A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I have a question about video blackjack vs. table blackjack. I found one of those consoles where you could bet $3 minimums. You could split pairs, double down and everything you can do at a table.
Blackjacks paid 3-2. The low-limit tables in the same casino paid 6-5 on blackjacks. You have to go to $25 minimums to get 3-2 payoffs, and that’s out of my league.
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Is there any reason that I shouldn’t play the machine instead of the table? Is there anything funny in the way the cards are dealt?
A $3 minimum instead suits me just fine, and I like the 3-2 pays on blackjacks.
A. Video blackjack cards in licensed U.S. jurisdictions are determined via random number generator with each card having an equal chance of being dealt. Odds of any given hands being dealt are the same as on table blackjack.
When blackjacks pay only 6-5 instead of 3-2, it tacks 1.4% onto the house edge. That’s enormous in a game where the entire house edge vs. a basic strategy player is measured in tenths of a percent.
In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, you may double down on any first two cards, including after splits, and may split pairs up to three times, the house edge is 0.62% if blackjacks pay 3-2. If blackjacks pay 6-5, the edge shoots up to 1.98%.
So yes, the machine offers a better game.
One caution: Blackjack moves a lot faster on a machine than on a table. There’s no time spent in shuffling or cutting cards. Payoffs are automatic and instant. Instead of 50 hands per hour at a full table or 200 head-to-head with the dealer, you might play 500-plus hands at a machine. Be careful and take that into account when sizing your bets.
Q. Out of the possible 2,598,960 five-card hands in a 52-card deck, do video poker manufactures program all of these combinations into the RNG? Does it also include all possible combinations of royal flushes?
A. All possibilities with a physical deck of cards are included in the virtual decks in video programmers. In licensed U.S. jurisdictions, each of the 52 cards must have an equal chance of appearing on every hand.
The 2,598,960 five-card hands you mention come with the provision that card order doesn’t matter. That’s the case on nearly all video poker games, though there is an exception on machines that pay a larger jackpot for a sequential royal.
The number of hands derives from the presence of 52 cards in the deck. Here’ the way it works:
There’s a 1 in 52 chance of any card being dealt on the first card, but the remaining cards then have a 1 in 51 chance of being dealt as the second card, then 1 in 50, 1 in 49 and 1 in 48. So the number of possible five-card hands dealt in any specific order is 5,251,504,948, or 311,875,200.
But card order doesn’t matter in video poker. As far as you and the machine are concerned, Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10 of the same suit and Jack-King-10-Ace-Queen are the same hand. Any five-card hand can be arranged in 120 different orders, so we can divide the 311,875,200 possible hands by 120. That leaves 2,598,960 possible hands in which order doesn’t matter.
The math works the same way in video poker as on a live five-card poker game. So yes, every possible hand is programmed into video poker games, and each hand has an equal chance of appearing on the initial deal.