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Ask the Wizard #105

You have the greatest gambling site in the world!! If I follow the basic strategy chart intended for "shoe" games in a double deck game what percentage am I sacrificing? Or if I use the double deck strategy in a shoe game what am I losing?

"Anonymous" .

Thank you for the compliment. Assuming the dealer hits a soft 17 you are adding 0.012% to the house edge by playing 4-8 deck strategy in a two deck game. Playing double deck strategy in a 6 deck game costs 0.008%. To take this question further I wondered about a more extreme case of playing 4-8 deck strategy for the dealer standing on soft 17 in a single deck game where the dealer hits a soft 17. In this situation the incorrect basic strategy adds 0.038% to the house edge.

I work in a casino and have actually 86’ed people for various reasons. Where does the term actually come from?

"Anonymous" .

According to Cecil Adams the term originates from restaurants and soda fountains of the 1920s. He says it started out meaning to be out of something and then became an expression to drive off a customer.

p.s. In December 2004 another reader wrote with another explanation. According to the term originates from a restaurant named Chumley’s at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City. It started as a warning to leave the building because the police were coming and evolved to mean to get rid of something.

Are the probabilities for the various hands the same in Texas Hold ’em as in Seven-card stud or are they different somehow due to the community cards? Could you please explain why or why not?

"Anonymous" .

Yes, the probabilities are the same. Seven random cards out of 52 have the same odds regardless of how they are taken out of the deck or whom you share them with.

What is the probability of getting all face cards in five card stud?

"Anonymous" .

(12/52)*(11/51)*(10/50)*(9/49)*(8/48) = 0.00030474, or about 1 in 3282.

Why do you say not to double on 10 or 11 against a 9 in Blackjack Switch?

"Anonymous" .

The reason is if the dealer gets a 22 and you have 21 or less then the hand pushes. This works strongly to the dealers favor and should be a disincentive to put more money on the table by doubling or splitting.

Since you are very well-known and respected for your expertise on gambling, statistics, house odds, etc, do local casinos still allow you to play at their Blackjack tables, since you obviously are an experienced counter?

"Anonymous" .

It is my policy not to count in Las Vegas. Since I live here I don’t want to make any enemies out of prospective clients. So I am allowed to play blackjack at all but two casinos locally. However last January I went to Reno and Lake Tahoe for a few days and was told not to play blackjack at four different casinos.

What is the probability of getting two four of a kinds in a two hour period playing Let it Ride?

"Anonymous" .

The probability of a four of a kind in any given hand is 13*48/combin(52,5) = 0.0002401. Let’s assume in two hours you can play 120 hands. The probability of exactly two four of a kinds would be combin(120,2) × 0.00024012 × (1-0.0002401)118 = 0.000400095 = 1 in 2499.41.

Should I avoid the 50 play (or even better the 100 play) video poker machines? I’m weak and I love the rush but it’s been sucking down my cash. What should I know?

"Anonymous" .

Generally speaking 50 and 100 play machines have lousy pay tables and thus should be avoided. However assuming you did find a decent pay table ask yourself what you would play on single play and then divide that by 50 or 100. For example if you play the $1 single line machines then you should play 2 cent 50 line or 1 cent 100 line games.

If I had an infinite amount of money and time, and the casino would take any bet, then could I ensure a profit by playing the Martingale (doubling after every loss until I win) on a fair bet on the toss of a coin?

"Anonymous" .

No. Some might argue that it would take an infinite number of losses to lose in this situation, which would be impossible. The truth is that 0.5infinity approaches 0 but does not equal zero. If this did happen you would lose $2infinity. The expected return of this strategy is thus 1- $2infinity * 0.5infinity = $1 - 1 = 0. Another more graceful way to look at is that as your bankroll increases the expected value still remains unchanged at zero. So the limit of the expected value as the bankroll approaches infinity is zero. In other words an increasing bankroll doesn’t help your odds, even if it goes to infinity.

Thank you for your composition dependent basic strategy exceptions. However in The Theory of Blackjack Peter Griffin says the player should stand on 4+4+4+4 against an 8 in single deck. Is he wrong or did you overlook this play?

"Anonymous" .

Griffin is of course correct. The expected value of hitting is -0.552613 and standing is -0.535787. Some plays I don’t list because they are either so obscure I didn’t find them or so unlikely I didn’t bother to list them.

I know you say that betting strategies don’t work because of the negative expectation built in to most games but what about when the player has the advantage? Do betting strategies work under these conditions?

"Anonymous" .

Yes! If the player had the advantage a betting system could not help but work in the long run. The reason is the house/player advantage is immutable. Betting systems can not change it.