The Authority on Gambling Since 1977 - State of Nevada Honors Gambling Times - Versión Española


The Only Honest Game in Nevada
by Stanley Roberts

It may surprise you to know that only one casino in the entire state of Nevada, perhaps only one in the world, deals an honest game of blackjack. That casino is the only one which does not violate the provisions of the Nevada Gaming Control Act, specifically section 465.083, which deals with cheating games and devices. For your information the entire section of the law is quoted here.

1. It is unlawful:

2. (a) To conduct, carry on, operate, deal or allow to be conducted, carried on, operated or dealt any cheating or thieving game or device; or

3. (b) To deal, conduct, carry on, operate or expose for play any game or games played with cards, dice or any mechanical device, or any combination of games or devices, which have in any manner been marked or tampered with, or placed in a condition, or operated in a manner, the result, of which:

4. (1) Tends to deceive the public; or

5. (2) Tends to alter the normal random selection of criteria which determines the result of the game.

6. The use of marked cards, loaded dice, plugged or tampered-with machines or devices to deceive the public is expressly made unlawful.

7. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 1 year nor more than 10 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

The statute is clear. Anything that alters the normal random selection of criteria which determine the result of the game is cheating and a felony. Let us now examine blackjack to see how casinos tamper with the randomness of the game in order to influence the outcome.

Randomness is imparted to a blackjack game by the act of shuffling the cards. Shuffling must involve all the cards to be complete, and the shuffle must be carried out without any attempt, purposeful or accidental, to arrange the cards in a specific way or to see that they are dealt out in any unorthodox or prearranged manner. As a matter of tradition, a cut is offered to the player(s),but this is not necessary if the game is totally honest.

The player and the dealer receive the cards in the order in which they were shuffled, provided the dealer is taking the cards off the top of the deck. The manner in which each player plays his hand will also influence the cards that are dealt out following that play.

By and large, the player must take all the cards that are dealt to him, be they good or bad . . . and they will be both good and bad. In order for the game to be properly dealt, ALL THE CARDS must be put into play and exposed to the players. Any action that serves to subvert this situation violates the rules of randomness. There is only one casino in Nevada that deals all the cards. Since the rest of the casinos don't deal all the cards, they are in violation of the law, albeit some of them innocently. They don't realize that failure to deal all the cards is a violation of the random characteristics of the game. At least they didn't until now.

Other casinos take even greater liberties with the spirit of the gaming law and deliberately attempt to change the odds and the outcome of the game in their favor. There are basically four means of accomplishing this: bad shuffling, arbitrary reshuffling, high chop, and mechanics. We will discuss three of these in this article. The fourth, mechanics, involves a cheating dealer and is clearly recognized as an act of fraud by all. The others are currently practiced by nearly all casinos and are condoned by even the highest authorities.

Bad Shuffling

Bad shuffling is generally performed by an inept or lazy dealer. It is rarely a policy of a casino except in those places where the management is anxious to keep the game moving and the dealer is instructed to make the shuffle brief. Most players are irritated by a long shuffle which slows down the action, but a thorough shuffle is absolutely necessary to insure an honest game. The number of times the cards are interleaved to mix them thoroughly depends upon the skill of the dealer. On the average, a minimum of four interleaves and cuts should be applied. When dealing a four-deck shoe, the process must take longer, not just because there are more cards, but because it is necessary to mix the cards against each other, and the dealer can only hold so many in his hands at once. In fact, the minimum number of shuffles required for multiple decks should be determined by a formula that equals the number of - separate handheld groups, plus two times the number of deck groups, provided they are interleaved against each other. For example, if a four-deck shoe is broken down into three deck groups for shuffling, making six handheld groups, there should be at least twelve interleavings and cuts, provided the order of shuffling insures the interleaving of deck groups. More decks require even more shuffling. The five and six-deck shoes in particular not being shuffled well in nearly every casino where they are used, since the shuffling process would probably encourage most players to get up and leave the table. Generally speaking, only the single-deck game is properly shuffled.

Arbitrary Reshuffling

Arbitrary reshuffling is a deliberate act designed to cheat the player. In many casinos the dealers are instructed to reshuffle the deck when a large bet is made. In those cases where the dealer knows or even suspects the cards currently favor the player, this is clearly cheating.. The player must accept the normally poor deck conditions at the outset. Shuffling away the good hands is no different from introducing a pair of loaded dice in a game of craps after the point is made.

Most people know that a preponderance of aces and tens remaining in the deck favors the player. The dealer who reshuffles when he has seen a large number of small cards come out is guilty of a felony. It also follows that a dealer who shuffles up on a player because the player has made a big bet, believing the deck to be favorable, is just as guilty as the previously described dealer. A pitboss's making the determination and instructing a dealer to reshuffle is just as guilty.

High Chop

In a multiple-deck shoe, the high chop refers to the positioning of the joker, which is the dealer's signal to-reshuffle, more than onehalf deck from the end of the shoe.

The Desert Inn uses a four-deck shoe, cutting off about two to two and a half decks.

Clearly this cutting off of decks does not permit all the cards to be played.

It is a well-known fact to casino management that the more decks used against a player employing basic strategy, the less favorable the situation is to the player. Dr. Thorp calculated that two decks reduces the basic-strategy player's edge by .35 percent, while four decks give the house a .51 percent additional advantage. Deck increases beyond four decks do not change the edge significantly. It has been assumed that increasing decks reduces the edge of the skilled counter as well as the average player. Actually, the skilled card counting player can turn this disadvantage around by incremental increases in the size of his bets, something which is not possible in single-deck play.

To the public in general, the introduction of multiple decks creates a disadvantage. However, the public has been led to believe the game is virtually the same. This deception is contrary to the statute quoted earlier and is therefore a felonious act. In effect, the casino has changed the outcome of the game without public recognition. Only a posted warning of the less favorable conditions will suffice to not, deceive the public.

One of the reasons a multipledeck game favors the house is that a favorable player condition does not occur until the ratio of ten value cards to non-tens remaining to be played equals 1 to 2. In a single-deck, fifty-two-card game, four excess non-tens must be removed; in a four-deck game, sixteen excess non-tens must be removed, As you can see, the chances of a multiple-deck game being favorable at the beginning are very rare. The more decks cut off, the less chance of a favorable player condition. The public is unaware of this. So they are again being deceived.

Since the player must sit through all the bad situations which occur at the beginning of the deck, he is entitled to his randomly selected, favorable situations when they occur They are part of the game. Altering the natural occurrence of favorable situations and then deceiving the public about it is clearly a felonious act. The casino bosses who have instituted these policies believe they have found a clever way of increasing the house revenue. My view is different. They are felons who are altering "the normal random selection of criteria which determine the result of the game."

Casinos And Their Patrons

To my mind, there is only one honest game in the state of Nevada. That game can be found at the Nevada Club in Reno. It's a single-deck game where all the cards are used. Interestingly enough, the Nevada Club also has a single-zero roulette wheel. These two facts rate this club as number one in the state in my book. If there are other casinos with this policy, I'd like to know about it, and I will be happy to announce their names in an upcoming issue of Gambling Times.

Let us explore the casino-patron relationship for a moment. On the one hand, the casino wants to treat their patrons well in order to keep their business_ and on the other hand, the casino is the adversary, trying to beat their patrons at the games. We must accept the adversary role as legitimate, but it must be handled in good taste and with impeccable integrity so as not to create animosity. Bad feelings and complaints reflect badly upon the industry in general. The casino still enjoys a healthy and extremely profitable edge over the players. The industry takes in 900 million dollars from table games annually, of which blackjack accounts for nearly half according to Gaming Control Board statistics.

Regardless of the skill of certain players, the house take goes up and up each year. Just when will common sense overrule common greed? Let us be generous and say that up till this point the casinos did not understand the impact and effect of their actions. Let us hope this article will make it clear . . . and create some changes.

Standardizing Blackjack Rules

The Gaming Control Board has clearly done an outstanding job of showing the world how an industry like gambling can be operated in a clean, nearly crime-free environment. The Board is woefully understaffed, with only eighty-five or ninety auditors and investigators to police over one thousand licensees that operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This shortage of staff allows only for enforcement by exception. The Board responds to complaints. It also responds to industry pressure.

So when a movement for standardization of the rules of blackjack was begun, casino bosses were able to lobby intensively to quash this much-needed reform. The rules of blackjack vary not only from region to region, but from one casino to the next. At the very least this confusion can devastate the novice and confuse the buff. I will now present my proposal for a standard set of rules for blackjack. I believe this will lead to an honest and fair game, eliminating cheating by both players and casinos. I urge the Gaming Control Board to act upon this proposal.

Proposed International Rules For Playing Blackjack

1. One, two, or four decks (dealt from a shoe) may be used. When a shoe is used, it must be inspected by the Gaming Control Board and carry a visible seal of approval.

2. The dealer will shuffle the cards thoroughly and offer a cut to one of the players. The deck must be cut. If all players decline, the dealer will cut the deck.

3. All cards must be put into play from the deck(s) used.

4. The first card will be burned, but first it must be exposed for the players to see.

5. All players' cards will be dealt face up. Players may not handle the cards. All signals for play will' be given by hand.

6. A change of dealers cannot be made until the deck has been exhausted and is ready to be shuffled.

7. When the table is idle, all cards will be spread out, face up.

8. The dealer must hit all 16's and stand on all 17's, including soft 17's. Players' blackjack pays 3 to 2.

9. Any pair may be split and played as a separate hand with an equal bet. Up to four hands may be split from an original hand. All tenvalue cards are considered pairs. All split pairs are played individually, including aces.

10. Doubling down will be permitted on any combination of the first two cards. Since a split hand is a new hand, it may be doubled on.

11. Any two-card hand, including previously split hands, may be surrendered, giving up half the original bet, unless the dealer has a natural.

12. Insurance will be offered on all dealer's ace up card, up to half the original bet, paying at 2 to 1. Dealer's hole card must be taken immediately.

13. Any player may play as many hands as are vacant and adjacent to his original hand without penalty, minimum, or reservation. When the casino is crowded, the house may declare a one-hand maximum limit.

14. The house may determine the table limits, but there must be at least a fifty-unit difference between minimum and maximum bets.

15. No player may bet more than ten times the previous amount wagered on all hands played in the last , round, including all splits, doubles, and insurance.

Since casinos have been making blackjack more and more unfavorable for players, they are beginning to lose interest in it. Only a better game will bring back the big players. Without a change in the rules, blackjack will go the way that faro has gone and the way that roulette is heading-a dying pastime that has become unprofitable for player and house.

Stanley Roberts, author of How to Win at Weekend Blackjack and Winning Blackjack, has been barred from playing 21 by several Nevada casinos. A licensed architect, real estate broker, and city planning consultant, Roberts has retired from playing blackjack professionally and is now the president of six corporations which occupy most of his time.

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