A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I was once at a Three Card Poker table and the dealer paid out all bets even when they didn’t qualify. I never said a word. I figured it wasn’t my job to properly train the dealers or to supervise them. Of course, the benefit was modest.
A. I think most table games players have seen situations where payoffs were made by mistake. I was even once in a Nevada casino where a dealer paid me on a push knowingly and deliberately.
I was invited to join a group of casino novices in Las Vegas on a training program so I could write about the process. One evening assignment was to play blackjack and report on the experience.
Seven of us played together. Others asked for advice, and the dealer and supervisor handled it with grace, allowing me far more table talk than is normal. A couple won money. No one lost much -- except me. I lost seven hands in a row before pushing with 17. The dealer looked me right in the eye and paid me.
Regulations differ from state to state, but casinos are permitted to ask for the mistake to be returned even if it's not caught immediately. I once had an Illinois reader tell me he'd been paid $10 by mistake at blackjack, but that he lost $100 at the table and was playing at a slot machine half an hour later when a casino manager and security guard showed up to demand the payoff be returned. He was told if he didn't return the money, he could be arrested.
The extent to which casinos will go to recover mistaken payoffs varies from situation to situation, casino to casino and state to state. All states permit casinos to try to recover such payoffs, but some states require it, being loathe to give up tax revenue.
Most of my experiences with mistaken payoffs have been like the reader's. I witnessed no attempt to recover the money.
Certainly, game control and security are the responsibility of casino operators. Dealers and supervisors should be properly trained. And often, there will be no attempt to force a player to return a mistake. Just be aware that some casinos will try to recover mistakes, and that in some jurisdictions the state requires recovery attempts to be made.
Q. I get tired of six-deck blackjack, so I bit the bullet and played a single-deck game. Blackjacks paid 6-5 instead of 3-2, but I like the single deck. The loss from the 6-5 has to be offset by having only one deck, right?
A. The house edge on a six-deck game is nearly six-tenths of a percent higher than on a one-deck game with equivalent rules.
That difference is dwarfed by the effect of blackjacks paying 6-5 instead of the traditional 3-2. The lower payoff adds 1.4 percent to the house edge. In common blackjack games, the house edge attributable to 6-5 payoffs is higher than the entire house edge against basic strategy players in 3-2 games.
In common games where the dealer hits soft 17 and you are allowed to double on any first two cards, including after splits, the house edge against a basic strategy with six decks and 3-2 payoffs is 0.62 percent. Apply the same rules to a single-deck game with 6-5 blackjack payoffs and the edge is 1/40 percent -- more than twice as high as the six-deck, 3-2 game.