John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

Q. Is blackjack the only common game that can be found in casinos that gives an opportunity for a long-term edge over the casino through strategy.

A. I’ll give a qualified yes to that, with your “common” proviso eliminating the highest-paying video poker games and your “through strategy” requirement eliminating dice control at craps.

Live poker also is a profit opportunity for good players, but it’s a different animal than games in table games pits because you’re playing against other players and not against the house. A select few also may gain an edge on sports betting and horse racing, but those aren’t casino games per se.

There are some places in Nevada that still have video poker games that pay more than 100 percent with expert play. I just stayed at Sam’s Town during Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, and one of the attractions is that at quarter level, it still has 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker (100.17 percent return with expert play) and full-pay Deuces Wild (100.76 percent). But those games have disappeared in most of the country.

For players in competitive video poker markets — the Las Vegas locals market in particular — it is possible to profit on games that aren’t quite so good by taking advantage of player rewards multi-point days, giveaways and other promotions. Casinos in most U.S. markets aren’t aggressive enough in pursuing video poker play to raise second-tier games to profit level through promotions.

Some games, such as roulette, are pure chance with no element of skill. Other games have skill factors that are too small for players to gain an edge. Three Card Poker has a small skill factor, but even if you play perfectly you can reduce the house edge only to 2.01 percent.

Such games yield occasional profit opportunities under exceptional circumstances. If the dealer is showing his hole card, for example, players can adjust strategy in Three Card Poker and Mississippi Stud Poker to gain an edge. But as long as they dealer is doing is job properly and not flashing his cards, there is no opportunity for a player edge.

Once you eliminate uncommon video poker games, the physical rather than strategic skill of dice control, and exceptional circumstances such as dealers flashing hole cards, then yes, blackjack is the only common casino game in which it is possible to get an edge.

Q. Have you ever been offered a comp without asking for it? It used to happen to me quite a bit, but not in a long time. I mostly shoot dice, but mix in a couple other games, always tables.

A. Yes, I have been offered comps without asking for them. As in your case, it’s been a long time since that last happened, if you don’t include free drinks.

I remember the first time came when playing blackjack at the Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas. I’d had a good winning streak, then went into a tailspin and after three or four hours was back to even. The pit boss came over and said, “Why don’t you take a break and get some dinner,” and he wrote me a coffee shop comp.

The last time probably was 10 years ago. I’d been playing dollar video poker at the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Illinois, and a slot host introduced himself, gave me his card and wrote me a lunch comp without deducting points.

Today, most casinos allow their hosts and pit supervisors less leeway in offering comps. If the metrics of tracked play show you’ve earned a comp, you’ll get it, but there are fewer on-the-spot surprises.

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