Ask The Wizard #53

My question is about table maximum bets in BJ. Say the posted limit is $200. I bet $200 and I get dealt 8-3. Can I double down, or have I already reached the limit? Or suppose I’m betting $200 and get dealt a pair of aces. Can I split them, turning one hand into two hands?

Jack from Boston, USA

Yes, you could double or split in those situations. The maximum applies to the initial bet. If the limit were $200 you could also play multiple hands of $200.

My friend and I have a side bet going on. I said to him that I think that blackjack has the best odds in a casino, he said to me that he thinks poker has the best odds. In a casino, what game do you have the best odds in winning, blackjack or poker?

Jeff from Chicago, IL

Although they are hard to compare I say blackjack is the better bet. It is easy to be a good blackjack player by learning the basic strategy. It is difficult to be a good poker player. Casino poker rooms are often full of very good players just waiting for an inexperienced player to fleece. However some people may be naturally gifted at poker, so take my answer with a grain of salt.

I am an avid Blackjack player. I’ve been using the Hi-Opt 2 system with fair success, but I keep running into the same problem: I often seem to forget the running count while playing my hand. I guess my brain has trouble remembering the count while calculating my hand totals. What is your method for keeping the running count straight in your head?

Adam L. from Los Angeles, USA

To be honest with you I forget the running count myself sometimes. Sometimes if I see an impending distraction I’ll use my fingers to remember the count. Other than that all I can suggest is play more. The more you play the easier it should become.

I was recently playing Pai Gow Poker at the Barona Casino near San Diego, CA. They have different rules from Las Vegas, namely 1) They collect a commission on every hand played - $0.50 on bets between $5-$25 and $1.00 on bets between $30-$100. If every player at the table pushes, the commission is not collected for anyone on the next hand. 2) The Joker is a true "wild" card. Not only does it fill out straights and flushes, but it can be any other card needed in any case. For instance I had the Ks Kd 6c 6s 9h 9d and the Joker. I was able to put the two Kings in the low hand and keep the other 5 cards for a Full House! My question: Is this a better game for the player than the Las Vegas versions, even with the commission on every hand? (I seemed to like it. I ended up winning $142.50 after playing for 3 hours.)

Don from Racine, Wisconsin

Good question. I assume player banking is still allowed. The 5% commission at the Nevada casinos costs the player 1.46%. The house edge in your game depends on how much you bet. It is lowest for a $100 bet, at 1%. I’m ignoring the rule about everybody pushing, that will lower the edge even more. Much like the card rooms of in the Los Angeles area I think there is potential to beat the house edge if you bank enough of a percentage of the action.

I have heard of casinos not paying players, accusing them of being or using "robot" player. What exactly does this mean?


In an effort to exploit games with a small player advantage some online players have used robot players to play the games for them. With downloadable software robots can be programmed to read the cards on the screen, make a decision on how to play them, and then click the screen in the right places. Using a robot can be easier to perform on Java casinos where the URL indicates all the pertinent information. These robots take a lot of expertise and time to use but if done properly can turn a computer into a money making machine. That is why some casinos don’t like them and prohibit them. They may be suspicious if they see an unusually fast rate and consistent rate of play over a long period of time. I also think that sometimes less reputable online casinos looking for any excuse to not pay a winner will falsely accuse the player of using a robot player. Thus they list the rule as a possible last resort to not pay.