casino poker gambling



The House Advantage

If all the player knew was the rules of the game, and if he'd hit, stand, split, or double down and take insurance at whim, how much of an edge do you think the casino would have?

In his groundbreaking Beat the Dealer, Edward O. Thorp estimated that the house might have as much as a 15 percent edge over some players. Later research showed that to be much too high. A player has to be truly bad, making all sorts of wrongheaded plays, to be at a double-digit disadvantage.

Two common bad strategies that some players follow are called "dealer mimic" and "never bust." My pal Ron was guilty of taking elements of both when he decided to stand on 12 when the dealer shows a 2, and stand on soft 17 against a 6.

In never bust, the player stands on all hands of 12 or more. "I hate to bust," said one reader's letter. "So I never do." He doesn't win often enough either.

In dealer mimic, the player simply follows dealer's rules; he hits 16 and under and stands on 17 and over. "If it's good enough for the dealer, it's good enough for me," goes the logic. Only it's not good enough. Both never bust and mimic the dealer give the house advantages of about 5 percent. On the average, for every $100 you bet, you'll lose $5.

Where does the edge come from? From just one source: The player finishes out his hand before the dealer, and therefore has the opportunity to bust first. Whenever the player busts, he loses, regardless of whether the dealer busts.

The dealer busts about 28 percent of his hands. The player who mimics the dealer will also bust 28 percent of the time. The house edge is the overlap-the 8 percent of hands on which the dealer busts, but the player busts first.

If such hands were declared ties, then the player and the dealer would win the same percentage of the time. Instead, the house ?wins those hands and builds an 8 percent casino advantage at the core of the game.

The Single-Table Tournament
Normally, single-table events are played as satellite tournaments for larger events, although they needn't necessarily lead to a larger event.

A single-table event begins with between eight and ten players, depending on whether the game is a stud or flop variety. Usually there is only one prize. If the event is a satellite, the prize is a seat in a bigger event.

For example, suppose a $1,060 seven-card stud tournament ($1,000 of which is the buy-in, and $60 the entry fee). Eight players enter each such tournament. As soon as eight players pay up, a TA starts accepting entries for the next satellite. The event costs $145 to enter; with eight players starting, the casino collects $1,160. The satellite winner receives a fully paid $1,060 seat into the day's main event. No one else receives anything (except the casino, which has made a $100 profit ... actually $160 when you count the money it will collect from the main event entry fee).
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