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Ask the Wizard #82

Hello, thanks for the great website. There is a lot of helpful information. I hate to bother you, but I wanted to let you know about a variation of blackjack that I played recently. I was at the Oneida Bingo & Casino in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They had a few tables that at first glance looked like 2 deck pitch blackjack. Upon further examination they were using automatic shufflers and according to the rules they listed, this game consisted of eight decks and the automatic shuffler dispensed approximately 100 cards. The game was dealt using these 100 cards. The dealer put the cut card approximately half way in the 100 card deck and then dealt. When the cut card was reached, the dealer would put the cards back in to the automatic shuffler and take 100 more cards from the machine and start dealing again. In this game you could not double down after a split, and you could split up to 3 times. I’m not sure whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17.


Mathematically speaking this is the same as playing from an eight deck game. Players have been known to be fooled, incorrectly thinking these are double deck games. For card counting purposes the penetration is 50 out of 416, or 12.02%.

What is the optimum ratio between the Pairplus and Ante bet in Three Card Poker?

Mark from Jacksonville, Florida

100% Ante and 0% Pairplus. The reason is the Ante bet has a lower element of risk. The house edge is defined as the ratio of the expected loss to the initial wager. The element of risk is defined as the ratio of the expected loss to the average total wager. Although the Pairplus has the lower house edge I believe in comparing one game against another the element of risk should be used. The element of risk on the Pairplus is the same as the house edge, 2.32%, and on the Ante bet the element of risk is 2.01%, assuming full pay rules. Casinos that offer less than full pay take much more from the Pairplus bet, making the Ante even better by comparison. So don’t waste any money on the Pairplus, although the other players will think you’re crazy as a loon.

I have a question about the two blackjack strategies your 8 deck blackjack strategy. First off, the underlying assumption before this question is that hitting on a soft 17 is an advantage to the dealer. Why does the strategy have the player double down more often in situations where the dealer might hit a soft 17,i.e, dealer shows an A or 6, but not double down in those same situations when the dealer stands on a soft 17? If hitting a soft 17 gives the house more of an advantage, why would one want to put more money on the table at those times? Is it possible that the two charts are switched?


You’re right that in general hitting a soft 17 favors the dealer. However this is a generality and not true of every situation. When you have a strong hand of 18 to 21 you want the dealer to stand on a soft 17. However if you have a weak hand under 17 you want the dealer to hit a soft 17. An example of a strategy difference is you should double soft 19 against a 6 when the dealer hits a soft 17, and stand if the dealer stands on soft 17. The reason is that there is a good chance of having drawing a bad card on the double, resulting in 16 or less points. When the dealer hits a soft 17 he busts more often, making doubling a little safer in this example.

At the craps table, I’ve observed that 80% of the people bet on the pass line. From what you say, the don’t pass line has a slightly lower house edge. So why don’t most people bet accordingly?

Dan from Ottawa, Canada

Most player probably don’t know the don’t pass is a slightly better bet. Even those that do probably bet the pass bet because it feels better to be part of a group than to go against it.

First let me say I love your site and will be visiting each of the advertisers to help support it. I hope you are doing very well financially as you are undoubtedly saving a lot of people a lot of money. It is amazing what I see in the casinos and will recommend your site to anyone who will listen (most losers won’t, I get a lot of heat when I hit a 12 vs a dealer 2 even when I explain the math). My question is do you have any advice for Blackjack players participating in Blackjack tournaments? I have participated in a few and have came very close to advancing to the "money" round with no real strategy other than stay close to the leaders on the table and bet it all on the last hand. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Perry O.

Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the thought of visiting the advertisers. However the casinos don’t care about click throughs as much as they used to and now what matters is new real money players, and how profitable those players are. So unless you might actually play there is no pressure any longer to click through the banners.

Blackjack tournaments are not my strong subject. For advice on that I would highly recommend Casino Tournament Strategy by Stanford Wong. Wong says that if you are behind to bet opposite of the leader, small when he bets big, and big when he bets small. If you are in the lead then you should bet with the second highest player. The book gets into much more detail. Speaking of supporting my site, it helps to click through my Amazon links when buying books there.