Frequently Asked Questions

Gambling Questions

Q. I've been told that if I just keep doubling my money when I lose a hand I'll eventually win it back sometime, thereby covering my initial stake, and so I must win in the long run. Is this not true?

A. As you might have guessed, it is not true. For a fuller explanation see the section under Myths & Fallacies. Essentially, you are trading off the chance of winning a small percentage at the end, say 90% of the time, but losing all of your money 10% of the time. The laws of statistics won't let you have your cake and eat it. Because you have a limited bank balance, and because the house usually has upper limits on the amount you can bet per hand, there may come a time where you simply can't double your bet any more and you've lost the previous bet's large wager.

Q. What's card counting all about? I hear that you can beat the casino at Blackjack if you count cards.

A. By playing accurate Blackjack (that is, following basic strategy and doing the right thing at the right time) the house ends up with only a very small percentage over the player, typically one-half of a percent. By keeping track of the number of ten-cards that have gone (and hence those that are left in the shoe) a card-counter can determine whether the current hand is favourable to them or not. By choosing to bet bigger on favourable hands and vary the basic strategy according to the card count, the card counter can gain an edge on the house. This edge depends on the casino in question, the particular card-counting system in use, the amount the stake is raised according to the count, whether the player is back-betting or playing at the table and how much 'cover' the player is using to make it less obvious to the casino that you are counting.

Counting and betting ruthlessly (i.e. you don't care what the pitt boss thinks about you) can give the counter up to three or four percent on the house.

Q. Is card counting cheating?

The casinos would have you believe this, but card counting is no more cheating than having a better memory, or studying harder than your classmates, and scoring more in an exam.

Because the information that a card counter uses is available to any of the players if they wish, it is not some form of insider or secret information. If a player chooses to remember types of cards that have come up and change their betting strategy accordingly then this is just being a smarter gambler!

Cheating involves things like card marking, radio telegraphy of card details, false cutting by dealers, card substitution, chip substitution and a never-ending list of innovative methods of deception.

Card counting is simply using the information available to all in a better way than most. Some sharemarket investors choose to buy and sell on a whim; others check out the news, analyse the company's profit & loss, balance sheets, price-to-earnings ratio and so on. One simply has a better advantage than the other, though no cheating is involved (as would be the case if another investor had inside information and used this to make decisions).

Q. What's the difference between Pontoon and Blackjack?

There are several big differences between the two games, though the most important one is that in the household game Pontoon, the dealer gets to decide whether he or she will hit or sit; whereas in Blackjack the dealer must sit if they're on seventeen or above and must hit if they're on sixteen or below. In contrast, a Pontoon dealer can have a look at his opponent's cards and say, 'hey, I've got seventeen, but they've all got eighteen. if I sit then I lose all my money so I might as well take another card!'

Other differences are in the exotic types of schemes that Pontoon carries with it. These include: paying twice the player's stake if they get five cards and are under or equal to twenty-one (and sometimes four times their stake if they get six and under!); allowing the player to throw back their cards and get two fresh ones if they're on fourteen; and various other rules which differ from place to place.

Essentially, Pontoon is a largely concensus-ruled game, based loosely on a few fundamental ideas. Blackjack, on the other hand, adheres to very rigorous rules (in a given casino). The dealer must always follow the rules - even if it would mean losing to every player. Because the rules are exact, it is possible to calculate the odds of beating the dealer at any given stage of play and therefore draw up a table of what to do and when. These tables are often called 'correct strategy' or 'basic strategy' tables.





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