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Last Updated: February 9, 2006

Card Sharks

Introduction

Cards Sharks is a casino table game based on the former television game show of the same name. It is similar to the casino game Catch a Wave.

Rules

Following are the complete rules for Card Sharks.

  1. The game is played with 4, 6, or 8 ordinary 52-card decks.
  2. All cards are scored as in poker, except aces are always high.
  3. Player makes a bet according to table limits.
  4. Player is dealt a card face up.
  5. Player may keep the card he was given or replace it with the next card in the shoe.
  6. Player must choose whether the next card in the shoe is higher or lower than his current card.
  7. The next card is dealt.
  8. If the player guessed incorrectly he loses and the game is over.
  9. If the new card is equal in rank to the player's card then the player loses and the game is over.
  10. If the player chose correctly the new card becomes the player's new card and the last card is put in the discard tray.
  11. Steps 6 to 10 are repeated two more times.
  12. If the player made three correct guesses then he is said to have completed level 1 and moves onto level 2.
  13. As in rule 5, the player has the option to replace his current card with the next card in the shoe.
  14. Steps 6 to 10 are repeated three times.
  15. If the player makes an incorrect guess, or gets a matching rank, anywhere in level 2, then the player shall win 1 to 1.
  16. If the player completes level 2 then he shall win 3 to 1.

An optional "tie" side bet is also available. Following are the rules of the side bet.

  1. The side bet may only be made at the same time the primary wager is made. The casino may decide the betting limits.
  2. The side bet shall win in the event the player ever loses the primary wager on a tie. The payoff odds shall depend on the order of the decision made and whether or not the tie is on an ace, as shown in table 1.
  3. Only higher or lower decisions shall count as a decision point.
  4. A tie when switching cards does not resolve the side bet.
  5. If the player completes the game or loses by reason other than a tie then the tie side bet shall lose.

Tie Bet Pay Table

Decision Point 2-K Tie Ace Tie
1 10 to 1 40 to 1
2 5 to 1 20 to 1
3 4 to 1 10 to 1
4 3 to 1 6 to 1
5 2 to 1 4 to 1
6 1 to 1 2 to 1

Strategy

There are two types of decisions in Card Sharks: (1) higher or lower, and (2) whether to switch a card. The following table shows the proper strategy for both decisions according to the last card played.

Card Sharks Strategy

Card Higher/Lower Switch?
2 Higher No
3 Higher No
4 Higher No
5 Higher Yes
6 Higher Yes
7 Higher Yes
8 Side in majority Yes
9 Lower Yes
10 Lower Yes
J Lower Yes
Q Lower No
K Lower No
A Lower No

The tricky card is the 8. In this situation the player should consider the history of cards already played, or least what is on the table, and pick lower if the remaining shoe is rich in high cards, and vice versa.

Game Analysis

The following tables show the house edge for 4 decks is 1.15%, for 6 decks is 1.78%, and for 8 decks is 2.09%. This is based on a player who only considers the cards on the table with an 8. Keeping track of previously played hands can substantially cut down these figures, but not enough to overcome the house edge.

Card Sharks - Return 4 Decks

Event Pays Probability Return
Loss -1 0.635954 -0.635954
Complete level 1 1 0.233822 0.233822
Complete level 2 3 0.130224 0.390673
Total 1 -0.011459

Card Sharks - Return 6 Decks

Event Pays Probability Return
Loss -1 0.637785 -0.637785
Complete level 1 1 0.233313 0.233313
Complete level 2 3 0.128902 0.386705
Total 1 -0.017768

Card Sharks - Return 8 Decks

Event Pays Probability Return
Loss -1 0.638707 -0.638707
Complete level 1 1 0.233045 0.233045
Complete level 2 3 0.128248 0.384743
Total 1 -0.020919

Tie Bet Analysis

The next table shows the return table for the Tie bet with 4 decks. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 4.92%.

Tie Side Bet - 4 Decks

Decision Point Ace Tie Probability Pays Return
6 Yes 0.000765 40 0.030583
5 Yes 0.001024 20 0.020488
4 Yes 0.00272 10 0.027203
3 Yes 0.002145 6 0.012871
2 Yes 0.002806 4 0.011224
1 Yes 0.008598 2 0.017197
6 No 0.013105 10 0.131051
5 No 0.019218 5 0.096089
4 No 0.023688 4 0.094752
3 No 0.036597 3 0.109791
2 No 0.053738 2 0.107476
1 No 0.063842 1 0.063842
Loss 0.771754 -1 -0.771754
Total 1 -0.049188

The next table shows the return table for the Tie bet with 6 decks. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 3.49%.

Tie Side Bet - 6 Decks

Decision Point Ace Tie Probability Pays Return
6 Yes 0.00077 40 0.030788
5 Yes 0.00104 20 0.020808
4 Yes 0.002768 10 0.027681
3 Yes 0.002175 6 0.013047
2 Yes 0.002861 4 0.011445
1 Yes 0.008758 2 0.017517
6 No 0.013241 10 0.132412
5 No 0.01943 5 0.097149
4 No 0.02403 4 0.096119
3 No 0.037171 3 0.111513
2 No 0.054664 2 0.109328
1 No 0.065198 1 0.065198
Loss 0.767894 -1 -0.767894
Total 1 -0.034887

The next table shows the return table for the Tie bet with 8 decks. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 2.72%.

Tie Side Bet - 8 Decks

Decision Point Ace Tie Probability Pays Return
6 Yes 0.00078 40 0.031199
5 Yes 0.00104 20 0.020808
4 Yes 0.002793 10 0.027932
3 Yes 0.002195 6 0.013169
2 Yes 0.002885 4 0.011539
1 Yes 0.008835 2 0.01767
6 No 0.013322 10 0.133221
5 No 0.01955 5 0.097749
4 No 0.024236 4 0.096943
3 No 0.037435 3 0.112304
2 No 0.055152 2 0.110303
1 No 0.065894 1 0.065894
Loss 0.765885 -1 -0.765885
Total 1 -0.027154

Locations

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas had the game for a short time in 2006. Foxwoods has offered the game for years but I have an uncomfirmed report that they took it out. I also have an uncomfimred report that it is available at the Pala in California (4 decks).


Written by: Michael Shackleford

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