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Best of The Midnight Skulker

Gaming Guru

 

Beware of Table Game Traps

27 September 2009

It's been a dark and stormy session at the 21 table. OK, maybe it's only been dim with occasional showers, but whatever the metaphorical weather has been the fact is you're pushing the last of your chips into the betting circle, downing the last of your beverage, and preparing to quit the field for a while.

But wait! The metaphorical clouds part, bathing your cards in a shaft of metaphorical moonlight while a metaphorical orchestra plays the opening passage of "Thus Spake Zarathustra". You realize just how much you have come to hate metaphors. You also realize you've been dealt a pair of aces!

Of course you immediately indicate you're going to split those bullets, which will require you to purchase more ammo. The trap is set, for unless you pull the exact amount necessary to cover the second hand out of your fanny pack, when the smoke clears you will have chips in front of you with which to continue the fight, even if you lose. Do you have the discipline to leave the table when you reach your original loss limit for this session, or will you press on and risk exceeding that limit with your reinforced stake?

Pair splits in blackjack, particularly those classified as offensive (i.e., which change an expected loss into an expected gain, like aces vs dealer ten) or those classified as aggressive (i.e., which increase an expected gain, like aces vs dealer five), are classic examples of a table game trap: the player who is all in needs to increase his/her wager in order to take advantage of a favorable situation, buys in for more than is necessary to avoid delaying the game, and then treats the excess chips as part of his/her initial stake. Of course double down opportunities can also be traps.

Many of the newer card games have betting structures that may require a a player to make a sequence of bets to have a chance to win a hand. In Casino War, for example, a tie requires the player to put up an additional wager to go to war (i.e., continue the hand) or forfeit half of his/her initial wager. Similarly, in poker variants (e.g., Three-card Poker, Ultimate/Bonus Texas Hold 'Em) the player makes an ante, and after seeing some number of cards, must make another bet or fold. To play a hand to its conclusion in such games the player must either withhold from the ante an amount sufficient to make the additional bet (and have what was withheld left over if the hand is folded) or buy in and be in the same situation as you were in in the metaphorical storm -- I mean the dark -- er, unprofitable 21 session I put you in above.

Of the games with which I am familiar, Let It Ride is the one most likely to trap the unwary. In that game the player must put up three equal bets at the beginning of a hand. As play progresses the player has the option of pulling back two of those bets, and only rarely does good strategy dictate leaving all three of the bets in action. Consequently, unless a player is simply throwing the last of his/her chips away, he/she will still have some left at the end of most hands, but not necessarily enough to play on.

Some years ago the notion of initially buying in at a table for more than one's loss limit was all the rage among gambling authors. One of the reasons proposed for doing so was to cultivate a habit of leaving the table with chips, a requirement for being a winner. Such a habit also defeats the traps, which have as their common theme keeping the player who plays a session down to the last chip from appearing to get down to that last chip.

Yes, the area where chips are redeemed for coin of the realm is called the cage. Cashiers are in a secured area, and in many houses the physical barrier between them and the patrons includes a frame of bars, making it appear that it is the patron who is being protected from being eaten by the casino employee, as in a zoo. Such is not the case, however; rather the bars allow visual and verbal contact while preventing the patron from reaching inside. As far as I know the survival rate of cage visitors is 100%, which makes it a very attractive alternative to succumbing to a table game trap.

The Midnight Skulker
The Midnight Skulker has been playing craps for over three decades and has played almost everywhere in the country. He is a computer expert and a frequent contributor to Internet newgroups, where his opinions and observations have earned him much respect.
The Midnight Skulker
The Midnight Skulker has been playing craps for over three decades and has played almost everywhere in the country. He is a computer expert and a frequent contributor to Internet newgroups, where his opinions and observations have earned him much respect.