Ask The Wizard #74

What would be the house advantage for single deck, hit soft 17, double after split, split to total of four hands, double any first two cards, one card on split A’s, Blackjack pays 6 to 5?

Michelle from Las Vegas, USA

This is a popular new gimmick here in Vegas. Many casinos here have prominent signs saying "Single Deck" blackjack. However on a much smaller sign it says "Blackjack pays 6 to 5." Aside from the 6-5 rule the house edge would be 0.05%. However the 6-5 on blackjacks costs the player an additional 1.39%, for a total house edge of 1.44%. This is by far the worst blackjack game in city and I urge you to avoid it.

Why do land casinos make you bet more when playing a second hand in blackjack? When playing on line is there an advantage when playing two or more hands?

Brian from Independence, USA

I think the reason for this is that they don’t want a minimum bet player hogging up two spaces. This will slow down the game and possibly prevent bigger bettors from playing. Not all land casinos have this rule, I think it is more prevalent in Atlantic City, where tables are more crowded, than Las Vegas. Whether online or a land casino there is no advantage to playing more than one hand.

Hi, at there is a game called Pearls for Swine. The pearls are grouped into three rows (5+4+3) ,and on your turn you may remove as many pearls as you like from one row. The object of the game is to leave the last of the pearls for your opponent to take. The player (me) always starts, (and always loses). Why do I never win? My opponent has a cunning system to always win, can you reveal his secret?

Atle from Porsgrunn, Norway

Start by removing 2 pearls from the row with 3, leaving 1+4+5. Regardless of what your opponent does on your next turn leave him with any of the following: 1+1+1, 1+2+3, or 4+4. From any of these force the opponent to a situation of two piles of 2 or more each, or an odd number of piles of 1 each.

Say you are dealt 4 to a flush (4 spades for example.) In triple play video poker, you can get the same card 3 times, 1 on each line (like the 2 of spades for 3 flushes.) However, in spin poker, there is no "replacement" - I could not get the 2 of spades on all 3 lines. Does this change the strategy, or is it offset by the number of lines you can win on?

Tim from Chicago, Ilinois

No, the strategy does not change. The odds are strategy are the same whether the replacement cards are all dealt from the same deck or each hand from a different deck. However there would be less volatility in a game like Spin Poker where all replacement cards are dealt from the same deck.

What was the most money you ever won after walking away from a blackjack game?

Joseph from Shelton, Connecticut

I think about $800. I’m not a very big bettor. I once lost more than that chasing a 2 to 1 blackjack promotion at an Internet casino.

In Washington state some of the small non-Indian casinos offer "no-commission" pai-gow so you only lose equality on ’copies’. Without getting into the various house ways can you give some idea of how this improves the player odds?

R.S. from Seattle, US

The good news in Washington State is that there is no 5% commission, as you said. The bad news is that the dealer is always the banker, thus the player always loses on copies. Overall the house edge in the Washington game is 1.44%.

We have a casino here offer zero commission for the baccarat game. But pay 1/2 if banker win on 8. Is this a favorable edge for the house ,compare to the 5 % commission?

Clint from Singapore

The house edge on the banker bet is 4.07%.

I have down loaded many black jack games from internet both stand alone and on-line. Had played for long time and felt the games are different in difficulty to win especially the slot, (pardon me if I am wrong). If it is true than is there any way to find out if the online games are truly random or any trusted organization we can get truly depend on?

Clint from Singapore

It is a good sign if a casino has an independent auditor to review the log files for fairness and randomness. I used to provide such a service to online casinos myself.

Based on approximately 150 rolls per hour in dice, how many decisions with regard to the point will be made. I was told by someone that there is a decision every 3.6 rolls. Is this correct?

Jeff from Las Vegas, US

The following are the possible outcomes of the pass/come bet and their associated probabilities:

  • Player wins on come out roll: 22.22%
  • Player loses on come out roll: 11.11%
  • Player wins on a point: 27.07%
  • Player loses on a point: 39.60%

So the player will win on a point about 1 in 3.7 rolls.

I was fascinated to read your comment regarding little steel balls not having a memory. I have a roulette wheel at home and the little balls jump up and down with glee when I come home from hospital. Clearly that’s because they remember me, and what’s more I think they would be offended by your remarks. On my planet roulette is not allowed because the little balls can be bribed so easily. I think your planet stinks and now I can’t afford to repair my spacecraft to get back home.

Oh, and the man behind me in the white coat wants to say that he loves your web site and is grateful for all the work you have put in to show the math. He says it saved him a lot of time and money. Keep up the good work.


I’m happy to have helped the main in the white coat. My roulette advice is limited to games on earth, bribery is recommended on your planet.