Ask The Wizard #96

Hi, wiz. Love your site, please keep it up. I have 2 questions would like to ask.

1) Does card counting only work with blackjack? Is it useless or simply not as effective for other card games like baccarat?

2) In your blackjack card counting section, you mentioned that the Ken Uston’s Plus/Minus strategy counts 3-7 as small cards. Doesn’t it seem more reasonable to count 2-6 as small, and 7-9 as natural?


Thanks for the kind words. To answer question one, baccarat is not countable for all practical purposes. I have wondered about your second question myself. I used to use Uston’s Plus/Minus but switched to Wong’s Hi/Low. Looking back I don’t think Wong’s hi/low is much more powerful, but there is much more information about it. My blackjack appendix 7 shows that removing a 2 from each deck adds 0.39% to the player’s return and removing a 7 only adds 0.29%. So if you must track only one the 2 is better. The Knockout Count tracks both the 2 and 7. My opinion is if you haven’t taken up counting yet then the 2-6 Hi/Low is the marginally better way to go, however if you already use something else you should probably stick with that.

The basic strategy chart for blackjack states to hit on a 16 if the dealer has an ace showing. I was wondering if the chart takes into account the fact that once it is known insurance is not paying then the dealer does not have a 10 value card down? This obviously decreases the dealer’s chance of making a hand, but is it enough that a player should stand on a 16?


Yes, the basic strategy assumes the dealer does not have a ten in the hole. Even in Europe where the dealer doesn’t check the hit/stand strategy is still the same because if the dealer has a blackjack the player has no hope anyway. When the dealer has an ace, assuming no blackjack, the probability of making 17 or more is 83.3% when the dealer stands on soft 17. So standing is not even a very borderline play, the odds definitely favor hitting.

Does "cracking your knuckles" result in larger knuckles?


Contrary to popular belief I think cracking your knuckles is totally safe. My chiropractor has cracked my back and neck lots of times and I’m better for it.

I was playing blackjack at the Casino Niagara, jumping from $15 to $300 using an improvised counting system of making a max bet when I saw a lot of small cards leave the deck. Both times I did this the dealer yelled "table max" and the pit crew was suddenly watching the game very closely. How close was I to getting backroomed in your opinion?


I can’t speak for Canada very well but backrooming a card counter would be illegal in the United States. That tactic is only allowed in cases of cheating. However it still has been known to happen. Fortunately in such cases where the counter sued the case the counter won. If I may say I think Canada is more mellow and non-confrontational than the U.S. so I would guess the probability of getting backroomed is even lower there. Although you didn’t ask about it, jumping by a factor of 20 sets off a huge red flag. Most counters who don’t want to attract attention don’t increase their bet by more than a factor of 2 at one time. This is also my policy, unless I feel there is no heat at all.

Is it true casinos pump oxygen in the casinos to keep them happy and awake.


No, not true at all. It is an urban legend.

What set in monopoly is the best?


I like the orange set the best. It offers the best return on investment. For example a hotel costs $500 on the orange set and the average rent is $966.67, for a rent to expense ratio of 1.93. The only set with a higher ratio is the light blue set, at 2.27. However the maximum rent on the light blues is only $600. The rents with three houses on the oranges are the same as the hotels on the light blues, but cost 20% less, with room to build more. Also, the oranges are ripe for landing on just coming out of jail. So take my advice and when trading try to get the orange set.

Do you think the Jacks or Better strategy on your site would work well in live poker?


No! Absolutely not!

In a 5 card draw game if a player is sitting out and the dealer accidentally deals him in. Do the odds change? Or since the cards are random the odds are still the same?


The odds are the same.