A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I learned to play craps from my grandfather, and grandpa always insisted on scouting out tables before he played. He would not play at a table where players weren’t winning.
I guess I have some of grandpa in me. I like to look over the tables and see if anyone’s winning, and if nobody is, I’ll go do something else.
Is that crazy?
A. I wouldn’t call it crazy, but I wouldn’t call it helpful in an attempt to win more, either.
If players are winning, players are in a good, even festive mood. The dealers probably are being tipped well, so that puts the crew in a good mood, too.
If the goal is playing in a festive atmosphere, then scouting tables can help.
But as far as winning or losing, scouting makes no difference. There is no tendency for hot tables to stay hot or cold tables to stay cold.
Remember, the dice don’t know what the previous results have been.
A limited test from the 1990s can give you an idea of what to expect. For nearly a year, every time I was in a casino in the Midwest, South and in Nevada, I stopped by a craps table, waited until I saw two consecutive passes, then tracked the result of the next decision — not as good a sample as a million-hand computer run, but a lot more time-consuming.
The result: Pass bettors won 489 wagers and lost 511 on the next sequence after two consecutive wins. There was no tendency for the dice to stay hot.
I also watched 1,000 trials that started with two don’t passes, then charted the next decision. The dice passed 496 times in those 1,000 trials a mere three more passes than the expected average. There was no tendency for cold dice to stay cold, either.
The best you can say about a hot table is that it HAS BEEN hot, and the worst you can say about a cold table is that is has been cold. Neither gives you any indication of what will happen going forward.
Q. I found a video blackjack machine that paid 3-2 on blackjacks. I’d read that one of the problems with video blackjack was that blackjacks paid even money, so the house edge was higher on a machine than at a table.
On this one, it looked to me like I was getting at least as good a deal at the machine as at a table.
Aside from the atmosphere of table games and the social thing with other players and the dealer, is there a reason to choose the table version if the house edge is just as low on a machine?
A. There are a couple of things. Video blackjack typically give you a fresh deal for every hand, so there is no opportunity to count cards.
That affects a small minority of players. Most don’t try to count. But there is a reason that affects everyone: Video blackjack plays much faster than table blackjack. There is no wait for other players to make decisions, for the dealer to settle bets or for a shuffle.
At a full seven-player blackjack table, you’ll play 50 to 60 hands an hour. At video blackjack, you can play 500 or more. A $5 bettor at the table will risk $250 to $300 an hour. A $1 bettor on a machine will risk $500 or more.
Size your bets accordingly, and watch out for speed traps.