A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I usually bet $10 or $15 a hand in blackjack, and I’ve gotten into a pattern when it comes to tipping the dealer. Unless I’m on a bad losing streak, I tip after every blackjack. If I’m betting $10, I usually just add a $1 bet for the dealer on the next hand. If I’m betting $15, though, I take the $2.50 chip that comes with my winnings and make it the dealer bet.
I guess my question has to do with what that does to the odds of the game. I’m no card counter. I play basic strategy and do OK, and have a good time. So what am I giving the dealer for a percentage, and how much am I giving per hour?
A. Let’s make a couple of assumptions here, just to make calculations easy. I’m going to assume you’re playing an average of 63 hands per hour. That’s roughly an average figure for a table with six players. If you’re playing at a full seven-player table, the game moves a little slower, and if you’re playing with fewer players, the game picks up speed, up to about 250 hands an hour if you’re playing head-to-head with the dealer.
And I’m going to assume you add about seven bets per hour as split pairs, resplits, or double downs, giving you a total of 70 bets. That means you’re risking $700 at $10 a hand, or $1,050 at $15 a hand.
Blackjacks occur about once per 21 hands, so you’ll average three blackjacks in your 63-hand hour. That means if you’re betting $10 a hand and tipping $1 per blackjack, you’re tipping $3 per hour. If you’re betting $15 a hand and tipping $2.50 per blackjack for tips, you’re using $7.50 an hour to tip the dealer.
When you’re betting $10 a hand, those $1 tips amount to 0.4 percent of your total wagers. That rises to 0.7 percent when you’re betting $15 a hand and tipping $2.50 after each blackjack.
If you wanted to tip the same percentage on your $15 hands as on your $10 hands, then a $1.50 bet for the dealer after a $15 blackjack would be the same 0.4 percent of your overall wagers as a $1 bet after a $10 blackjack. But that’s all up to you. I don’t want to discourage anyone from tipping a friendly dealer. Tips are how the dealers make a living.
Q. I was looking online, and I found a baccarat game with a 4 percent commission instead of a 5 percent commission. Have you ever seen that before? What does it do to the house edge on the banker bet?
A. I have seen 4 percent commissions from time to time at brick-and-mortar casinos. When I was in Las Vegas last fall for the Global Gaming Expo, a 4 percent game was being run at the D Casino on Fremont Street. It’s the casino that for many years was known as Fitzgerald’s.
For those who don’t know baccarat, only two hands are dealt, a player hand and a banker hand. Any bettor can wager on either hand. The banker hand wins more often than the player hand, so the house makes its money by charging a commission on winning baccarat hands.
The standard commission is 5 percent, and at that level, the house edge is 1.06 percent. That’s one of the best bets in the casino. If the commission is lowered to 4 percent, then the house edge drops to 0.6 percent.
A blackjack player at basic strategy or better level might do better, depending on house rules. Craps players who stick to pass or don’t pass and come or don’t come can do better with enough free odds. Skilled video poker players can do better at certain games. But that’s about it. A game with a 0.6 percent house edge is a standout for players.
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