The Futility of Video Blackjack

Question: I've been playing video blackjack at my favorite casino lately, and my results haven't been very pretty. How does video blackjack differ from live casino blackjack, and are there any special video blackjack strategies that can help me gain an edge?

Blackjack, as played in most casinos, has the lowest casino edge and therefore gives the player the best chance at winning. While not the only reasons for this, two of the main factors are the fact that players win 3 to 2 when they get a natural blackjack and that the game is played rather slowly, with previous hands directly affecting the current game.

With video blackjack, both of those player advantages have been eliminated, making the video blackjack machine little more than a slot machine which clever players think they can beat. Most likely, the video blackjack game you have played has one small, but disastrous, rule change: natural blackjacks pay even money instead of 3 to 2. That rule change alone tips the odds nearly 2.5% in the casino's favor.

Even if you manage to find a machine that pays out 3 to 2, you might still be getting hit if the machine rounds down the amount won. For instance, if you get a natural blackjack on a $5 bet, at 3 to 2 you would receive $7.50. But some machines only deal in whole dollars and round cents down, making your win only $7 and short-changing you your fairly-won fifty cents.

Moreover, each new video blackjack hand is dealt from a freshly-shuffled deck (or multiple decks), which eliminates any possibility of counting cards and knowing what might come next. Of course, most people can't count cards and shouldn't even try, but even then the speed of video blackjack works against you. The casino's edge in a game like blackjack becomes more pronounced the more you play, and with a video blackjack machine you can play hundreds more hands per hour than you would with a live dealer.

As for any special strategies to help you win video blackjack, there isn't much to it. Blackjack basic strategy still works pretty well, so your best bet is to pick a machine that pays 3 to 2 on blackjacks, only bet in even amounts, and follow basic strategy to the letter.

And then hope to get lucky.

Question: Modern slot machines which print out and accept tickets seem to be everywhere now. What effect do these machines have on bankroll management and the ability of players to save their slot winnings?

With the exception of a few nostalgic romantics, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't like the new breed of ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) machines which have become ubiquitous in modern casinos.

The casinos adore them because they save huge amounts of money which were previously wasted on staff to maintain the machines and manage the coins. Players love them because they no longer have to haul their bankroll or winnings around in a filthy plastic bucket.

A big bucket of coins, or a pile of winnings which has just poured out of a slot machine, is not an easy thing to keep track of. The coins can be almost impossible to count, and far too easy to dip into one to many times to feed the machine and try for a bigger jackpot. However, a printed ticket sitting in your jacket pocket or purse is just as easy to slip out when you're running low on credits and think that the next big win is just a spin away.

TITO machines have made the process of cashing out winnings and moving them from place to place easier than ever before. What kind of effect that has on your ability to manage your bankroll and save your winnings depends on you.

About The Author

Insider casino expert Mark Pilarski worked nearly every job in his 18 years in the casino industry, from dealer to cashier to shift manager. Armed with that experience, he created the legendary Hooked on Winning casino advice audio series and he currently lectures and writes gambling columns for various websites, newspapers, and magazines.

  • "The casinos doesn't have all the advantages, you can always stop playing whenever you want. Be smart and quit while you're ahead or before you lose more money than you can handle."

  • "Across from the stickman sits the boxman. The boxman is in charge of the craps table, he watches the dealers to ensure correct payouts, verifies the dice, and controls the drop box."

  • "You cannot convert your chips back to cash at the table. Instead, ask to 'colour up' and the dealer will convert your stack to higher denominations. Then take your chips to the cashier's cage to get cash back."

  • "Bets must be made before a new blackjack hand is dealt. You cannot place a bet or change your bet once the dealing starts, so remember to pick up any winnings before the next hand.'

  • "The cost of playing in a casino can be deceiving. Unlike going to the ballet where the price is set, the price of casino gambling can change quickly and can be impossible to predict."