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.
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;
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:
(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.
The use of marked cards, loaded dice, plugged or tampered-with
machines or devices to deceive the public is expressly made unlawful.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
© 1977 - 2010 Gambling Times Inc. & Green
Room Media Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part
without written permission is prohibited.