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Deal Me In


The math always favors the casino winning it back

Dear Mark: I enjoyed your response last week when you played referee on what Gary R. thought was a misdeal when the dealer had a 17, kept hitting, busted, but the dealer still took his bet. I am sure you would agree that not all casinos would have scooped up his wager. Anyhow, I have a protocol question relating to what should have happened next. That one extra card dealt now makes the deck completely out of sequence from when the dealer first shuffled the cards. What is the policy now? Does the dealer keep dealing or immediately shuffle up? Tom O.


Again, Tom, I played referee to Gary R’s inquiry based on the rules and regulations of the casinos where I had worked. I kept how I would have handled his scenario out of my answer. 

This week time for a disclaimer: When working on the inside, Yours Truly did not necessarily make every decision According to Hoyle. I tried my best to remain consistent, but I will also admit there were times I would drift from black and white into gray..

I had a strong belief that customer service was paramount and border decisions should favor the player unless the mistake was illegal or egregious. I would constantly ask myself “do we want lose to a customer for life over a $50 slip-up?” The math always favors the casino, and when you show a little generosity and let the customer keep what technically isn’t theirs, the house still ends up getting it all back within a hand or two anyway. Believe me when I tell you that I have seen plenty of customers get into a tizzy over less, cash out, and never be seen again.         

As to your “what happens next” question, had Gary R. been sitting on a single or double deck game, the dealer should have shuffled up after the incident. If it were a shoe or auto shuffler, typically you would just play on.


Dear Mark: Here in Reno, casinos have multi-game machines that offer different games like Video Poker, Blackjack, Keno, etc. Do all of these games operate based on the same odds as a table game? Andy R. 


Reno, and similarly all gaming jurisdictions use random number generators for player results on all electronic games. In Nevada, it is a state law that any electronic game that uses representations of cards, dice, keno balls, even a roulette ball spinning round and round must be based on fair odds. To achieve the same odds as that of a hand dealt game, the game maker uses a random number generator for each game within the same machine. 

Dear Mark: I tend to do better at slots when I play during the day. Is there a particular time of day that it is better to play slots than another? Janice B.


No, Janice. The odds remain the same regardless of the time of day. 

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Numbers have souls, and you can’t help but get involved with them in a personal way.” – Paul Auster, The Music of Change (1990)


Consistency is the key here

Dear Mark: I was sitting on third base on a blackjack game with a wager of $50 and was dealt a 16. The dealer was showing a three, so I followed the rules of basic strategy and stayed. The dealer proceeded to flip over the three and had a two underneath. The dealer continued to hit her five with another two, then a Queen – which up to that point totaled a 17 – then took another hit and got an eight, now totaling 25. A bust hand anyway you count it. 

What the dealer proceeded to do next still baffles me. She slid the eight aside and then took my money. I argued the call and asked for the pit boss, and he too agreed with the dealer, stating that the dealer was correct, and I wasn’t going to get my $50 back. Isn’t this a misdeal?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter and will go with your opinion. Gary R. 


As you wish, Gary, I will play referee here and will give you an unbiased answer based on the rules and regulations of the joints where I have worked, and possibly not where you played. 

So, what should have been the proper handling of your $50 misfortune? More than likely the way it was handled, just so long as it is based on what their policy is. As long as you are getting consistency among pit bosses within the same casino, operating under the same rules, consider it a fair shake. 

One likes to think decisions on any table game are NOT based on arbitrariness, with different pit bosses, even in the same pit, rendering contrary decisions. Calling a particular hand differently confuses casino clientele. That is why most casinos have inch-thick table games manuals with rules and regulations covering every possible situation.

Now let’s look at the dealer’s error, the failure to stop at 17. Gary, buddy, it happens. Dealers deal approximately a half million hands a year of dealing, counting, and paying and taking (300 hands an hour, six hours a night, five shifts weekly). You should come to expect an occasional mishap. An egregious error it was not. Nothing sinister happened here. 

Next, note the wording on the felt of every blackjack table. It either states, “Dealer must draw to a 16, and stand on all 17s” or, it could read “Dealer must hit soft 17” – which according to your description of what happened, the dealer hand wasn’t a soft 17. 

“Cards speak,” Gary. Future cards dealt by this dealer were not binding, nor can the dealer on a whim make an arbitrary ruling in your favor. The dealer’s hand was what it was, a 17, regardless of how you call or miscall it. You may want to claim that the dealer’s hand is a misdeal, but her hand is viewed for its genuine value the second it hit 17.

My only concern as to the way you described the incident was that the dealer made an executive decision without calling over a pit boss. Casinos do not want the inmates running the asylum, so someone at a higher pay grade such as a pit boss should always make the call like the one you encountered. 

Finally, that word “misdeal.” What you seldom see on any blackjack game are cards that are backed up, nor do you hear the use of the word “misdeal.” Misdeals in a casino do happen, but they are related to a poker room when cards are dealt without being cut, or cards dealt out of order, but not on a blackjack table. Allowing endless misdeals spawns collusion amongst players in cahoots. 

As stated above, Gary, each casino has its own version of Hoyle to establish civility amongst the savages. As long as their decisions remain consistent, the 17 stands, the money was theirs.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “At home all day playing cards.” – George Washington, Diary, (September 5, 1770)