Ask The Wizard #85

First of all, I can’t commend you enough for your web site and information that you continue to detail not only online, but on TV and in your newsletters. I know I can always turn to you whenever I have a thorny question about gambling math.

My question relates to what has come to be known in certain blackjack circles as The Flaw. In a nutshell it says that the original creators of basic strategy programmed a flaw into their calculations which has been recreated over and over again by other mathematicians when they’ve come up with their basic strategy. As one proponent of ’The Flaw’ proclaims, "only 3 others that know post on this board. One is the recently retired IBM type, who confirms that to find the Flaw a computer simulation would have to be programmed to do so-therefore prior knowledge is REQUIRED. The math boyz are certain that they are right; but Thorp can’t figure why so few win. One percent says it all."

So, what is The Flaw, and is there any truth to it? Or is it theoretically BS? I know it’s easy to dismiss the nay sayers out of hand, but I’m intrigued.


Thanks for the kind words. This "flaw" theory is a load of crap, which is not surprising considering the cesspools where talk of it is usually found. It isn’t the case that one person created the basic strategy and every other blackjack expert just copied it. Numerous mathematicians have developed the basic strategy from scratch and have all come up with the same thing. I find it highly unlikely that every one of them, including me, programs in the exact same flaw.

Are you supposed to tip the person who pays you if you hit a slot machine for an amount not paid by the machine itself? I heard that this is proper etiquette. This seems absurd if I were to win say $375 on a machine after putting in approximately the same amount beforehand. I am certainly not against tipping, but it’s not like this person is a dealer who I actually have some sort of contact with. Thank you,

Sal Vetro from Miller Place, New York

If you just hit a jackpot over $1200 requiring a hand pay then it is proper etiquette to tip. Even if you lost more than that in your sitting you still should tip. The reason is the slot personnel perform a service not just bringing you your win (and W2G form) but also making change and refilling machines. Losing is not a valid reason to avoid saying "thank you" with your money. That goes for table games too.

It is another matter when you hit "cash out" and your machine runs out of coins before it can finish paying you. Although I haven’t seen this addressed elsewhere I will go out on a limb and say that tipping in this situation is not necessary. The reason is that it is partially the casino’s fault for letting the machine run low on coins, and that if anything the casino should tip you for the inconvenience of waiting for the hopper fill. Personally I welcome the advance of coinless slots, and with them the elimination of hopper fills.

Which are the most and least volatile games?


Pai gow poker is the least volatile and on average keno is the most.

Mr. Wizard, I just recently played on a Casino Boat that had a Bust Bet at the Blackjack table. You could place this even money bet at anytime after seeing the dealers’ up card. Is this a bad bet and what might the odds be? Thank You.


This is a sucker bet. The most likely time the dealer will bust is with a 6 up. However even then the dealer will only bust 42% of the time, give or take depending on the exact rules, for a house edge of 16%.

Some friends and I were in AC last weekend at the Claridge, where we spent the evening playing something called "Multiple Action Blackjack." If you do not know about it, basically, you can bet either 2 or 3 times. You are dealt your hand and the dealer is dealt one card (face up). You hit/stand/double/split as in normal AC blackjack. The dealer resolves the first bet normally, then keeps the original face-up card and starts all over again, resolving the 2nd bet, and then the 3rd. Essentially, you are playing the same hand 2-3x vs the same dealer "face-up card".

It seemed to us that this changed the strategies for blackjack somewhat. It seemed to place a higher priority on staying in the game (not hitting on various soft hands) so as not to lose 3 bets at once by going over. For example, with the dealer showing an 8, you would normally hit a 16, but in this game, it seemed as if we were better off standing on 16 and hoping that the dealer busted at least once out of the 3, thus losing 2 out of 3 rather than 3 out of 3 for busting ourselves.

I was wondering if you’d heard of this variation and how it changes the basic strategy for blackjack. I’m also wondering what the House Edge is for this version as opposed to normal blackjack played in AC.

Jim Ghiloni

The strategy for Multiple Action Blackjack is the same as regular blackjack. By standing on 16 against an 8 your chances of a total loss are less. However the safe thing to do is not always the right thing to do. Hitting will result in a greater chance of winning 2 or all 3 hands. Think of it as playing the same hand three times in a row. What is right for one hand is right for three hands, or any number.

Hi! I have a question regarding the Microgaming no hole card rule for single deck BJ game. I remember reading in some forum that you concluded there is no difference to the HA whether the hole card is dealt or not at the beginning of the game. Is that true? I do notice that Microgaming has a higher chance of blackjack.

Taking as an extreme example:
Dealer - Ace
Player - 2,A followed by A,A,2,2 (soft 19).

Wouldn’t the dealer’s chance of BJ be increased by the fact that 4 more non-face cards were removed by the player in a single deck? On the other hand, the player can never remove enough face cards to significantly lower the chance of dealer’s blackjack. Please let me know what you think. Thanks.


Although I don’t remember saying that it is true. The probability of the dealer’s hole card being a ten is the same whether it was dealt up front (as in Microgaming casinos) or after the player’s turn (as in European casinos). In your example, yes, the dealer’s chance of getting a blackjack does go up, but it would go up either for the next card in the deck or a hole card. An unseen card is an unseen card, much in the same way the effect is the same whether the dealer burns a card or deals one less card out of the shoe. I hope this answers your question.