four cards.

One gentleman walked away feeling very lucky on July 12th after hitting the Super 4 Diamonds bonus jackpot totaling $347,456.

At Foxwoods, Blackjack Match Progressive is offered. Here’s more on the bet:

  • Blackjack Match is a side bet that wins if the player and/or the dealer have a blackjack.
  • The value of the win is maximized if the blackjacks are suited and match.
  • Unlike most other progressive side bets, this one costs $5 instead of $1 and are on a “for one” basis, meaning the original wager is not returned on a win.
  • On the top two awards, there is an “Envy Bonus,” which means a win for every other player at the table who made the side bet.

 

We visited all 7 New England Casinos this summer.  This is part of what we found.  More comparisons and info will be presented throughout the fall.

That’s all for now.

 

Mohegan Sun – Stadium Table Games

I made a short visit to Mohegan Sun Sunday to play and review stadium gaming, where 30-40 players can play at individual stations at the same time, but with only one dealer per game needed.

Casino Game Evolution

One of the first Electronic Blackjack Multiple Player games. Still can be found at Twin River Casino.

In many ways, casinos seem to be the same as they were 30 years ago – table games, chips, slots, etc.  But it has been a slow, continuous change not easily seen by the gambling eye.  Some changes have been for the better.  Remember when Ticket-In, Ticket-Out (TITO) was considered blasphemy because players supposedly wanted to use coins instead of paper, and wanted to hear the sound of coins dropping into coin bin? Until I looked down and saw my hands covered in filth from quarters, I thought so, too.  Now? – TITO is just fine, thank-you.

Table games continue to evolve.  New games are introduced, variations of old games continue, and additional side bets are invented.  But who knew a hybrid form of table games would become so popular.  Electronic table games began to be seen as soon as video slots became popular with the appearance of blackjack as an option.  Soon, experiments with group roulette blackjack & bubble craps were seen in the casino.  However, the latest evolution of electronic table games seems to be taking casinos and their patrons by storm across the country, and that was what I went to experience.

John Grochowski wrote in an early article of E-TableGaming for CasinoPlayer,  “It’s a matter of evolution, not revolution—they’re not threatening to take over anyone’s table pits, but they provide a way to bring more table-style games to more players, and player acceptance is on the rise.”  The Casino Answer Man’s article can be found here – E-Table Evolution.

The games available at Mohegan Sun are produced by SCIENTIFIC GAMING called Hybrid Fusion.  It features a live dealer and electronic betting interface, with a multi-game feature. This allows for up to four games to be played at once. This particular set-up included two blackjack games, one roulette and one baccarat. Each chair in the Stadium Gaming area of the casino (it takes up quite a bit of real estate) has its own interactive video display. Wagers are placed through the screens as live games are dealt by actual human dealers, nearby.

For another interesting article about stadium gaming, as well as a great podcast, visit Vegas FanBoy for his article,  Stadium Gambling: It’s a Big Footprint, but is it a Big Step Forward?

Five Advantages for Casino & Players:

  1. Stadium Gaming has obvious advantages for the casino. It takes just a few members of the casino staff to serve all those players, dealers for each game and a floor manager. Low cost, high return, just the way casinos like it.
  2. Planned time with friends can easily turn into a solitary evening since finding tables with multiple open seats can be nearly impossible. The “arena” makes strides to provide sufficient space for groups. While it’ll be hard to find an entirely vacant row, even scattered seats still allow for bands of gambling friends to win and lose together. Additionally, pairs can enjoy gambling side by side on different games.
  3. The arena is designed for a more social experience – is that millennials I hear  rustling in the background, eager to gamble with their buddies? And rumor has it that one game expected to be found soon would be enjoyed by groups of 25 to 75 year-lds.  The development in the future might include tournaments, tutorials, and yes – even Bingo.
  4. Every bet can be tracked, leading to player rewards data on table games as accurate as casinos collect on slot players. There’s no need for the pit supervisor to track buy-ins and estimate average bet and table speed to calculate a player rating. The data is collected automatically.
  5. Players control their own pace, and can opt out a hand anytime. For some, it’s a natural bridge between fully electronic table games and live table games. It also bridges the gap for players who prefer the solo experience, such as video poker, slot, and keno players by playing table games by oneself.
  6. Multi-station electronic configurations add potential for games with lower betting minimums. A casino that can’t justify $5 minimums at live tables might be able to swing it if one dealer—whether live or in a video representation—is serving 100 or more wagering terminals.

Mohegan Sun Experience

Mohegan Sun was the first casino destination resort in North America to offer their players the Scientific Games Corporation Stadium Blackjack game on the company’s Fusion Hybrid electronic table system which connects four live-dealt games to Mohegan Sun’s three on-property casinos.

How Blackjack Is Played

The game features shared starting hands for all players, followed by independent decision-making by each player as the hand progresses. For example, the usual procedure of receive a card, see the dealer’s up card, then receive a second card is still true.  However, after that, to stand or hit, surrender, double or split, remains the personal players decision. Then, “community cards” are dealt, one at a time until all players decisions are made. Finally, the dealer plays out his hand as the rules allow.

BlackJack Rules

I was pleasantly surprised by the BJ rules.  All were 3/2 (yeah, not 6/5 or even money!).  Splitting, surrender and doubling rules are typical and match the casino rules.  Three side bets are included. Undesirable rules includes: 1) dealer hits on Soft 17. 2) no double after splitting. Not a bad play, not great, but definitely beats 6/5 for a BJ.

Conclusion

All in all, it was fun.  Not having to put up with pompous “know-it-all” or obnoxious drunks was another positive.  But it does lack the camaraderie found at a traditional blackjack table.  Depends what atmosphere floats your gambling boat.  I found it to be very user friendly. It is easy to switch between games on a wide screen that’s easy to navigate.  If you know how to play the table game, it only takes a quick look to find the buttons needed such as table status, countdown, wagers and results.

Foxwoods is rumored to be the next New England casino to introduce stadium gaming in the Great Cedar Casino where the 360 slot area was.  Most likely, it should be added to the Fox Casino, where one of the best night-clubs on the East Coast resides.

I can’t see this being used for video poker, some other table/carnival games, and standard craps.  Then again, I was against TITO when it first came out, so let the evolution continue!

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