John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I live in Illinois, where the casinos are closed. Can I play gamble online on the legal sites?

A. Only if you’re visiting one of the states where online casino play is legal.

If you are visiting New Jersey, you can sign up for an account on an online casino and play while you’re there. However, once you leave the state, you can no longer play in a New Jersey online casino.

The same goes for Delaware and Pennsylvania. You can play while you’re in those states, just as you could in one of their brick-and-mortar casinos. But once you leave the state, all bets are off.

There is an exception. States are permitted to form interstate compacts that allow for online play in any of the states involved. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have a compact for online poker. Players there can play poker on sites an any of the three states. A Delaware player can play in New Jersey and Nevada poker sites as well as those in Delaware.

However, if you are not in one of those three states, you may not play at sites in any of them,

In Illinois, as in other states where online gambling is illegal, you are not permitted to play for money online as long as you are in your home state. If you visit a state where online gambling is permitted, then you may play as local laws allow.

Q. Something on the basic strategy chart for six-deck blackjack that I’ve been wondering about: It says to double down on 11 vs. Ace if the dealer hits soft 17 but to hit if the dealer stands.

Can you give me some numbers on that? It just seems funny that it’s better for players if the dealer stands on all 17s, but that you should put lest money on the table with 11 vs. Ace.

A. It is better for players if the dealer stands on all 17s. Hitting soft 17 adds about two-tenths of a percent to the house edge, a number that holds up regardless of whether you’re playing in a live or online casino.

Hitting soft 17 increases the house edge because it enables dealers to improve a weak hand. A dealer’s 17 beats only players who bust or who stand with less than 17, and pushes players who stand on 17. For dealers to beat players’ 17s or higher, the hand must be improved.

Dealers sometimes bust when they hit soft 17, while they never bust if they stand. That factor favors players, but is outweighed overall by giving the dealer a chance to improve the hand.

Also a factor is that if you as a player double down, you will never bust, but if you hit, you’ll sometimes take a second hit and bust.

With all of that weighed, here are the numbers:

In a six-deck, hit soft 17 game, if you’re dealt 6-5 and the dealer has an Ace up, your average winnings are 10.9 cents per dollar wagered if you hit. By doubling down, you can increase your average winnings to 12.4 cents per dollar of your original wager.

What if the dealer stands on all 17s? Then you don’t get a boost from extra dealer busts, but you are guaranteed that the dealer who has a 6 down can’t improve on 17. Your average win when hitting rises to 14.7 cents per dollar wagered. If you hit, the average is 13 cents.

So the better plays are to double on your 11 vs. Ace if the dealer hits soft 17, but to hit if he stands.