A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. At a football party at my brother’s house, I had the debate on the third baseman’s duties in blackjack. This friend of my brother’s was complaining about a third baseman taking the dealer’s bust card, and I said, “But you don’t know it’s a bust card until it’s dealt.”

He said, “It usually is. You have to make the dealer take that card.” I said the third baseman should do what was right for his hand and let the cards fall where they may, and that the third baseman taking a hit will help you as often as it hurts you.

He said, “I don’t believe that for an instant,” and it kind of went downhill from there. He couldn’t believe I’d hit my 12s against a 2 at third base. He insisted I had to play for the team there. He told me, “If you’re going to make that play, I don’t want to play with you at third base,” and I replied, “That’s ok with me, because I don’t want to play with you haranguing the third baseman over making correct plays.”

Is there anything else I should have added?

A. I’m trying to imagine the scene at a football party, probably with other guys egging you on, and perhaps a few people cringing. I’ve been in that situation a few times, although usually not on blackjack.

Third base is a team position only if the rest of the table is funding the third baseman’s bets. Otherwise, his prime duty is to his own bankroll.

You are correct that plays by others help us as often as they hurt us. Imagine the dealer has a 10 down under his 2, and that the next two cards to be dealt are a 10 and a 9, but that we don’t know in which order.

In that case, there’s a 50 percent chance the cards go 9-10 and 50 percent 10-9. And there’s a 50 percent chance the play that hurts the table is hitting, and an 50 percent chance that hitting is the play that SAVES the table.

That’s an oversimplification, of course. The dealer will have a 10 down just under 31 percent of the time. And there are many possible combinations for the next two cards to be dealt.

We don’t know what’s coming next. A hit by the third baseman is as likely to take away a card that helps the dealer as it is to take a bust card. Standing is as likely to give the dealer a card that helps him as it us to bust him. And there’s no such thing as a team position in blackjack.

It’s best just to let the third baseman make his own plays.

Q. My wife and I were on a day trip to a casino near us, and it was time to leave. She had to stop at the restroom, so I started playing penny Goldfish at a machine right by the door.

I only stayed 10 minutes, but I went to the different bonuses four times and had a good time. I think I won all of about $2, but it caught the eye of a woman nearby. When my wife was ready, I got up to leave, and the other woman said, “I can’t believe you’re leaving a hot machine like that,” and she moved in.

Was that the right thing for her to do, try to continue the hot streak?

A. There was no harm in her trying. Hot machines have no tendency to stay hot. Every play is an independent trial. But there’s no disadvantage to her taking that game instead of another.

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