Q. I've been told that if I just keep doubling
my money when I lose a hand I'll eventually win it back
sometime, thereby covering my initial stake, and so
I must win in the long run. Is this not true?
A. As you might have guessed, it is not true. For a fuller explanation
see the section under Myths &
Fallacies. Essentially, you are trading off the chance of winning
a small percentage at the end, say 90% of the time, but losing all
of your money 10% of the time. The laws of statistics won't let
you have your cake and eat it. Because you have a limited bank balance,
and because the house usually has upper limits on the amount you
can bet per hand, there may come a time where you simply can't
double your bet any more and you've lost the previous bet's large
card counting all about? I hear that you can beat the
casino at Blackjack if you count cards.
A. By playing accurate Blackjack (that is, following
and doing the right thing at the right time) the house
ends up with only a very small percentage over the player,
typically one-half of a percent. By keeping track of
the number of ten-cards that have gone (and hence those
that are left in the shoe) a card-counter can determine
whether the current hand is favourable to them or not.
By choosing to bet bigger on favourable hands and vary
the basic strategy according to the card count, the
card counter can gain an edge on the house. This edge
depends on the casino in question, the particular card-counting
system in use, the amount the stake is raised according
to the count, whether the player is back-betting or
playing at the table and how much 'cover' the player
is using to make it less obvious to the casino that
you are counting.
Counting and betting ruthlessly (i.e. you don't care what the pitt
boss thinks about you) can give the counter up to three
or four percent on the house.
Q. Is card counting cheating?
The casinos would have you believe this, but card counting
is no more cheating than having a better memory, or
studying harder than your classmates, and scoring more
in an exam.
Because the information that a card counter uses is
available to any of the players if they wish, it is
not some form of insider or secret information. If a
player chooses to remember types of cards that have
come up and change their betting strategy accordingly
then this is just being a smarter gambler!
Cheating involves things like card marking, radio telegraphy
of card details, false cutting by dealers, card substitution,
chip substitution and a never-ending list of innovative
methods of deception.
Card counting is simply using the information available
to all in a better way than most. Some sharemarket investors
choose to buy and sell on a whim; others check out the
news, analyse the company's profit & loss, balance
sheets, price-to-earnings ratio and so on. One simply
has a better advantage than the other, though no cheating
is involved (as would be the case if another investor
had inside information and used this to make decisions).
Q. What's the difference
between Pontoon and Blackjack?
There are several big differences between the two games,
though the most important one is that in the household
game Pontoon, the dealer gets to decide whether he or
she will hit or sit; whereas in Blackjack the dealer
must sit if they're on seventeen or above and
must hit if they're on sixteen or below. In contrast,
a Pontoon dealer can have a look at his opponent's cards
and say, 'hey, I've got seventeen, but they've all got
eighteen. if I sit then I lose all my money so I might
as well take another card!'
Other differences are in the exotic types of schemes
that Pontoon carries with it. These include: paying
twice the player's stake if they get five cards and
are under or equal to twenty-one (and sometimes four
times their stake if they get six and under!); allowing
the player to throw back their cards and get two fresh
ones if they're on fourteen; and various other rules
which differ from place to place.
Essentially, Pontoon is a largely concensus-ruled game,
based loosely on a few fundamental ideas. Blackjack,
on the other hand, adheres to very rigorous rules (in
a given casino). The dealer must always follow the rules
- even if it would mean losing to every player. Because
the rules are exact, it is possible to calculate the
odds of beating the dealer at any given stage of play
and therefore draw up a table of what to do and when.
These tables are often called 'correct strategy' or
'basic strategy' tables.
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