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Playing the law of averages in blackjack

Playing the law of averages in blackjack

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I read that blackjacks happen an average of once every 21 hands. That seems like good information.

If you don’t get a blackjack for a while, when’s the right time to raise your bet? After 10 hands? More? Less? It seems like you should bet more when the chance of getting a blackjack is 1 in 11 instead of 1 in 21.

What about when you’ve just had a blackjack? Should I lower my bet back down to my base? Should I use a sliding scale, like $10 bets after I’ve just had a blackjack, $15 if there have been five hands without one, $20 after 10 hands and so on?

I want to bet my most money when the bigger payoff is most likely.

A. That’s a worthy goal, but counting hands between blackjacks won’t get you there.

Blackjacks do happen an average of once per 21 hands, but that’s an average, not a guarantee. You can go twice as many hands or longer without a blackjack turning up.

In a streak of blackjack-less hands, you can see a normal or even higher than normal proportion of 10-value cards come out and just not be paired with Aces. You can see a normal or higher than normal of proportion of Aces come out and not be paired with 10s.

The deck can be depleted of 10s and Aces, decreasing the likelihood of blackjacks, even in a no-blackjack streak.

The information you need to raise your bets with any positive effect is the concentration of 10s and Aces in the remaining deck. When low cards have been coming out and there’s a higher than normal concentration of high cards yet to come, the frequency of blackjacks increases.

That’s what card counters do. They track the proportion of high and low cards so they can make bigger bets when blackjacks are most likely.

Your proposed method of raising bets in blackjack dearths can have you betting more money when blackjacks are LESS likely than normal.

Q. I played baccarat for the first time and had a nice sesson. I was betting $10 a hand, mostly on banker but sometimes on player, and I won $125. Yay!

One thing I noticed is that they charge the 5 percent commission on banker bets only when you win. I’ve played craps for a long time, and I used to buy 4 and 10, and they took the commission on all bets. I found out that the house edges were still pretty high on the buys, so I stopped making them. But my baccarat experience got me to wondering, what if craps took the commissions only when you won?

A. You must not have run into this, but some casinos take commissions on buy bets only when you win.

Buy bets are the same as place bets, except you pay the house a 5 percent commission in exchange for having winning bets paid at true odds. If you place or buy 4, you win when the shooter rolls a 4 and lose if the roil is 7.

On a place bet, winners are paid at 9-5 odds and the house edge is 6.67 percent. If you pay the commission and buy the 4, your winners are paid at 2-1 odds and the house edge is reduced to 4.76 percent. But if the commission is charged only on winners, the house edge drops all the way to 1.67 percent.

The same applies to place and buy bets on 10. It’s worth asking if the commission is charged on all buy bets or just on winners.

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