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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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On Rare Occasions Even Dealers Make Mistakes

3 September 2008

The men and women who deal casino games are among the most scrutinized work force in the country. Their every move is captured by "eye-in-the-sky" security cameras, and they are constantly being monitored by supervisory floor personnel.

But that doesn't mean they are infallible. On rare occasions they do make mistakes, which is why players must always be alert when it comes to putting their money on the line.

Here's an example from reader Joe S. of what can happen when a dealer does make an error:

"I thought I played a very good game of blackjack, but something happened while I was playing at Bally's in Las Vegas. It was a $15 minimum table at which the dealer hit 'soft' 17. There were three other players. On one hand the dealer had an up-card of 6. The four of us all had 18 or better so we did not take more cards. The dealer turned up his down card, which was a 9, giving him 15. He drew another card, an ace, which game him 16. He drew another card, which also was an ace, which he said gave him a 'soft' 17. He was ready to draw another card but we all said 'stop'. We claimed he had a regular 17. He said he was right and drew another card, which luckily was a face card and he busted. If the card he drew was 4 or less, we would have had a big fight. Were we right or did the dealer know what he was doing?"

The dealer, for whatever reason, was wrong. Maybe he was new, or perhaps fatigued, but the bottom line is he made a fundamental error.

A "soft" hand at blackjack comes into play because aces can be counted as either one or 11. The soft 17 rule is best illustrated when the dealer shows an up-card of 6 and then flips over an ace. Counting the ace as 11, he has a two-card total of 17. If the house rule is that dealers stand on all 17s, he would draw no more cards.

If, however, the house rule is for dealers to hit soft 17, in the above instance the dealer would continue to play out the hand. If the next card were a 10 or a face, he would then have a regular (or "hard") 17 because the ace would then be counted as one.

As Joe cites in his example, had the draw card been a four it would have given the dealer 21; a three, a 20; a deuce a 19; another ace, an 18, any of which would have either beaten or "pushed" all of the players at the table.

Hitting soft 17 gives casino dealers a chance to make a marginal hand better, a rule that considerably beefs up the house advantage on the game

When the dealer hits an Ace-6, players always hope the draw card will be 5 through 9, because it means the dealer will have to draw another card and hopefully bust. Of course, a 10 or a face card gives players a fighting chance against 17.

Even if the Bally's dealer had drawn a card that wound up beating the player 18s, the commotion would have no doubt resulted in a supervisor coming over to mediate the situation and rule in favor of the players.

In any case, it's a reminder to always pay attention when playing table games, because over the course of thousands of decisions errors can occur.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp