Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Frank Scoblete
Blackjack Is Still Beatable27 September 2007
If a store sold goods below the cost of what it paid for them, that store would not last very long. All businesses need to make a profit to stay in business, and the bigger that business is, the more pressure there is to increase profits year in and year out. If you have stockholders the pressure to increase profits becomes monumental.
Casinos are big business - they are some of the biggest businesses in the world today. And they want to make as much profit as they can. Many casino companies have shareholders and these companies have to keep increasing their profit year after year. And little increases are not all that welcomed. Hungry shareholders want more and more.
That means each and every game must make the casino money and every year the casinos expect them to make more money than the year before. And, thankfully for them, each and every game does make them money, although not each and every game comes through each and every year with increased profits.
We are now seeing some interesting changes in the gaming landscape - one very good and one very bad. Vegas is heralding these changes but you will soon see them in Atlantic City, Tunica, Biloxi and the Midwest.
Blackjack is a wonderful example of a game that started off in the 1940s and 1950s a far distant second behind the lion-king of craps, but with the publication in the 1960s and 1970s of card counting systems intended to beat the game, blackjack zoomed into the stratosphere. While hundreds of thousands of players now knew that blackjack was beatable and flocked to the tables, only a few hundred had the savvy, discipline, knowledge and bankroll to actually gain the edge over the house.
It wasn't smooth, however, because the casinos panicked.
When it first came to light that blackjack could be beaten, the casino executives immediately changed the rules of the game and added multiple-deck games. That panicked reaction first resulted in decreased play as blackjack players could see that they were losing more playing the same way as they had before. The new rules were rotten, the multiple-deck games torturous. If a player loses more, the tendency on many players' parts is to stop playing. So the casinos put back all the old rules, although they did keep the multiple-deck games in their inventory, and blackjack profits then soared into the blackjack-o-sphere.
Today blackjack has five times as many players as does craps. Only those infernal slot machines have surpassed blackjack in the moneymaking category but that's another story. Blackjack is the king of the table games.
However, a strange wrinkle is creasing the face of the blackjack king. In recent years to increase profits on their blackjack games, Vegas casinos have instituted reforms. Bally's created a single-deck game with a 6 to 5 payout for blackjacks instead of the traditional 3 to 2 (or 6 to 4) payout. In these games, the dealer also hit on soft-17 (a casino-friendly rule) and the players were limited in their splitting and doubling options. Using the normal basic strategy for single-deck blackjack, the house edge zoomed from about two-tenths of one percent to about 1.5 percent - an almost eightfold increase for the house! That means this "new" blackjack game could really bring in the money if the players started to play it.
This new single-deck game has spread to many Vegas casinos. It is now in Atlantic City and I believe there are some tables in Tunica.
The next innovation was called the "continuous shuffle machine" which could keep the game going without any pause to shuffle the cards. The dealer just keeps dealing out of this machine and there is never any lag time. This increases the number of hands the players can play by 20 percent - a huge increase. That should translate into about a 16 percent greater take on the basic strategy blackjack player and an even greater take on the average blackjack player.
With the imposition of these two "new" blackjack games you would have to guess that the Vegas blackjack profits have gone through their glittering roofs. You would have to guess that the executives who brought these games in are smiling up a storm and being patted on the back by happy shareholders.
The fact is that blackjack profits for the past three years are down in Vegas. Fewer people are now playing the game. Why is that? Our guess, and it's just a guess, is that even non-expert blackjack players can see they are losing more than ever before at these new blackjack games and they have cut down or stopped playing. While these "new" games do have substantially higher house edges, with much fewer people playing them, the house is not making its money. A restaurant that wants to increase its clientele and its profits cannot do that if they deliberately offer poorer food than they did before. That is business suicide.
So for all we know blackjack might be in the early stages of its death knell.
But the good news is that the old lion-king of craps is making a comeback in Vegas. In fact, the profits recently have gone up by 26 percent! Now why is that? What has changed to make craps a more attractive game for players to play?
Nothing about the game has changed but something about the players has. It is now common belief in a large part of the craps-playing community that craps can be beaten by controlled shooting; that players can get an edge over the house by taking care with their rolls. If you go to a craps table today, you will see many more shooters setting the dice on specific numbers and attempting to have those numbers hit or that dreaded 7 not hit. There are more dice setters today than ever before.
And just about all of them are losers.
Yes, there are some few craps players who might be able to get the edge at the game [the Golden Touch Craps crew, for starters] but the immense number of new players in Vegas are not among these few. Recall what happened with blackjack in the 1960s and 1970s - the profits went up as knowledge that the game could be beaten went out into the public sphere. A few people could beat the game, yes, but thousands more could not and the casino profits went up.
That's what's happening in craps today. The profits are starting to go up - at least that seems to be the indicator. Now, if no panic occurs among casino executives, we should start to see more and more people being attracted to the game of craps - and helping those casino profits continue to go up.
Of course, if you play the traditional game of blackjack with the 3 to 2 payout for naturals, with the dealer standing on soft-17, with the ability to double on any first two cards, split any pairs, and double after splits, and you know your basic strategy, you are still playing one of the best games ever brought into a casino. That game is, in fact, still beatable by savvy players - so get out there and play that game and ignore the "new" versions.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network.
Best of Frank Scoblete