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Ask the Wizard #189

What is the exact house edge and basic strategy for Betfair’s "Zero Lounge" blackjack? Do their other games really have no house edge?

Nick from Slough, U.K.

For the benefit of other readers, the blackjack rules are as follows.

  • 8 decks
  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • Dealer always peeks for blackjack
  • Double on hard 8 to 11 only
  • Double after split allowed
  • Shuffle after every hand
  • Aces may not be split. All other matching ranks may be split only once.
  • Suited blackjack pays 2 to 1
  • A 5-card 21 automatically wins and pays 2 to 1

I get a house edge of 0.02% under these rules. Following is the basic strategy.

Regarding the other games, the 2.75% commission on the banker bet in baccarat results in a house edge of 0.03%. The roulette and video poker have zero house edge.

The bet limits are £5-£50 in blackjack, baccarat, and roulette, and the coinage is £1 in video poker, with a max bet of five coins.

Using just an Ace/Five count: 1) Why not more than double your bet if the count goes very high especially near the end of a shoe. 2) If the count goes very low might it be wise to leave the shoe? If either is yes, how high or low?

George from Buffalo, NY

More than doubling your bet at once sets off a red flag that you’re counting. That would increase your advantage, but at the risk of being backed off from the table. My advice is to not do it. Leaving the shoe in a low count is a well-known trick. That is a great time to hit the bathroom or pretend your cell phone is vibrating. It is up to you at what point to do this. There is a tradeoff between suffering a shoe with a negative EV and looking like a counter jumping in and out all the time.

I love the site; thanks for all the hard work. The blackjack survey is great and I notice that most casinos have more than one set of rules. Can I rightly assume that the better the rule set, the higher the table minimum at a given casino? For example, the lowest house edge at the Bellagio is quite good but does the table have $100 minimums?

Bill R. from Elmhurst, Il

Thank you, and you’re welcome. Yes, it is generally the case that the better the rules, the higher the minimum bet.

How many throws of a die does it take before it is likely that you have thrown a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 at least once each? Any ideas on generalizing this for an n-sided die?

Asif from Columbia, SC

Not that you asked, but let me address the mean first. For a six-sided die, the expected number of throws to get each face at least once is (6/6)+(6/5)+(6/4)+(6/3)+(6/2)+(6/1) = 14.7. For an n-sided die the expected throws is (n/n) + (n/(n-1)) + (n/(n-2)) + ... + n. The median number of throws required is 13. The probability of taking 13 rolls or less is 51.4%, and 13 rolls or more is 56.21%.

How does the taxation (Form W2-G) work on machines whose coin-in values are near or greater than the $1200 threshold? Hypothetically, if a player bet $5000 on a Red, White, & Blue slot machine, and got three blanks, which returns the original bet, would the player get a W2-G?

Adam H. from Las Vegas

The W2-G is based on the gross win, not the net win. So, yes, if the player got a $5000 push on a Red, White, & Blue, he would get a W2-G.

I don’t play the table much, but if I do and if I give the casino enough rated play who should I speak to about show ticket comps at a sister hotel? For example, I’m planning a stay at MGM but would like to see if I can get comp tickets to a show at Mandalay Bay. I do not have an on-site host at MGM. If my rating is sufficient enough at the MGM table, should I ask the MGM foremen, or do I ask at the MGM player’s club desk, or should I play at Mandalay Bay and ask for comped show ticket there?

Hugh from Newburgh

You should speak to an MGM host. You can ask for a host anywhere. There is usually a player assistance desk somewhere, where one can often be found, or at least paged. Your odds of seeing a Mandalaly Bay show will be best if you play at the Mandalay Bay, as opposed to any other MGM/Mirage property.

I have been playing roulette at the X Internet casino and I feel there is some foul play involved in their random generation system. I wanted to report this to your website so other people are also aware of it. I have a screenshot of how the numbers appeared - 6, 6, 22, 22, 30, 22, 30, 9, 22. In 7 turns 22 appears 4 times. I would like to upload that screenshot to show this. Would this be considered a flaw in their random number generator, which by the way is audited by Price Waterhouse Cooper?

Ashwal from Waterloo

The probability of getting any number exactly four times in seven spins is 38 × combin(7,4) * (1/38)4 × (37/38)3 = 0.000589, or 1 in 1698. Assuming 200 spins per hour, you should see this about once every 8.5 hours. I’m sure you cherry picked this sequence out of lots of ordinary looking spins. So I’m afraid this evidence doesn’t nearly rise to the level required for a kind of case of foul play.