Discount Gambling

Buying Surrenders @ Spanish21

Posted in spanish21, sycuan by stephenhow on April 12, 2009

I’ve been shooting an angle at the Spanish21 blackjack tables at my nearby Sycuan Casino for the past few weeks, but finally “management” got wise to it, and shut me down 😦 However, it’s still good, and you’ll probably have the chance to do it yourself, provided your casino isn’t retentive about these types of things.

Here’s how it works. I noticed that people tend to over-surrender at Spanish21, because they get used to surrendering from rescue after double, and they figure if its good then, it must always be good. Of course, there are people that never surrender, even after double (they’d rather redouble a 14 against a dealer Ace), but that’s a different story. So I’d see people surrendering 14 against a dealer Face, and all kinds of nonsense. It was okay to pass chips around the table to back someone’s double, and play someone else’s match, so I figured they’d let me “buy” people’s would-be surrender hands.  So, they surrender to me, I pay them half their bet, and they play the hand out for me.  I own the hand at this point, and if it wins, I get all the proceeds, including the original bet. It’s very simple in practice. When you see someone start to signal for surrender, you say “I buy” and show them the money. They say, “ok, you buy”, take the chips, and now its your hand.  Of course, they have to signal to the dealer for the hit, because of the house rules.  Hopefully, you improve the hand with the hit, and stand.  If you bust, the player feels good about their surrender.  If you win, make sure the player doesn’t feel like a sucker (say something like “I gambo”).  This transaction is somewhat normal for the Asian players, because of the concept of “color buy” in Paigow.  They’re also very adept at keeping track of various intra-player transactions (e.g., “come-come” bets). With American players, hopefully you can simply explain the proposition. Usually though, just have the right amount of chips ready, and use hand gestures to demonstrate your intentions.

Of course, every such opportunity (except for the 16 & 17 against a dealer Ace) is positive EV. Here’s a few examples of what I was getting before they put the kibash on it:

Hand EV(hit) Cost Profit
16 vs Dealer Face .516306 0.5 3.26%
15 vs Dealer Face .566478 0.5 13.3%
14 vs Dealer Face .61956 0.5 23.9%
16 vs Dealer 9 .546484 0.5 9.30%
15 vs Dealer A .543541 0.5 8.71%
doubled 13 vs Dealer 7 .532753 (stand) 0.5 6.55%

There’s one guy (an Italian guy named Robert), who surrender more than anyone could fathom. We got along well, so he’d gladly surrender to me. Unfortunately, he’s a bad chronic donor, so I didn’t see him enough. Besides, he would have caught on sooner or later.

From the table, the worst offer is the 16 vs. the dealer Face. Of course, it’s the most common opportunity, and only yields 3.26%. That’s a great return, but might be more variance than you like to assume.  Maybe you can only buy the small bets on these hands.  Anything else is pure gold.

Anyway, the retard floor manager on the day-shift saw me doing it, and sternly told me I couldn’t do it. I guess that means if I continue doing it, I’ll get in more serious trouble. Plus, they’ll probably have a staff meeting / memo on the issue, and all the dealers will be instructed to prohibit it. Geez, what a bunch of killjoys.  This was the best thing ever.

Caribbean Stud Overlay @ Sycuan Casino, CA

Posted in sycuan by stephenhow on April 12, 2009

There’s no actual overlay for this game 😦 When I first saw the high hand bonus, I asked all the rules concerning it, and was assured twice by the floor that I didn’t need to make the $1 progressive jackpot bet to qualify. Well, the next day as I was playing (the only person not making the progressive bet), the dealer told me I needed to bet the jackpot to qualify for the high hand bonus. They checked with the shift supervisor, who confirmed the rule. That killed the overlay, because the progressive was really low @ $87,000. I wish they told me the right rule before I did all the work on this post 😦

Strangely enough, there’s a weekly high-hand prize in the Caribbean Stud Game at my nearby Sycuan Casino that makes the game profitable to play.  Of course, we know Caribbean Stud is a game with about a 5.25% house edge, but the overlay (additional favorable odds, e.g., through a promotion, or an exceptionally large progressive jackpot) makes the game profitable.  Here’s how it works: Sycuan offers a weekly prize of $1500 for the highest hand made in Caribbean Stud, $1000 for the 2nd highest, and $500 for the 3rd highest hand. They post the three highest hands next to the game, so you can see what you’re up against. When the high hands aren’t so high, and it’s late in the week (the contest starts and stops at midnight Sundays), the added expectation value from the high-hand prizes makes it a winning game.

To calculate the overlay, you need to calculate the probability of making a high hand. We’ll assume it’s late enough in the week, so that if you make a high hand, it’ll stand up (i.e., no one will push your hand down, or off the high hand list). First, we need to know the probabilities of making the following hands:

Hand Probability
Straight Flush 1.54 x 10-6 per hand (e.g., 6-high straight flush)
Four-of-a-Kind 1.85 x 10-5 per hand (e.g., quad Tens)
Full House 9.24 x 10-6 per hand (e.g., 44433)

Then, take the current high hands in the contest, and calculate the probability and EV for beating them. Let’s take the following example, which were the high hands at the time of this post, with 24 hours left in the weekly contest:

Place Prize Hand Pr(beat) EV
1st $1500 8-8-8-8-J 2.65 x 10-5 .00795
2nd $1000 K-K-K-A-A 2.22 x 10-4 .04437
3rd $500 J-J-J-T-T 2.40 x 10-4 .02402
total 4.885 x 10-4 .07634

First, we see we need to beat quad 8’s for first place. Any straight flush is good, or quads 9’s or better. The probability of making such a hand is (10)(1.54e-6) + (6)(1.85e-5) = 2.65e-05, for an overlay of ($1500/$5)(2.65e-5) = .00795.

For 2nd place, we calculate the probability of making a hand between the current 1st and 2nd place hands.  These are Ace’s full of anything, and quad 2’s thru 7’s.  The probability is (12)(9.24e-6) + (6)(1.85e-5) = 2.22e-4, for an overlay of (2.22e-4)($1000/$5) = .04437.

Finally, we can make 3rd place with any full house between JJJTT and KKKAA.  There are 26 of them, for a probability of (26)(9.24e-6) = 2.40e-4, and an overlay of (2.40e-4)($500/$5) = .02402.

Adding this all up, we see we get an total 7.634% overlay for this set of current high hands.  This more than overcomes the inherent 5.25% house edge for the game, leaving us with a net of almost 2.4%!  Of course, this is only valid until someone makes a high hand (possibly us), and changes the probabilities.  Don’t get too excited, because your chances of making the high hand board is pretty slim, at about 1-in-2000 hands.  Overall, the game is slow and pleasant.  Using the conservative strategy of playing only pairs or better, or even playing AKJ or better is a pretty slow bleed at about $.25/hand house edge.  Its a fun, communal game at a full table.

Perfect Charlie @ Fort McDowell, AZ

Posted in blackjack sidebets by stephenhow on April 4, 2009

There’s a blackjack bonus sidebet at Fort McDowell Casino near Phoenix, AZ that offers huge payouts for a $.25 bet (you can only bet a quarter).  I remember seeing this strange bet a while back, and was always curious about it.  I called across state lines to find out the details, and got out the paper and pencil to calculate the house edge for a six-deck shoe.

It’s called “Perfect Charlie”, and pays jackpots for 5-card 21’s (2-3-4-5-7), with different payouts for suited and/or ordered hands. The bet also pays off hands that start off as Perfect Charlies, but don’t make it (like 2-3-4, 2-3-4-5, etc.).

I wrote up an OpenOffice spreadsheet to calculate the odds. I wanted to include the spreadsheet source in this post, but won’t let me upload the .ods document 😦 Fortunately, OpenOffice exports spreadsheets to html.

This is a pretty obscure sidebet, which is probably only found at Fort McDowell. Nothing popped up immediately on Google for this, so I’m having a millionth-monkey moment here (i.e., when you realise you’re the millionth-monkey pounding at the keyboard, and all-of-a-sudden Shakespeare is on the screen).

The bet is pretty horrible in terms of house edge, but want do you want for a quarter?  Or actually, ($.25)(1-.6478) = 8.8¢.  You get the chance to win up to $70,000, while the house has an equally small chance of getting rich off this sidebet.

  Fort McDowell Blackjack Bonus        
Bet Hand Conditions Payout Probability Return
$0.25 2,3,4 offsuit, any order $10.00 1.98E-03 8.11%
$0.25 2,3,4 offsuit, in order $37.50 3.96E-04 5.98%
$0.25 2,3,4 suited, any order $75.00 1.41E-04 4.24%
$0.25 2,3,4 suited, in order $500.00 2.82E-05 5.64%
$0.25 2,3,4,5 offsuit, any order $25.00 7.44E-04 7.52%
$0.25 2,3,4,5 offsuit, in order $250.00 3.24E-05 3.24%
$0.25 2,3,4,5 suited, any order $1,000.00 1.26E-05 5.03%
$0.25 2,3,4,5 suited, in order $10,000.00 5.47E-07 2.19%
$0.25 2,3,4,5,7 offsuit, any order $50.00 3.30E-04 6.63%
$0.25 2,3,4,5,7 offsuit, in order $5,000.00 2.77E-06 5.54%
$0.25 2,3,4,5,7 suited, any order $20,000.00 1.29E-06 10.34%
$0.25 2,3,4,5,7 suited, in order $75,000.00 1.09E-08 0.33%
total         64.78%
decks 6