Q. I heard about a new blackjack game where you play three hands at once. Do you know it?
A. The game is called Multi-Bet Blackjack, designed by SugarHouse casino and first available to New Jersey online players at PlaySugarHouse.com.
Not only can you play three hands at once, you can make up to 12 wagers before the deal. That’s because the game offers the 21 + 3, Lucky Lucky and Lucky Ladies side bets. If you bet all three hands and bet all three side bets on each, that’s 12 wagers.
You can choose your table limits from four options, with minimum bets of 10 cents, $5, $25 and $100 and maximums of $10, $50, $250 and $1,000.
That’s the kind of thing that can best be done in an automated environment. The minimum bets can be kept lower online where physical table space isn’t needed and the sheer number of wagers per hand are best settled automatically. The process with live dealers would eat up too much time and slow the game too much to satisfy casino operators.
The base game is pretty good — six decks, dealer stands on all 17s, blackjacks pay 3-2, double down on any first two cards including after splitting pairs. That’s about a 0.36 percent house edge. At least 20 percent of the cards must be dealt before a shuffle — it’s not a game card counters will be looking for, but it’s not a fresh shuffle for every hand like some virtual games.
At 77 years old, John Varalli still seizes business opportunities, especially when it comes …
Q. My favorite slot machines are in the Mr. Cashman family, (Mr. Cashman, Cashman Tonight, Cashman Fever and Cashman Live). What’s the average payback for these machines in Atlantic City and Pennsylvania?
A. I have no information on payback percentages on individual games. Every manufacturer makes their games available to casinos in a variety of payback percentage, and the casino chooses which to purchase. Then when payback percentages are released via state gaming boards, they are not broken down by individual games. They are broken down by coin denominations.
Some states list payback percentages for each game denomination at each casino – listing the payback percentages or their opposite, hold percentages, for each casino’s 1-cent, games, 2-cent games, etc. Some states list the wager totals and payout totals for games at each denomination, and it’s up to us to do the arithmetic and turn those into percentages.
Some states don’t list the information for individual casinos at all, and just release a breakdown by region.
That’s all just background to the overall point. No states list the payback percentages for individual games.
Q. I always look for the full house and flush paybacks before I play video poker. Is that enough, or are there other things I should check?
A. Take a look at the full pay table to see if anything looks odd. Four of a kind payoffs vary by game type, and of course it’s common to have variations on full houses and flushes. You never know when an odd payoff is going to sink the payback percentage.
I once went into a casino that had just opened a new riverboat. The old one had 7-5 Bonus Poker, and I was pretty excited to see 8-5 BP on the new boat. I was ready to reach for my wallet when I noticed that two pairs paid only 2-for-1 instead of the standard 3-for-1. That change means the return with expert play plummets from 99.2 percent to 91.7 percent. I walked away.
Perhaps South Jersey's most-anticipated concert of the summer — OK, the year — is P!nk.
Such surprised aren’t frequent, but to check the entire pay table to make sure there aren’t any unexpected substandard pays.