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# The actions behind action

18 May 2007

Dear Mark: You have used the term "action" a lot in your column. Exactly what does that mean for the typical blackjack player? Does it mean how much I'm betting per hand, or per session, or does it mean how much I need to bet to get my room comped? Justin B.

I recollect describing "action" at least these two different ways: as gamblese for the total amount of all your wagers, regardless of whether you win or lose, or, how the casino decides what comps you deserve for a crack at your play.

As an example of "action" representing the total amount of all your wagers — say you were to sit down at a blackjack table with \$200 and proceed to play 100 hands an hour over three hours, betting \$10 on each hand. Got it? Now multiply 100 (hands) times 3 (hours) by \$10, and it comes out \$3,000. This would be the amount of money you "put in action," even though your actual bankroll was just \$200.

The latter description regarding "action" is how most casinos base their complimentary polices, i.e. the criteria a casino would use to assess your rating and eligibility for comps.

The joints I worked in had a simple mathematical formula to figure what your play was worth to them. To get your goodies, they wanted you to bet a decent chunk of change for a calculated stretch of time, and then they'd base your RFB merit (room, food and beverage) on what you were probably going to lose. They considered your average bet, how many hours you were possibly going to play, the speed of the game, and the casino advantage. These factors, in theory, computed essentially your expected loss to the house over that period of time.

Going back to our original example, Justin, suppose again you are betting \$10 a hand for three hours, averaging 100 hands per hour, and taking into account the house advantage of five percent the casino holds over the average blackjack player, the casino management could predict that you should lose \$150 (\$10 x 3 hrs. x 100 hands x .05 = \$150) of the \$3,000 wagered ("put in action").

Now that they theoretically see \$150 of your hard-earned money coming their way, it would probably warrant a "good eats" extravaganza at the buffet.

Dear Mark: I'm writing to let you know that Atlantic City is changing their blackjack rules. On the \$10 or \$15 tables, at least half of them now hit a soft 17, and this rule change exists in the same casino. Only the \$25 and up tables does the dealer stop on all 17s. Dave

Just so readers understand Dave's concern, anytime the dealer hits a soft 17 (and that's anywhere, not just Atlantic City), the house gets an additional two-tenths of a percent advantage over the player.

When the dealer gets that additional hit on a soft 17, the dealer can improve his or her hand with an ace, 2, 3 or 4, or it remains the same with a 10, jack, queen or king. Consequently, eight of every 13 cards either improve the dealer's hand, or keep it the same. Moreover, if any of the other five cards is drawn, the dealer still has some chance to escalate his hand-value with yet another draw. A dealer whacking at a soft 17 might not drill a hole through your wallet, but I'd recommend playing on a game where the dealer stands.

By the way, Dave, the same basic strategy rationale dictates that the player should always hit a soft 17, or double down against a dealer who's showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "If you are looking to cheat the house or beat it legitimately, forget about roulette. It's basically a sucker's game."-Mario Puzo

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Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.