John Grochowski

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A couple of months ago, I shared a few stories from readers about player vs. player tension at the tables. That brought several responses, with the most unusual coming from Elaine, who describes herself as a longtime low-budget player.

“You won’t believe this, but I actually saw a big argument over a payoff at an automated table,” she said.

With that, she had my full attention. One thing automated tables are supposed to do is eliminate arguments over payoffs. If the game is fully automated, cards are dealt electronically by a random number generator and the payoffs are as automatic and accurate as on a slot machine or a video poker game.

If the game is semi-automated, with a live dealer and electronic betting terminal, a card-reading shoe is used. The cards are read as they are dealt and results are relayed automatically to the payout program. The dealer is not involved in payouts. For the payout to be inaccurate, either the card-reading show would have to misread the cards or there would have to be a glitch in the results or payout program.

Elaine’s game was fully automated.

“It was one of those blackjack games with the animated dealers,” she said. “I kind of like them because where I play, I can play for a lot less money than at a live table.

“There was a hand where the dealer strung out one of those long 19s. She must have had five, maybe six cards. I lost. I think I had 18.”

Those are among the most frustrating hands in blackjack, but if you play enough, you’ll see more than a few. Dealers get more of those long-string winners than players do because dealers hit more hands. If you have 16 and the dealer has 6, you’ll stand. But if the dealer has 16, he or she hits, no matter what the players have.

“The gamed moved on to start the next hand,” Elaine continued. “That happens really fast in those games. As soon as the cards are dealt, the payoffs are already made.”

That’s one of the selling points to casinos for electronic wagering. Fully automated tables can move on almost immediately, and even at semi-automated tables, dealers don’t have to take time to make payoffs or to stack chips in the racks. Automated games bring more hands per hour than games with live payoffs in real chips, and that means more chances for the casino to make money.

But back to Elaine.

“The rest of us made our bets, but one man was sure he should have been paid. He’s hitting buttons, call buttons I suppose, and swearing a storm. He finally screamed, ‘STOP THIS STUPID THING!’”

I suggested to Elaine that with no live dealer, no one could actually stop the game at that point. She agreed, but said there was a delay as other players stopped to watch the tantrum.

“Someone in a suit came over to calm him down,” she said. “The guy cashed out and they left together. I don’t know where they were going or how it was resolved, but I’ve never seen the game make a mistake, and I play a lot.

In a fully automated game, there would be a short-term record of what the RNG said were results of the hand. Whether the casino employee was able to satisfy the customer is another matter. Right or wrong, sometimes players just fly off the handle.

“The guy probably really lost his bet,” Elaine said, “but was he mad.”

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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