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Ask the Wizard #57

Before I ask my questions I just want to say your site is phenomenal! I have two craps questions I was hoping you could answer:

1) Your preference is to count the come out roll of 12 in the calculation of the house edge on the don’t pass. If one was to choose NOT to count it, would the house edge on the pass line combined with full double odds be exactly equal to that of the house edge on the don’t pass line combined with full double odds?

2) Does the overall house edge against player x go up if player x places come bets (which will be backed up with full double odds) after betting the pass line with full double odds? i.e. player x with just a pass line with full double odds = house edge .572%, player x with same bet but places two come bets with full double odds = house edge (.572%)x(3)?

Jay from Hamilton, Ontario

Thanks for your kind words. Here are my answers.

1. If we define the house edge as the expected loss per unresolved bet (not counting ties) then the house edge on the don’t pass would be 1.40%, just barely less than the 1.41% on the pass line bet. If the player can bet more money on the don’t pass side, which is the case in real but not Internet casinos, then the combined house edge favors the don’t side more the greater the multiple of odds allowed.

2. Assuming the player keeps his odds on during a come out roll then the overall house edge does not change if the player adds come bets, backed up with the odds. However if the player keeps the odds off, which is the default rule, then the overall house edge will actually go up slightly by adding come bets.

Are you going to tell us when you will be on the travel channel?

Gil from Saint Petersburg

I plan to tell my newsletter readers. However since you ask it should air sometime in April or May in a show titled something like "The Top Ten Ways to Win." I’ve been interviewed on radio and television before and I can never stand to watch or listen to myself afterward. I always feel I could have done better. So I don’t plan to make a big fuss over it.

I thought your information on tipping was helpful. My question is how do you tip at a black jack table? Where do you put it, when do you tip, how much do you tip?

Brian from Greensburg, U.S.

The vast majority of the time the player makes a bet for the dealer. This is done by putting the tip on the edge of the betting circle, close to the dealer. Think of the tip as orbiting around your bet, where the betting circle is the path of the orbit. If you double down you may or may not also double the dealer’s tip. If you split then I believe you must also make another bet for the dealer. Sometimes when a player leaves the table he will just leave a tip for the dealer, like on a table in a restaurant.

I was playing ’let it ride’ on a video machine last week. Someone told me I would have better odds if I played at a table with 6 players because more cards are out (20 instead of 5). Is he correct?

Phillip from Upper Marlboro, Maryland

No. Unless you can actually see the other player’s cards and use that information correctly in your strategy then the number of other plays makes no difference.

I have just read an article that says it’s proper basic strategy to stand on a multiple card 16, containing a 4 or 5, Vs. a dealer’s 10 in a multiple deck (4 or more decks) blackjack game. I checked your web site and I could only find appendixes for multiple card hands in 1 and 2 deck games. Is this article correct?

Rodney from Clarence, New York

Yes! Good question, even I didn’t know this. The fewer the decks and the greater the number of cards the more this is true. To test the most likely case to favor hitting, 8 decks and only 3 cards, I ran every possible situation through my combinatorial program. The following table displays the results.

Expected Values for 3-card 16 Vs. 10 in 8-deck game

Hand EV Hit EV Stand Best
Probability Return
1/5/10 -0.540978 -0.539872 Stand 0.132024 -0.071422 -0.071276
1/6/9 -0.536558 -0.540151 Hit 0.059837 -0.032106 -0.032321
1/7/8 -0.537115 -0.537003 Stand 0.059837 -0.032139 -0.032133
2/4/10 -0.540947 -0.541 Hit 0.237478 -0.128463 -0.128475
2/5/9 -0.542105 -0.540534 Stand 0.039891 -0.021625 -0.021563
2/6/8 -0.537701 -0.540773 Hit 0.059837 -0.032174 -0.032358
2/7/7 -0.538271 -0.537584 Stand 0.028983 -0.015601 -0.015581
3/3/10 -0.540385 -0.540995 Hit 0.115028 -0.06216 -0.06223
3/4/9 -0.541769 -0.540536 Stand 0.059837 -0.032418 -0.032344
3/5/8 -0.54295 -0.540022 Stand 0.039891 -0.021659 -0.021542
3/6/7 -0.538575 -0.540228 Hit 0.059837 -0.032227 -0.032326
4/4/8 -0.543188 -0.54003 Stand 0.028983 -0.015743 -0.015652
4/5/7 -0.544396 -0.539483 Stand 0.039891 -0.021717 -0.021521
4/6/6 -0.539446 -0.542878 Hit 0.028983 -0.015635 -0.015735
5/5/6 -0.545033 -0.542137 Stand 0.009661 -0.005266 -0.005238
Total 1 -0.540355 -0.540293

The two right numbers in the bottom row show that the overall expected value for hitting is -0.540355 and for standing is -0.540293. So standing is the marginally better play. Following this rule will result in an extra unit once every 1117910 hands. It would take about 5 years playing blackjack 40 hours a week before this piece of advice saved the player one unit.

What is the expected gain of the Grand Martingale system in the game of roulette?

Jane from Dayton, USA

The expected loss is 5.26% of total money bet. This is true of ANY betting system based on American roulette rules.