Saturday, October 1, 2022

I always believed that if I got to at least a 17 every hand in blackjack, I would have an edge over the casino. My cousin believes that a 17 is pretty much a worthless hand. Who’s right? Cody G.

Your cousin is, Cody. A 17 loses more times than it wins and has the distinction of being the world’s most overrated hand. A 17 can only win by default, when the dealer busts. The 18 is a better hand, but even it loses slightly more often than it wins.

 

The bottom line, though, is that the power and strength of any blackjack hand depends on what the dealer is showing and how you play your hand. The dealer is at his weakest when showing a 5, 6, 4, 3, or 2. (Among those, his 5 is weaker than his 6, because with a 6 he could have an ace in the hole.) If only we could decree that those up-cards appear often enough, that 17 would begin to look like a decent hand. How’re you fixed for decrees?

 

Dear Mark,

I did, for a while, major in math while attending college. I have still retained some of the knowledge gained with respect to calculating odds and calculated the odds regarding a royal flush. I came up with the likelihood of hitting a royal flush 1 in every 649,740 hands. This is with a single deck and no wild cards. Can you tell me whether the reader who wrote in and quoted you as saying it would happen 1 in 40,000 hands misquoted you or did you miscalculate? James O.

 

Congratulations and best regards to your math teacher! Aside from a minor oversight, James, you’re right on.

 

I didn’t major in math nor did I retain much of what Sister Cyrilla taught me in fifth grade, so at the get-go I yield: your pencil is sharper than mine. But, what I actually stated was that you must hit the royal flush once in every 40,000 hands, on average, for your theoretical edge to swim up out of the deep. And the odds of getting that royal flush are firmly stuck at 40,000 to one. What you forgot to consider was that with video poker you get to draw cards.

 

Your math expresses the chance for a natural, no draw, royal flush. There, your calculation is nearly correct. The odds of being dealt a royal flush on your opening poker hand really are 649,739 to one.

 

Dear Mark,

A roulette dealer advised me that I was making the worst bet on the table. What’s wrong with the five-number bet? Jenny S.

 

Ah, the ill-fated “house special.” Yuck! Our dealer friend, Jenny, was correct. The five-number wager, 0, 00, 1, 2, 3, is the worst bet on the roulette table, with a house edge of well over 7%. Compare that to the 5.26% the house is already Sbobet hijacking from you. This worst-of-all bets can only be made on an American 0, 00 wheel. Unfortunately, though, the single zero wheel scarcely exists in today’s American casinos. So, this columnist’s recommendation to stick strictly to the single zero wheel may be a touch difficult to follow. I hear that in the Bahamas…

 

There is sound reason, Jenny, why they call this bet “the beast with five numbers.” My own characterization of the five-number some find less diplomatic: money rushing down the bye-bye cavity of a finely crafted toilet bowl.

 

Gambling thought of the week: My father once told me never to bet on anything but Notre Dame and the Yankees. … New Jersey’s Governor Brendan Byrne, on cutting the ribbon opening Resorts Casino. (As for always betting on Notre Dame… well, fathers can’t always be right.)

 

 

 

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