Ask The Wizard #193

The racinos in Pennsylvania recently added electronic blackjack tables. Apparently, to get them installed they had to work like a slot machine or video poker. Does this mean the results are predetermined when the cards get dealt? Also I do not know the rules, but do you know what is the house edge for this game?

Scott F. from Philadelphia, PA

The game you refer to is by Shufflemaster for their TMS-300 series of games. It is mathematically equivalent to a hand-dealt game. Conventional basic strategy should be used. In Pennsylvania, to meet gaming regulations, a separate shoe is used for each player, so one player’s actions do not affect other players. In all other states a single shoe is used. Shufflemaster tells me the following rules are common to all units.

7-card Charlie.
Double after split allowed.
Late surrender allowed.
Player may split only once.
Split aces get one card each.
In six-deck games the cards are shuffled after 2/3 shoe penetration. The player is not informed when the shuffle takes place. In single-deck game the cards are shuffled after every hand.

The following table shows the configurable rules and the house edge under each variation, assuming total-dependent basic strategy.

Shufflemaster TMS-300 Video Blackjack

of Decks
6 3 to 2 Stands American 0.39%
6 3 to 2 Stands European 0.50%
6 3 to 2 Hits American 0.59%
6 3 to 2 Hits European 0.69%
1 6 to 5 Stands American 1.25%

On an airplane with 180 seats, what are the odds of me sitting next to the good looking girl I see who will be on the same flight?

Ted H. from Salt Lake City

It depends on the number of seats in a cluster. Most domestic flights have three seats on either side of the aisle. That would make 60 3-seat clusters. After the first one of you is seated, there will be two seats in the same cluster out of the remaining 179, so the chances of being in the same cluster are 2/179 = 1.12%. Then you can’t have somebody else in the middle seat. The chances of the third person being in the middle seat are 1/3. So the answer is (2/179)*(2/3) = 0.74%, or 1 in 134.25.

This is an etiquette question regarding the blackjack tables, which I haven’t been able to find on your site. I go to my local casino about once a month with my friends, we just play for fun pretty much, but they don’t know the game that well, nor have basic strategy learned or memorized. My question is: when we’re all playing at the table together, is it wrong for me to give them advice on how to play their hand? Tell them to split, double down, stand etc., will this annoy the dealer or other players? Is it right or wrong to do this?

Thanks for an awesome site! I get lost in your odds calculations sometimes, but it’s just so damn informative!

Jon B. from Napanee, Ontario

Thank you for the kind words. It would be perfectly acceptable to give advice in that situation. In general, it is acceptable to give solicited advice, even to strangers. The dealers don’t like it when a player gives unsolicited advice. It gets into a grey area if it isn’t clear whom a player is soliciting advice from. If the player seems to be asking the dealer, then you shouldn’t advise. When in doubt, my policy is to keep my mouth shut.

When playing Three Card Poker, and spotting a dealer card, I am aware the edge is 3.48%, played properly. However, the game I play has the 1, 3, 4 Ante Bonus table. I am curious as to the effect this has on my edge over the game, as well as my edge if I only identify ace/paint/non-paint.

p.s. I only play this game because of your book and when one of my sloppy blackjack dealers is dealing Three Card Poker. First time I played I got a straight flush, and the reaction from the table "experts" tearing into me for not playing pair plus was worth the 40 to 1 bet I didn't win. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

Brock W. from Bible Hill, N.S.

Thank you for buying my book. I heard somebody out there bought a copy. The difference in house edge between the usual 1/4/5 and the 1/3/4 pay tables is 0.46%. So that would lower the player advantage from 3.48% to 3.02% if you can tell the dealer's rank exactly, 1.95% if you can tell only ace/paint/no paint, and increase the house edge to 2.89% if you can tell paint/no paint only.

I've suffered in silence the Pairplus lecture many times, so I know how you feel.

For more information, please see my page on flashing Three Card Poker dealers.

I have studied and used your blackjack appendix 16 (dealer exposes hole-card strategy) for some time now, and there is still one play that I can not find a mathematical explanation for: A2 vs. 5. Basic strategy would have this as a double, and using your own "effect of card removal" numbers, removing a 2 & 3 from the deck when you have a soft 13 should make the deck favor the player MORE, not less. What am I not seeing?

Rodger from Phelpston ON

The reason is my blackjack basic strategy is based on 8 or fewer decks, and the flashing dealer strategy is based on an infinite number of decks. In an infinite-deck blackjack game you should hit A2 vs. 5 as well. An infinite-deck assumption is the lazy way to analyze blackjack. The reason I went that way is I believe that is not a frequently used page, and the cost in errors is very small, only one unit for every 202,000 units bet.

I am going on vacation to England and the Rendezvous Casino in Brighton offers different payouts in craps than U.S. Casinos. Could you please tell me the house edge on the various bets that differ?

Place 4,10 - 9 1/2 to 5
Place 5,9 -7 to 5
Place 6,8 - 7 to 6
Any Craps - 7 1/2 to 1
Hardways 4,10 - 7 1/2 to 1
Hardways 6,8 - 9 1/2 to 1
Aces/Midnight - 33 to 1
Ace,Deuce/Eleven - 16 to 1


I just added a section to my craps section on the Rendezvous Rules.

Is there a house edge when playing Microsoft Solitaire? I’ve been taking my co-worker for hundreds, as he insists that there is a player edge.

Ed from New York

Yes, there must be. Cryptologic Internet casinos have been offering the game, under the Vegas rules, for years. They also offer the version where you turn over the cards in the tableau one at a time, but can only run through it once. As under the Microsoft Vegas rules, the player gets back fives time the bet per card for each one he puts in the stacks. I would bank that game all day long, if I could.