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Ask the Wizard #255

A local Connecticut casino is having a one-day promotion, in the middle of July, where the player can triple down in Blackjack. What would be the appropriate basic strategy and house edge?


I know about it. The Mohegan Sun is running a "triple down" promotion for 24 hours, starting at 6:00 AM on July 15. It is valid on all blackjack and Spanish 21 tables, and the maximum additional wager is $500. Information can be found on both the Mohegan Sun’s promotions page. The newsroom used to have the following statement, but it was removed:

Showing an eleven and looking to double down? On Thursday, July 15th, guests who play Spanish 21 or Blackjack will be eligible to triple down on their bet f.rom 6:00am on July 15th to 5:59am on July 16th. After a player receives their first two cards, they may make an additional wager up to triple the amount of the original wager. All tables will make tripling down available up to a $500.00 maximum bet. Standard double down rules apply.

The removed content indicates that the player may quadruple down, because the total wager would be four times as much as the initial wager. Maybe it was removed because it was a misprint.

I’m told in blackjack they use six decks, stand on a soft 17, allow surrender and double after a split, but don’t allow re-splitting aces. Normally the house edge under those rules would be 0.36%. I’m not sure if the player will be allowed to triple/quadruple after a split. Here is the player edge under various sets of rules:

  • Player may triple down on first two cards, double down after split: 1.39%
  • Player may triple down on first two cards, triple down after split: 1.59%
  • Player may quadruple down on first two cards, double down after split: 3.20%
  • Player may quadruple down on first two cards, quadruple down after split: 3.62%
Following are strategies for triple and quadruple down, assuming each is allowed after a split. If the player may only double after a split, then the player should following the conventional splitting strategy, except if the player can quadruple down, but only double after a split, then the player should quadruple on 4,4 vs. 6.

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

What is the proper etiquette for banking in pai gow or pai gow poker when other players are at the table?


The rules of etiquette are not firmly established, so I can only tell you my opinion. First, if you want to bank, then you are perfectly entitled to when it is your turn. Sometimes other players will moan about it, or blatantly complain about it in Chinese, but don’t let them make you feel ashamed to invoke your right to bank. Second, if another player is banking, and you want to bet, then you don’t have to ask anybody’s permission to.

However, if you want to go beyond the call of duty, it would be good to talk to the other player to ensure both of you are happy. If you ask to bank, then you risk a confrontation if the other player says he prefers that you don’t. Usually you can get an idea what he will say anyway. If you think he won’t object, then I would ask. If you wish to bet while another player is banking, it would be a nice thing to do if you didn’t bet more than he was comfortable with, while still betting enough to make it interesting for you. I think it is bad manners to over-bet, in an effort to cause a banking player to back down. This is something I’ve seen happen several times.

To summarize, if the other player you would be betting against looks like a reasonable person, then I would try to work out something mutually agreeable. If he seems like the "to hell with you" type, then I would just do whatever you want.

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

More of just an update than a question, but as of a few weeks ago, Aria started dealing Let It Ride face up. I see you already addressed the issue of having more information, but it certainly appears that the extra info, especially at a full table, could be an advantage over a standard game. According to the dealer, it was to stop the cards from being bent by players, but by playing for an hour it becomes apparent that they can push a lot more hands out by not having to wait.


According to Beyond Counting (Exhibit CAA) by James Grosjean, if you can see every player card in a 7-player game, and make perfect use of the information, the house edge drops, but not more than the 3.51% house edge. As I state in my Let It Ride page, I would eyeball the table for the cards you need in the two borderline plays, four to an outside straight with no high cards, and four to an inside straight with four high cards. That would be of very marginal help.

Resorts in Atlantic City charges a 25¢ fee to play blackjack for bets of $2 to $5. How does that affect the house edge?


In any game that charges a fee to play, which is common in the California card casinos, the increase in the house edge is f/(f+b), where f is the fee, and b is the bet. In this situation, I define the house edge as the ratio of the expected player loss to the sum of the bet and the fee. So, if your blackjack bet is $2, then the increase is 0.25/2.25 = 11.11%. If you bet $5 then the increase is 0.25/5.25 = 4.76%.

My advice is that if you can’t afford the minimum $10 to avoid the fee, then play video blackjack, or some other game.

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