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Ask the Wizard #245

What do you think about the future of blackjack?

pacomartin

Let's look at the data first. The following table shows the number of tables by game and year for Clark County from the Nevada Gaming Control Quarterly Statistical Reports. All years are based on the fourth quarter except 2009, which is based on the third quarter, because at the time of this writing, the fourth quarter was not yet available. Sports, racing, bingo, and keno are not included.

Total Table Games 1990-1999

Game 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
21 2132 2094 1954 2132 2140 2134 2345 2383 2404 2664
Roulette 197 202 203 232 252 258 287 303 311 354
Craps 290 284 272 286 303 308 325 334 344 372
Other games 3 5 8 28 95 15 25 51 56 71
Baccarat 54 57 49 51 64 70 72 81 83 103
Pai gow poker 73 98 99 107 101 95 109 120 139 170
Three card poker 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mini baccarat 26 33 39 40 43 51 73 77 85 94
Let it ride 0 0 0 0 23 148 144 110 108 118
Pai gow 26 22 19 19 2 23 22 36 42 33
Wheel of fortune 47 44 42 39 48 46 37 34 34 36
Caribbean Stud 0 2 13 95 127 120 109 100 95 94
Chuck a luck 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 3 2 2
Sic bo 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3
Crapless Craps 3 3 1 1 6 4 2 1 0 0
Double Middles 3 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nines up 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Over & under 7 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Over & under 13 3 11 12 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Red Dog 13 14 17 10 0 0 0 0 0 0
P&M Pokertable 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Super pan nine 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 2883 2878 2734 3048 3207 3275 3554 3636 3706 4114

Total Table Games 2000-2009

Game 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
21 2659 2605 2546 2561 2508 2662 2589 2528 2537 2448
Roulette 359 362 352 360 360 392 394 393 405 407
Craps 372 370 352 352 338 364 351 340 334 336
Other games 101 143 52 68 81 121 196 283 243 226
Baccarat 106 98 93 109 115 133 175 176 233 218
Pai gow poker 179 198 207 217 211 192 192 175 194 216
Three card poker 0 3 105 135 160 182 185 191 208 197
Mini baccarat 110 118 126 115 124 147 148 130 143 140
Let it ride 129 132 121 112 105 109 97 94 98 97
Race book 81 83 80 78 83 86 84 81 82 67
Pai gow 43 41 40 43 49 73 76 82 80 58
Wheel of fortune 41 42 41 40 40 37 37 33 37 40
Caribbean Stud 88 80 75 69 56 45 30 23 22 17
Chuck a luck 2 1 2 2 3 1 1 1 1 1
Sic bo 3 6 6 4 2 1 2 1 1 1
Crapless Craps 0 1 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0
Double Middles 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nines up 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Over & under 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Over & under 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Red Dog 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
P&M Pokertable 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Super pan nine 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4192 4200 4120 4187 4154 4459 4473 4450 4536 4402

The next table shows the percentage of the total table game market for each game for 1990 and 2009. Note how 21 is the biggest loser, going from 74.0% to 55.6%.

Market Share Comparison

Game 1990 2009
21 74.0% 55.6%
Roulette 6.8% 9.2%
Craps 10.1% 7.6%
Other games 0.1% 5.1%
Baccarat 1.9% 5.0%
Pai gow poker 2.5% 4.9%
Three card poker 0.0% 4.5%
Mini baccarat 0.9% 3.2%
Let it ride 0.0% 2.2%
Pai gow 0.9% 1.3%
Wheel of fortune 1.6% 0.9%
Caribbean Stud 0.0% 0.4%
Chuck a luck 0.0% 0.0%
Sic bo 0.1% 0.0%
Crapless Craps 0.1% 0.0%
Double Middles 0.1% 0.0%
Nines up 0.1% 0.0%
Over & under 7 0.0% 0.0%
Over & under 13 0.1% 0.0%
Red Dog 0.5% 0.0%
P&M Pokertable 0.1% 0.0%
Super pan nine 0.1% 0.0%

This begs the question of why blackjack is losing market share. Here are what I think are the main reasons:

  1. Popularity of poker-based games is causing some players to switch.
  2. Casinos don’t comp blackjack play as well as other games.
  3. The rules are getting worse. I’m not suggesting most players know this, but over time, players can feel rule changes, like the dealer’s hitting a soft 17, in their wallet.
  4. All casino games have a natural lifespan, and blackjack is getting more grey.

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.

What is the probability of making a 2-point conversion in the NFL?

Steve from Austin, TX

From the 2000 to 2009 NFL seasons, not including the 2009 post-season, there were 567 failed 2-point conversion attempts, and 318 successful attempts. Going by that, the probability of success is 318/(567+318) = 35.9%.

How high can a person off the street bet in the big high roller lounges?

noy2222

Las Vegas casinos are surprisingly risk averse; they don’t like taking big bets. For customers off the street, the biggest bet a nice casino will take is usually $150,000 in baccarat, on player or banker. In other traditional table games, the limit is usually $10,000. Limits can be raised upon request by known customers.

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.

Should a card counter ever double on a hard 12?

dh2525

Short answer, no.

Long answer, If the numbers of 7s, 8s, and 9s are all twice what they should be, then the player should double 12 against a 6. However, how often does that happen? Even if it did, the best of card counting strategies would not identify the situation. For confirmation, I asked Don Schlesinger, author of Blackjack Attack, who said, "We kicked that around on the sites, and, with normal count systems, the answer was never."

Resorts in Atlantic City introduced $2 blackjack tables that require the player to pay a 25¢ fee to play each hand. Here is an article about it. What is the house edge under this rule?

Tom

The standard Atlantic City rules are 6 or 8 decks, dealer stands on soft 17, double after split allowed, no surrender, no re-splitting aces, and the player may only split other pairs twice. However, Resorts also has some tables with those rules except the dealer hits a soft 17. Using my blackjack house edge calculator, and assuming 8 decks, the house edge is 0.46% if the dealer stands on a soft 17 and 0.67% if he hits. The general formula for the increase in the house edge if a nonrefundable fee must be paid per hand is f/(b+f), where f is the fee and b is the initial bet. In doing so, I define the house edge as the ratio of the expected loss to the sum of the bet and the fee. So, at a $2 bet, the increase in the house edge is 0.25/2.25 = 11.11%. At a $5 bet, the increase is 0.25/5.25 = 4.76%. I would assume they are going to have the dealer hit a soft 17 at these tables, making the overall house edge 11.78% at a $2 bet and 5.43% at a $5 bet. This is much worse than the 6 to 5 games or even money games they have in Vegas. Still, this isn’t as bad as the rule where a player loses on ties, which I saw in Finland.

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.