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Ways to battle the house edge

By Frank Scoblete


The outstanding television series Breaking Bad had some horrifying things to tell us about being addicted to methamphetamine – popularly known as speed. In the show speed certainly isn’t good for the poor souls using it. Speed – to put it bluntly – kills a person’s personality and ultimately his or her life. It is deadly.

The speed of casino games can be deadly to a player’s bankroll. The faster a player plays, the more decisions a player faces, the worse off his or her bankroll will be after a given length of time. When you play against the house edge, no matter how lucky you can get at times, you are still facing a negative expectation. That is no secret.

Casinos will even advertise that their best slots might return 97 or 98 percent – big signs at the carousels state this clearly. What are these signs telling us? Simply, that the return for your gaming dollar is less than what you put into the machine. That would be like a bank telling you it will take money from your savings and not give you any kind of positive interest whatsoever. The more you put into the bank the more the bank will take its cut.

This is, of course, not news to players. The casinos have to make money or there would be no casinos. So, we players are aware that we are facing a stiff wind when we go up against the house edge. Fair enough.

But there are ways to take some of the flame off the fiery volcano of the casino edge. Reduce the number of decisions we face and do it in a way that does not (I hope) reduce the pleasure of playing our favorite games. Take this to heart: The fewer the decisions the better it is for the player.


This game is the most popular of the table games. It requires accurate strategy for the playing of one’s hands in order to face about a one-half percent house edge. The poorer a player plays, the higher the house edge against him or her.

So first, learn what is called basic strategy which is the computer derived strategy for the play of every player hand versus the dealer’s up card. Although there are many different basic strategies for number of decks and the variety of rules at different games, the variations in such strategies is usually not that great. Pick one and play that one. If you play six-deck games choose the best strategy for six decks.

The average blackjack player can face up to (and even over) 100 decisions an hour. Head-to-head versus the casino dealer is a bad way to play as you will face such huge numbers of decisions. So always play at full or almost full tables to automatically reduce the number of decisions you will face.

Always go to the bathroom when the game is being played and not during a shuffle. The shuffle is dead time – so enjoy it; watch how it is done. Enjoy talking to the other players. Don’t waste such dead-time doing something else. Go to the bathroom when the casino’s edge is actively working against you – which it obviously doesn’t during a shuffle.

Never play automatic shuffle games, particularly against the ones that are called continuous shufflers. These will increase the number of hands you’ll play by about 20 percent and that means (yes, you know it) the casino edge is now working on more of your money.

Look for the best possible rules. For example, only play games where the dealer doesn’t hit soft-17s and also go for games with liberal doubling and splitting rules. Do not play blackjack games where the payoff for a blackjack is 6-to-5.

Unlike a card counter who wants many decisions to help his own edge along, the basic strategy player wants just the opposite, fewer decisions. So look for games where many cards are cut out of play; such cuts will automatically and painlessly reduce the number of decisions you’ll face.

If you happen to be a social type of player encourage everyone to talk during play. This takes effort on my part, since I tend to be quiet at the tables.

If you can get the dealer to talk that’s great. Most dealers have to pause to talk to players. A social, friendly table tends to engage in fewer hands than a bunch of players playing silently and fast. During a shuffle many dealers enjoy a good conversation and this will often extend the duration of the actual shuffle.

Do not play any “jackpot” variations in the game that require you to make extra bets. These extra bets usually come in with much higher house edges than the traditional bets at the game. So here is the mantra: “New? No!” That mantra also applies to any new type of blackjack game.

Always tip your dealer on top of your bet so only the win is taken. In this way you can have winning hands in succession and on each the dealer will be rewarded with a tip but you will only have to pay the one tip.

In the next issue I will look at other table games and give you what I consider to be reasonable ways to reduce the house hit on your bankroll.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Visit Frank’s web site at Frank’s books are available at, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.


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